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RUN for your country: Mother Sri Lanka concludes 2017/18 finals

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Wednesday, 22 August 2018 00:00

Mother Sri Lanka Project RUN, named after the acronyms of three powerful components, Responsible Citizenship, Unity and National Pride is a unique project concept where children were motivated and encouraged to design projects that helped uplift life and enrich communities across the island.

Project RUN is conducted as a competition among over 2500 schools and in each competition provincial winners and all island winners are selected and rewarded. The provincial level finals of Project RUN 2017/18 began on 4 May in the Northern Province and since then the other provinces finals were held as follows: Uva and Sabaragamuwa on 11 and 12 May, Western on 24 May, North Western, North Central and Central on 7 and 8 June, Southern on 14 June and Eastern on 22 June. The final event for this year’s competition will be the National Level finals which will be held in Colombo in August or thereafter to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Mother Sri Lanka.

Each provincial level competition was judged by a panel of judges consisting of Provincial level Directors of the Ministry of Education and Executive Committee members of the Mother Sri Lanka movement. Through their presentations to the judges, the participants which consisted of children aged 12-18 years showcased amazing talent and commitment.

The amount of effort put in by these children to conceptualize, implement and complete their projects to achieve the objectives of Responsible Citizenship, Unity and National Pride was the motivation that gave the energy for the Mother Sri Lanka team to travel to all nine provinces in a matter of just six weeks.

“When the children along with their teachers and Principals explained their experiences on some of the projects done under the theme ‘(U) Unity’ of Project RUN, it brought tears to the judges’ eyes. The emotional impact of the reconciliation projects on the children’s hearts and minds was clearly evident when the children explained their experience of working with children of other ethnic communities.

The judges had no doubt that these experiences have left unforgettable memories in the children’s minds. It was so rewarding to see ‘true reconciliation at work,” mentioned Dr. Janaki Kuruppu, Chairperson/Founder of Mother Sri Lanka who travelled to all nine provinces to see these children first hand.

“Most of the schools obviously came from non-urban and mostly rural places. So clearly, a very different world to what we here in Colombo see. It was interesting to see both the similarities and the differences in their priorities, in what they saw as a lack or a need in their communities (and the country) that they thought were within their scope to be able to address in order to improve the condition of their immediate environment such as the schoolyard, the library, the town, the maternity clinic, bus halt etc. When you hear the confidence in their voices when they say how proud they are of themselves for having accomplished their goals – that just made us all proud, of them and of MSL!” said Samantha de Silva, Director of Mother Sri Lanka.

“For some, reaching out to other ethnic groups in their villages/towns was important. Some Sinhala schools chose to donate to Tamil schools while some schools actually conducted projects together with schools of other ethnic groups, which were absolutely touching to hear about. The principal (a Buddhist monk) of one of these schools explained that they were starting to sense a little of the prevailing ethnic tensions seeping into their town and decided that it was critical to address it before it became an issue,” was the reaction of Riaz Saban, Executive Member of Mother Sri Lanka. 

“When asked how they felt about their projects and their impacts, students all said they felt a great change in themselves in their attitude towards the other communities. For example, they said, before these projects, they were always a little suspicious towards the other group. They sometimes avoided them on the road, never said hello or looked at them but now they all acknowledge each other when they meet on the road and are ‘able’ to say hello. We could see and hear how excited and proud they were of their projects but also of being the change that has made a difference in their communities. MSL motto “I must change for my country to change” was in their hearts and really at work. I can’t express how moving it was to be there,” was the reaction of Thushantha Karunanayaka, Director of Mother Sri Lanka. 

“There was this Tamil school near our school, but we have never talked to them before. But because of the Mother Sri Lanka project, we met them for the first time, and we can’t believe how closely we are working now, not only the children, now the teachers and parents are also friends. One day, one of our teachers have been walking on the street when it started to rain, one of the Tamil children from the other school has come running with an umbrella for her. We are so touched by this unexpected gesture…” said one of the teachers from Haputhale Maha Vidyalaya, Kandy

A member of the Mother Sri Lanka Club of Dorapane Maha Vidyalaa in Omalpe who has done a project under (R) Responsible Citizenship said: “Our bus stand was so dirty and not usable, even then when our children wanted to repair and make the bus stand look nice, we faced a lot of problems, but the children and I did not give up and now the whole area looks really nice and all of us are so proud of what we have done.”

Dr. Kuruppu explained: “The primary objective of Mother Sri Lanka is to build a responsible citizen, by looking after the public properties in the school or in the community, the children are learning firsthand how they can contribute to make Sri Lanka a better place. It is so satisfying to us when we see our hard work of ten years bearing fruit in this manner with the attitude change among children.”

Puhulwella Central College in Matara has conducted over seven activities to cover all three concepts of RUN and one of the most significant one was celebrating Ramazan festival and tree planting campaign with a Muslim school in the area with the objective of enhancing intercultural reconciliation. During the event Sinhala students have able to enjoy foods akin to Islamic culture for the first time of their life.

Walagedara Maha Vidyalaya in Western province opted to renovate a ward of the Dharga town hospital as their project. These students emphasised in their own words that they understood their responsibility towards the country and to work in unity as responsible citizens by getting involved in this project.

Moreover, Shanmuga Maha Vidyalaya at Kalmunai area also conducted the Project RUN successfully. The judges commended two projects, restoration of a ladies toilet system of the school and renovation of a bus stand adjoining the school premises, which they selected under the theme of (R) responsible citizenship.

The holistic objective of project RUN is to develop a ‘Responsible Citizen’ while instilling positive thinking and values of ethnic harmony, respect, social interaction, commitment, leadership and teamwork towards achieving a common set objective and satisfaction through success of enriching the lives of their communities and its people. There have been 1,400 projects implemented so far since the introduction of this program in 2013.MSL Project RUN is designed as the practical component of the Citizen Education subject and has been endorsed by the Ministry of Education and is admissible as a GCE A/Level community project. 

Since the introduction of MSL Project RUN in 2013, the movement has so far conducted two rounds of the competition in 2013/14 and 2015/16 and has now reached the completion of the provincial level finals of the third round in 2017/18.

Established in 2008, Mother Sri Lanka (MSL) is a non-profit organisation which brings together the collaborative efforts of the public, private and non-profit sectors focusing primarily on the educational, socio-economic and cultural development of Sri Lankans. The organisation is governed by a team of professionals who have been contributing their time voluntarily MSL projects are implemented through a network of youth clubs covering all 25 districts of the country.

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