Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Drop of Water to Wash Away Tears

A joint project by the Royal International School of Kurunegala and St Patricks College of Jaffna

Catering to the aims and objectives of the program Champion of Change, the Royal International School of Kurunegala and St Patricks College of Jaffna jointly embarked upon a project called A Drop of Water to Wash Away Tear. It involved providing water supply to a school and other necessary school accessories to the students. But a fundamental aim of the project was to forge understanding and friendship between the two communities that have long been fractured by the decades of war. More importantly, it aimed to contest misconceptions and prejudices that have been long nourished by lack of sufficient communication and interaction.

The initial idea to pursue this project was conceived at a mentoring weekend, which provided valuable information on issues such as leadership, project planning, project documentation, and financial management. Within a limited time, the students of the relevant schools had to select their co-partnering schools and had, through vibrant exchange of ideas, to mutually decide upon a project. Priorities were given to areas affected by the conflict and to people under-privileged. To prevent a further possible turmoil, it was necessary that misperceptions be corrected and communities be linked through communication and mutual understanding. Considering these facts, the Patricians decided upon a school in Kumulamumai situated in border of the Kilinochchi district.

After collecting sufficient information about the school, some problems identified include the lack of sufficient teachers, lack of electricity, lack of water supply, lack of library, and the economically instable family background to afford the necessary stationeries of schooling. The school itself and the students themselves were affected by the war. Whereas the school had been occupied by the sea tigers, most students have lost their parents and sheltering homes. For 138 students studying in grades 1-9, there were only 6 teachers including the principal and a volunteer.

The objectives not only involved providing material needs such as water supply and school accessories for the students, but also achieving fundamental goals: contesting misperceptions and building team work and leadership qualities. It is broadly about capacity building and conflict reconciliation.

The actual event would unveil lots of excitement and fun, but before that raising funds appeared equally dramatic. The team from Royal international school got the whole school involved in this and all the school students contributed their parts by donating the necessary items. At the Royal International School, a movie fiesta produced Rs. 30,000. Notable donations include Rs 7,000 by Mr. D. Arunachelum to the Patricians and Rs. 4,000 from by Rotary Club of Melsipura to the SLU Team at Royal International School.

Finally, the event arrived. The principal was waiting for their arrival. The initial steps involved forging friendship and cultural understanding. There were games and stage performances, after which the children were handed over with the gifts packed for them. The children left, so did the Patricians. The Royalists got the necessary equipments ready and got onto field.

Three of the villagers, intent on the comfort and welfare of their children, helped them with the work. At about lunch time, they were unexpectedly served lunch by four to five women from the village. The boys deeply were deeply inspired by the warm hearts of these women, for they were preparing meals which they could hardly afford for themselves.

The work resumed after lunch. The stand was ready, the tank ready, and high was the excitement. But there was this dramatic moment where the motor did not work and it cooled everyone’s excitement. The boys did not want to give up. The principle found a new motor. There was sound of water splashing onto the tank. Joy and excitement spurted into smiles on children’s faces. It looked a “water festival.”

The impact of the project was twofold. Firstly it not only washed away the tears but filled some vacant hearts.  Secondly, it fostered friendship and cooperation among the two partnering school students, who themselves come from two ethnic communities. It helped them to understand how they can build and promote their capacities and contribute to the future of the country. Overall, the success of the project contested misperceptions and proved even that differences of language is not a barrier in proper human interaction.

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