They’re delaying the press conference until media people arrive, but I guess I can post what I’m writing now. I’m sitting in the Janashakthi compound for a presser on the Unity Mission Trust. If you want the lede, they’ve just concluded their 4th Unity Camp in Tharanikkulam, the Wanni.
So what’s that. It’s a few days where they mix kids from all over the island and give them skills and connections to be a united Sri Lanka.
Someone’s introducing the press conference now, a young Pinto-Jayawardena, whose first name I didn’t catch:
Make caring people more aware of the work being done amongst teenagers among the island. These children are mixed up and put into teams. The ultimate goal is to foster unity, reconciliation and healing. The 4th camp has been the most successful thus far. We will tell our mission to you so you can tell caring people, etc.
It’s all trilingual, so Sinhala and Tamil now. Even the name ‘United Sri Lanka’ is in mixed up scripts. And now the video clip.
Looked cool. Kids playing sports and holding hands and generally being kids, except ‘mixed up’, as a speaker in the video said. I spoke with the compere before and he said that for the first few days the kids stayed in their old groups but by the end they were all chummy and mixed up in new and non ethnic/regional ways.
This organization has worked with people since May 2009 in Menik Farm, to Jaffna, Vidutaltivu, Mannar, Colombo, Mullativu, etc. Starting in December 2010 they brought kids down to try and create ‘a new hope in their minds’. Then the trust, which was working ad hoc I think, like many people post-war, was formally incorporated last year.
Their vision is to work with 16-20 year old children “Sri Lanka’s most precious resource”. Throughout here I’m quoting from Mr. Bertal Pinto-Jayawardena, who’s speaking. The mission is to foster the belief and acceptance that all children are equal sons and daughters of a beautiful mother Lanka. Word.
After 4 camps they’re doing a meta refresher camp for previous camp attendees in October. They’re also doing a scholarship program for promising young students. It’s Rs. 3,500 per month, which is not much and worthwhile. They’re also identifying and networking young leaders, who are in regular communication on phones, etc. Which is a priceless resource in itself.
So, besides the camp, they’re building relationships which can drive future friendships, business, reconciliation, politics, lauw even. They’ve also established 88 reference libraries across the island, with Asia Foundation. Great on that, libraries made a huge difference in my life.
What They Need
They need awareness, so visit unitymission.lk, and they need investment, ie donations. Things like student scholarships individuals can do, but they also need corporate support, like what they’re getting from Janashakthi, Etisalat, etc. They also need books and volunteers. From young school-leavers to senior corporates. They’re saying ‘this is not normal CSR, this is nation building’.
One story that I’ll share with you is the birthday of a child. THis child could not speak one word of English. Over two years of exchanging emails and SMSes, she spoke completely in English when wishing her for her birthday. We cannot change yesterday but we can do something today, so our children have a better future in a united, strong Sri Lanka.
Here’s another quote from Mr. Pinto-Jayawardena:
We’ve had adults who come on camp and they cry. What is the difference? What is the problem we have had. We also share with them this thought, that you belong to Sri Lanka, and Sri Lanka belongs to you.
We’re now out of the speech part and some student leaders from Kalutara, Bandarawela and Bambalapitiya are going to speak (St. Thomas Bandarawella and Holy Family Convents in Kalutara and Bamba).
Good stuff. I got some video which I’ll upload anon. For now just going to hit publish, this in the trishaw on the way to Refresh Colombo. UMT‘s got a solid board and great young people involved, they’re fully worth supporting, and nation building is more than a tax you pay the government, if you know what I mean. Give them like on Facebook also.