Mother Sri Lanka partnered with the Ministry of Education to bring together 200 children from the Kilinochchi and Homagama areas in a five-day camp to foster reconciliation and peaceful coexistence among the different ethnic and religious groups in Sri Lanka.
‘Denuwara Mithuro,’ or ‘Friends of Two Cities,’ is a series of camps that will create the ideal setting for children from the north and south of the country to meet, exchange their cultural values, rituals and lifestyles, and forge lasting friendships. This interaction between the different ethnicities was enriched by the various activities and lectures conducted at the camp.
The first camp of this series was held at the Meepe Management Training Centre from 30 September 2011 to 4 October and one of the initial programmes at the camp was a series of speeches by leaders of the various religions in the country.
The Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim sermons gave the children the opportunity to understand and respect each other’s religions and to see what’s common among religions. The interactive nature of the programme also ensured that children were able to raise any questions they had.
A brief introduction to the Sinhala and Tamil languages was also given, to assist children to converse with each other. In order to build this tri-lingual communication skill further, Mother Sri Lanka gifted each child an English/Sinhala/Tamil dictionary at the end of the camp.
The experience of the Ministry of Education with camps it has organised in the past however is that children have been imaginative in devising methods to communicate and bond with each other despite language barriers and this camp held in partnership with Mother Sri Lanka was no exception.
A not-for-profit organisation aiming to build patriotism and positive thinking in Sri Lankans towards their country, Mother Sri Lanka is keen that the ideals of peaceful coexistence are inculcated in the children.
With this in mind one of the movement’s trustees, Renton De Alwis, spoke on the importance of being a good citizen. Deepal Sooriyaarachchi, member of Mother Sri Lanka, guided the children on how to develop confidence, think positively and succeed in life.
Capt. Elmo Jayawardene, Founder and President of Candle Aid Lanka and member of Mother Sri Lanka, highlighted the importance of each individual changing attitudes for the better in order to bring about improvement for the whole country. The children also learned the benefits of healthy living when Dr. Kalyani Guruge (member of Mother Sri Lanka) underscored the health values of local foods and good lifestyle habits.
In addition to the speeches by these volunteers, the camp conducted several activities for the children, like yoga and meditation, singing, dancing, playing games, dressing up, drawing and sporting events, which enabled them to further enhance team spirit and bonds of friendship.
The children were able to express their own views of their experience at the camp on the last day, providing an important insight into the effectiveness of the camp. Moreover, a visit to Temple Trees, and perhaps even a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was arranged to take place on the last day of the camp before the children began their journey back home.
The experience has been that the children will continue to stay in touch by writing to and visiting each other, thereby cementing the friendships formed at the camp. The children will be able to introduce their new friends to their families, extending the inter-communal alliances among the adult population too.
As a result, Mother Sri Lanka expects that families in the north of the country will form close relationships with those in the rest of the country. Furthermore, the second phase of the camp will see the children of Homagama travelling to Kilinochchi for a similar camp in the future, which will ensure that the friendships made at the first camp will continue.
Mother Sri Lanka has joined hands with the Social Cohesion and Peace Education Unit of the Ministry of Education which has been conducting similar camps in the past to take this programme to newer heights. This camp was sponsored by Save the Children and GTZ.
Mother Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Education, has planned to hold similar camps in the future. The next camp that has been planned will include children from the Mullaitivu, Akkaraipattu and Polonnaruwa areas. The consequent camp will bring together children from the Vavuniya, Paddirippuwa and Gampaha areas. Another camp will see children from the Matara and Pottuvil areas attending. Volunteers and sponsors are welcome to participate in the projects.