As Wednesday began, all preparations were ready at the MAS Institute of Management and Technology in Thulhiriya for the second annual Future Leaders’ Conference (FLC) of the Sri Lanka Unites (SLU) youth movement. This year’s conference is bringing together 400 young leaders from 80 schools around the country.
The conference is the flagship event of SLU in its attempt to mobilise young leaders from every ethnicity, religion, class and caste in a movement that hopes to demonstrate the powerful potential of youth to devise constructive solutions for a sustainable future.
As the first day of the conference got underway, organisers were standing by for students to arrive from around the country. The first students started trickling in at about 12:00 p.m. By 2:30 p.m., more than 300 students had arrived at the training center.
Registration and team allocation began around 3:00 p.m. The mood was fairly apprehensive as the staff began assigning students into mixed teams. For some, it will be the first time they’re having the opportunity to interact with students from different communities. A Tamil-speaking student from Mullaitivu was assigned to a group with a Sinhala-speaking student from Galle who expressed that she is “not sure what to expect as she has never been at a conference of this nature.”
The chief guest at the opening ceremony was Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, the executive director of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, the “largest people's organisation in Sri Lanka.” Following Dr. Ariyaratne’s address, students from the countrywide SLU network were honored at an awards ceremony. These students were recognized for their achievements conducted under the SLU follow-up program. Some of the awards included prizes for:
- The Club Making the Highest Contribution in Relief and Rebuilding
- The Club with the Best Student Exchange Program
- The Club with the Most Creative Reconciliation Art Project
Students were then introduced to the concept of “reconciliation through responsible leadership,” using various forms of media and speeches that were conducted in all three languages. As they were taken through the themes that will dominate FLC, a student from Jaffna said he was “excited to enhance leadership skills by working with others from different backgrounds.” He added that “FLC presents us with a unique opportunity to meet new people.”