By ~ Devanshi Fernando
My experience at the Future Leaders’ Conference, Season 5 was no doubt one of the best volunteer opportunities I have hither to engage in. From the first volunteer training it was clear to me that the Future Leaders’ conference was an event I wanted to be a part of, in years to come.
The two volunteer training programmes that were held prior to the conference, provided us with proper guidance as to what we as volunteers and mentors were expected of during the five day programme. It provided us a sneak peek into what the FLC was all about. Some of the first few activities such as the human knot, freedom writers, and collect the gold made us volunteers realise the importance of reconciliation.
Although I was unable to make it to the first day of the conference, I was looking forward to meeting my fellow team members and to work with them in the next few days to come. It was obvious to me and my volunteer colleagues that the students were not communicating with each other the first day. The Sinhala students were seen more comfortable with their common group- the Sinhala speaking students- and a similar reaction was seen among the Tamil students. However with the first ice breaker, there was a sudden change. They began to communicate with each other with the little Sinhala or the little Tamil each student spoke. I too managed to learn a few Tamil words.
The students became even more united during their sports event. The announcement that our team ‘Badulla Braves’ was in the top 5, created much enthusiasm among them all. Students began to hug each other and cheer like never before. It was most definitely one of the wonderful moments of the conference.
The panel discussions were most insightful. Watching the students ask questions from the panel of speakers for the day, made me realize that there is a chance for a better future.
I wanted to stay longer. Knowing that I was with a group of energetic young girls and boys who truly believe in the importance of a better Sri Lanka made me proud. The last good-byes were dreadful. It was when Mullaichelvi, a student from Mullaithivu hugged me and cried that I felt that the students wanted to make a difference. The fact that our team won second place meant nothing when we all bid our good-byes.
I would volunteer again and again, because it was so much satisfying, so much an experience to cherish, made so many friends from all strata of society, and above all taught me what humility is all about. Being a mentor to a group of 22 students I learnt so much, and the experience that came with it was exhilarating.