AFL stars shine in Sri Lanka


While many of their teammates headed off to party on end-of-season trips, a group of AFL (Australian Football League) players headed to Sri Lanka to learn more about reconciliation and look for relationship in the cause. AFL stars including indigenous players Adam Goodes and Richard Tambling, along with Brett Kirk and Brad Sewell arrived in Sri Lanka with the aim of building bridges between communities - especially indigenous ones - through sports such as cricket and football.”

Building relationship and learning about reconciliation is exactly what these stars did during their time in Sri Lanka. The Foundation of Goodness and partner organization Sri Lanka Unites were privileged to host them for a good part of their time in Sri Lanka.

These stars who are living definition of athletes have won the hearts of millions in Australia purely for their Olympian ways on the field. In Sri Lanka people are not too familiar with the sport of Aussie rules footy or the phenomenal ability of these stars. However, the AFL stars still managed to win the hearts of our people with the authenticity of their personality and their desire to serve humanity. They proved time and time again that they were more than superstar athletes; their desire to serve the people was fascinating their humility was so profound it was nothing short of inspiring.

The day spent with Sri Lanka Unites began with watching the documentary “Road to Reconciliation” where the work of reconciliation and the conference for future leaders of all ethnic and religious groups was highlighted. The team was quick congratulate the efforts for reconciliation amoung youth in Sri Lanka. They also wanted to look at ways to have similar efforts of bringing young people from diverse background in Australia to interact and learn from each other. In addition they also were excited to look at ways where they could create awareness of SLU’s work in Australia especially amoung the Sri Lankan Diaspora.

The stars spent two days at the MCC Center for Excellence in Seenigama. During this time they took a closer look at the work of the Foundation and it’s commitment to narrow the gap between urban and rural communities in Sri Lanka. They were given a tour of the work in all 25 sectors and presented with insight to the philosophy and strategy by the Founder, Mr. Kushil Gunasekera himself. The AFL stars were pleasantly surprised by the various efforts that embodied a holistic effort for rural development. They were very inspired by the community model where individuals from the community were trained and given opportunity to be employed and give back to their village. The opportunity to replicate such a holistic model amoung less privileged communities in Australia were discussed as a result of their time in Seenigama.

They spent evenings at the sports center playing cricket with the Seenigama club and teaching basic Aussie rules footy to the kids from the village. These students who had never seen a football (AFL), took to the game with enthusiasm and excitement much to the joy of the AFL stars. The glimmers of talent and adaptability to the game made the idea of seeing an AFL team someday in Sri Lanka not a farfetched dream.

The highlight of their time at Seenigama was with the children at the Lahiru Pre School. The stars were invited to be guest at an exhibition of the childrens' creations. The excitement amoung the students to share their creations with parents, friends and the special guest from AFL were evident through their contagious smiles. Each of the AFL stars was given the opportunity to pick one creation for themselves as a gift from the students. The students enjoyed interacting with the stars and it was very clear the stars enjoyed it as much or maybe even more.

All in all the visit of the AFL stars showed the plethora of opportunities for sports and humanitarian work to go hand in hand. Such a dream is even more possible when you have athletes who truly have a desire to serve and give back to less fortunate communities. The AFL stars were determine to go back with the lessons learned and give back to less fortunate communities in their own country but also to look for ways to strengthen the work for change ongoing in Sri Lanka. It was a mutually encouraging and
Inspiring to the stars and for us at the Foundation. We were inspired by their humility and commitment to serve humanity and they were inspired by our work in the grassroots for change and betterment of society.















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