By Nabeel Marzook (FLC 7 Student),
Even though I was not directly affected by the 30 years of brutal war, I was deeply disturbed by the young lives lost, the destruction and the ethnic division and also it was very disappointing to see some extremist groups sowing the seeds of racism in the recent past. I always wished things would change and some day we would be able to live in a united Sri Lanka. I always wondered how beautiful It would be if we were together as one and I was passionate to make a change, to give my fullest effort to make a difference. When I came to know about Sri Lanka unites and all the amazing work they have been doing I have no word to explain how I felt.
I felt some sort of energy spring within me to know that there are hundreds of youth like me who have the same passion to make a change. Since then, I was looking for an opportunity to be a part of Sri Lanka Unites events and I got the opportunity through Future Leaders Conference Season7. When I went to the conference, it seemed like a whole new world to me. It was an amazing sight to see youth from various parts of the island with different social and ethnic backgrounds together as one. At the conference I witnessed how much of a manpower and enthusiasm and passion we have, to make a change.
At the conference we were divided into teams and my team was “Anuradhapura Avengers”. We had 18 members in our team from different parts of the country with different backgrounds. It was amazing to see how beautifully we blended together, despite our differences and that was because we dared to unite, we wanted to make up the mistakes made in the past. We became one big family within few days. Through the conference, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of inspiring people; in fact I learnt something from every person I met during the conference. I had the opportunity to talk to many Sinhalese and Tamil friends and learn things that I didn’t know about their culture, I learnt why Tamils apply vibhuti (Holy ash), I learnt about their foods and festivals, even though I could speak Sinhala fluently I didn’t know much Sinhala in the past. My Sinhalese friends helped me learn the Sinhala. Some of the Sinhalese students in our team were curious as to why Muslims wore caps and asked me if they could wear it once and I told them it’s perfectly fine for them to wear it and all these small things like this greatly helped us mutually understand each other and to clear the misunderstandings we had. I must mention about our mentors, we had four super cool mentors Kavindya, Archana, Sudeera and Aadhil. To begin with Kavindi akki, she is a kickass person, a great sport and an interesting person to hang around with. Sudeera aiyya, he’s very inspiring, experienced and a person who always motivates us. Archana akki is a calm cool and composed person, she’s someone you can’t stop loving, and Aadhil is a person with high spirits who would go any heights to make the team win. The SLU team was just amazing, they were a cool crew and their works are unbelievable, their unity and their spirit always motivated us. It was a privilege to work with all these wonderful people.
Each and every session, the icebreakers, and the activities instilled so many values within us. The guest speakers were enlightening, the interactive sessions were interesting and the entertainment sessions were at its best! The ice breakers helped us get to know each other and activities like the human bingo, question web, two truths and one lie etc. Challenging activities such as trust fall, reach the globe and blind maze built trust, helped us communicate our ideas and strengthened the bond among us. We had many interactive sessions and one of them was the one in which we were asked to list out the grievances faced by the other communities, it was an opportunity for me to let the other communities know that I cared for them and I also learnt that they too cared for the grievances that my community faced. The above mentioned are few of the activities we did and there were so many other activities which helped us brake the barriers we had. The conference kept us busy all day and now when I recall the memories, I think we have managed to do a lot of work at a stretch with any difficulty, which I would have thought impossible if not for the conference. That’s the spirit we had.
I would say I’ve never had so much fun in all my life. We screamed out whenever we had the chance shout out for our team and we were barely able speak towards the end of the conference. I can never forget my team’s chant and our crazy dance “Umbalakada, Wattakka, Kekiri, Dodan”. We were always together and we were there for each other. It was heavenly to feel, breathe and live in the Lankan spirit and I’m always grateful to SLU for those wonderful moments which gave me goosebumps, brought tears and the moments which united us will forever stay in my memories. The last day was very emotional. The thought of having to say good bye to the conference as a whole kept popping in my head the whole day and finally the moment came and I had bid good bye to my amazing team and that’s when I realized how much we will be missing each other, how strong our bonds have grown, how much each and every one of them mattered to me. Every one broke into tears when we had to say good bye, but we made a promise that we will always remain a family and I remember every single word each and every one of us said, that moment was special.
Altogether FLC7 was a life changing experience that taught me lifelong lessons and brought me lifelong friends. We understood how much of losses we could have avoided had we been united and pledged that we will never let history repeat itself again. And my sincere thanks to Team SLU for their effort and amazing work. I hope and pray that every youth of our nation get the privilege to attend this conference.