The Foundation of Goodness is a holistic rural development model that seeks to bridge the urban-rural divide in Sri Lanka via 10 empowerment divisions across 900+ villages island-wide, and reached over 307,000+ beneficiaries in 2022 alone by way of 15 Empowerment Centres, free of cost.
The Foundation of Goodness recognizes the impact of the North-South divide on the lives of Sri Lankans, and the need for reconciliation and friendship between rural students from both regions who have been separated due to the 30-year civil war. Instead of identifying as Sri Lankans, we have chosen to go by our racial tags, further dividing our nation. To address this issue, we have proactively taken the initiative to conduct Student Exchange Programmes that enable children and youth from both regions to learn the value of unifying and identifying themselves as people of one country, whilst learning the importance of being sensitive to other cultures, traditions and practices. This Student Exchange Programme, generously sponsored by Dr. Kushwin Rajamani from Australia, is aimed at fostering reconciliation and friendship between rural students from the North and South, and we are excited to share all about it with you. The positive impact of this programme will resonate on generations to come!
The students from the Puthiyanagar Village Heartbeat Empowerment Centre in the North and the students from the OYOB Centre of Excellence in Seenigama from the South embarked on a much-awaited student exchange programme this month, aimed at fostering reconciliation between the North and South regions of Sri Lanka. It was indeed an amazing experience for these students hailing from Point Pedro and Dondra Head.
South to North Journey
The South to North leg of the Student Exchange Programme began on the 10th of March 2023. The students from the South arrived in Mullaitivu and were welcomed warmly in accordance with the northern traditions by the children at the Puthiyanagar Village Heartbeat Empowerment Centre, their first destination. It was such a refreshing moment, being exposed to new traditions and customs that enabled them to understand the importance of cultural sensitivity. After the welcome, the students engaged in community aid work, including a cleaning campaign at the Puthiyasooriyan Sports Ground, with the help of the Children’s Good Values Initiative students from Puthiyanagar. The Puthiyanagar CGVI students also did not forget to serve some refreshments for their friends who had visited them all the way from the South, a friendly and warm gesture. They then shared their knowledge and skills, followed by some friendly games and snacks. The day ended with exchanging mementos between each other, as a token of their friendship.
The next day, the students visited the renowned Jaffna Public Library, followed by the Mathagal VHE Centre, where they engaged in fun learning activities in both Sinhala and Tamil languages. The Sinhala Language Teacher at the Mathagal centre used this rare opportunity to conduct some activities for both groups of students together. It was a fun learning experience for both groups of students. They also played a friendly volleyball game while at the centre. Later, they visited the Dambakola Patuna Sangamitta Temple and the Nallur Kandaswamy Temple, immersing themselves in Jaffna’s rich cultural heritage. They also stopped by Rio Ice Cream, a famous gelato spot in Jaffna, before concluding their visit to the north with a visit to the Nagadeepa Buddhist Temple on the final day of the programme.
Overall, the South to North leg of the Student Exchange Programme provided an opportunity for students from both regions to exchange knowledge, skills, and culture, fostering reconciliation and friendship.
North to South Journey
On the 23rd of March 2023, students from the Puthiyanagar Village Heartbeat Empowerment Centre in the North left for the South of Sri Lanka. Their first destination was the Dambulla Village Heartbeat Empowerment Centre, where they were greeted with a warm reception by the Southern students. The Northern students were thrilled to experience a red carpet moment, while the Southern students were excited to forge lasting friendships with their peers from Mullaitivu. The welcoming ceremony included a special presentation of handmade bookmarks by the Dambulla students to their new friends from the North. The students then enjoyed a friendly game of volleyball and participated in cultural exchange events, including music and dance performances.
During their stay in Dambulla, the students from Puthiyanagar took the opportunity to visit the iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sigiriya Rock, also known as Lion Rock. For most of the Northern students, it was their first time seeing this historic site in person.
The following day, the group from the North headed to Colombo, the bustling urban hub of Sri Lanka. They were amazed by the skyscrapers and advanced facilities that are not commonly found in their rural hometowns. The students were given a tour of the recently opened Colombo Lotus Tower and visited the Planetarium, providing them with a unique space experience.
The journey then continued to the Southern coastal village of Seenigama, where our flagship venue, the OYOB Centre of Excellence is located. The students were once again welcomed warmly by their friends from the South, whom they had hosted just a few weeks earlier. The exchange programme included a beach clean-up campaign and a bonfire evening, among other activities. The highlight of the North to South journey was the exchange of skills and knowledge between the students, which created a unique opportunity for both groups to learn from each other. The group from Jaffna shared their thoughts and experiences with the Seenigama students in Sinhala language, which they had learned in their Link-Language class, and this helped them to connect on a deeper level. The Seenigama students also took this opportunity to practice and improve their Tamil speaking skills, which they found to be incredibly valuable.
While in Seenigama, the students from the North also had the chance to visit the Foundation of Goodness Sports Academy, which was an enriching experience for them. They learned about the importance of sports and how it can bring people together, regardless of their cultural or regional differences. The students were impressed by the state-of-the-art facilities and training programs that were offered at the academy.
For the students from the North, the journey to the South was a memorable and exciting experience that helped to foster reconciliation and reconnect them with fellow citizens of the same nation.
Overall, the student exchange program was a resounding success, and it helped to bridge the gap between the North and South regions of Sri Lanka. The students were able to forge lasting friendships, and they learned the value of unity, empathy, and understanding. This program will serve as a positive step towards reconciliation and a more united Sri Lanka.