THE GLOBAL VOLUNTEERING NETWORK
The most precious and ambitious element in the Sri Lankan focus of 2015 is the effort to introduce representatives of two communities of people living in rural Sri Lanka to one another. By itself this may seem a fairly easy thing to do. And indeed, we do hope it will prove be so! However, these is a far deeper purpose in facilitating this meeting: we hope it will lay a foundation for trust and friendship among two specific communities of people, one predominantly of the majority Sinhala ethnicity (in Deegalla) and the other from the largest ethnic minority group, the Tamil (in Nainathivu). For the sake of those who may not be too conversant about the recent history of Sri Lanka, suffice it to say that it is just emerging from a bloody sectarian strife that has claimed thousands of lives for almost 30 years.
Before we bring the representatives of the two groups of people together, our visiting team would have had the honour of being their guests within their own homes. During that time we plan to implement two major charitable activities to help address very specific needs of each community. We then plan to return the hospitality by inviting representatives of these communities to the famed hill capital of Sri Lanka, through a programme that will be fully sponsored through MegaReach. The occasion of that eventual meeting will also be marked by a symbolic donation of wheelchairs to a very needy group of immobilised persons from all backgrounds. However, the real aim of that meeting will be far from symbolic: we hope it will stimulate new ways of thinking between the two groups, leading to the generation of exciting ideas of working together for the common good of both communities.
While this in itself would be a hugely “successful” outcome, the ethos of MegaReach always goes beyond facilitating introductions. We want to continue engagement with the two communities in order to help those new initiatives to reach their fruition. That would ONLY be possible if we can galvanise a whole community of well-wishers from outside those two communities, who would be committed to help make a real difference over the longer term. So the MARDiTRePers of the MegaReach branch at Plymouth University have launched a blog to generate public interest on the tour at www.megareach.wordpress.com. We hope it will lead to expressions of interest and ultimately pledges of support from a network of global well-wishers that could be “tapped” when the representatives of Deegalla and Nainathivu come up with project proposals that would best suit them.
We believe this process would be helped if we are open and honest about our perspective of the ethnic conflict. We are completely non-judgemental and neutral. We appreciate that there is a significant amount of hurt between members of the two ethnic groups and that the healing process may take years, if not decades to complete. We know we cannot expect people to forget the painful bereavement and the suffering associated with the conflict; such pain can only be very intense and very personal. The healing process therefore must be given its own due time.
Yet, we passionately believe that it be futile to contaminate the minds of the completely innocent newborn of Sri Lanka with the very seeds of hatred that resulted in that conflict in the first place. They deserve a better future; a future that should not be held at ransom by the acrimony of the past. Our effort to bring real people from the two communities together is hinged on the belief that the process would help generate mutual trust and friendship between individuals, which will, with time, spread to envelop all of their communities and beyond.
However, we are also aware that we have no divine right to intervene and that our efforts, however well-intentioned they may be, may lead to more harm than good. We are trying to minimise this possibility by (1) engaging with the communities in advance of our arrival (2) living among them in order to gain a better understanding of the ground realities (3) choosing a neutral ground to facilitate the meeting and (4) leaving the decision of how to proceed entirely at the hands of the representatives of the two communities. Above all we want to learn from your experiences, opinions and advice.
So please do contribute to our blog. Tell us what you feel. Help us refine our aim and then deliver it with the maximum efficiency and at least inconvenience. Above all, tell us how you are willing to help us, when the representatives of the two communities outline their plans for joint ventures. Become a real plank, in our effort to make a real difference to real people. Please get to know our tour party and share your thoughts on www.megareach.wordpress.com.