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The presence of competent leaders for the betterment of the country is vital for our nation to progress in a manner which is racially unbiased and peaceful. Consequently, the implementation of projects like the Peace Ambassador Leadership Program (PALP) are instrumental for the aforementioned purpose as it would bring awareness and motivate the youth to build their Social Leadership skills and will encourage the participants to work towards a national level for the sustainable development of the community and peace of the nation. The purpose of this case study is to show how the Peace Ambassador Leadership Program (PALP) trained the youth to build the skills necessary to present themselves as leaders, partake in community development and fulfilled the objectives set out by the International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP).

In the rural areas of Sri Lanka, there aren’t ample opportunities for the youth to build their leadership skills and community development. Moreover, there is a lack of youth participation in community development as their knowledge of this is very abysmal. There is also a lack of support from the government to empower the youth due to the organizations being led by politicians who do not provide equal opportunities for all. Language issues among communities such as Sinhalese people not being able to talk Tamil and vice versa has created a rift between these communities as well. In addition, the current situation in Sri Lanka giving rise to racial and religious tensions had cemented the need for an appropriate response in order to rectify this and create awareness among the youth to sway from racist beliefs and move forward with the building of a sustainable, aptly developed country while simultaneously building social harmony among communities.  These circumstances acted as a catalyst for the International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP), supported by the British Council Sri Lanka and Active Citizens, to step in and take action to build strong relationships and have a mutual understanding about the different communities in the society and be respectful to others’ religious beliefs which will result in a unified nation working towards the development of the community.

To tackle the aforementioned issues, the International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP), supported by the British Council Sri Lanka and Active Citizens, implemented the Peace Ambassador Leadership Program (PALP) to train the youth to build their social leadership skills using the Active Citizens Methodology. Through this Project, the 4 social action projects were implemented in the community level to encourage participants to work toward to national level. This project intended to create a youth network along the country to open a platform to learn from other cultures, beliefs and values of different communities resulting in the building up of a strong community network which will help the government with its reconciliation plan. The main aims of this project were to train the youth to achieve the National Youth Policy Pillars which include: –

  • Promotion of inclusive Sri Lankan identity that based on the concept of social harmony.
  • Respect the all cultural diversity and that has enriched Sri Lanka where all religions, faith and cultures are treated equally.
  • Ensure participation of young people at all levels of decision making.
  • Promoting high standard of professionalism and integrity by all involved in youth work.

Participant will be empowered to engage peacefully effectively with other cultures in the sustainable development of their communities. Make them work toward to reach the goals of SDG’s in the country.

Engaging young people in policy dialogues and decision-making processes on the social, economic, environmental and cultural affairs that matter most to them therefore has to be an important component of the engagement process with youth. This project will make youth as leader to their communities through the nation. This will help to get them government level process, such as policy making and decision making. Peace Ambassador Leadership Program (PALP) will be a platform to youth to develop the skills of the Youth Participating in their own community and national level simultaneously promoting understanding among young people on issues of different diversity, exposure to difference cultures and learning from each other, promoting a culture of non-violence and peaceful resolution of conflicts both inter personal and inter community, developing the ability of young people to seek information and think critically and independently, developing Youth Life Skills to combat substance abuse, promoting networking, knowledge sharing and team building abilities.

In order to achieve these objectives, 6 events were carried out in the PALP Project which were: –

  1. Active citizens Workshop

 IYAP (International Youth Alliance for Peace) supported by The British Council Sri Lanka conducted an Active Citizen workshop in the Galle district on December 2018 for a period of 5 days under the subject PALP (Peace Ambassador Leadership Program). The program consisted of 25 participants from the Galle district comprising of different religions, cast, creed including the Buddhists, Hindu, Christians and The Muslims. Most importantly, 4 of these participants represented the SPDA (Southern Province Deaf Association). The participants were given valuable insight on how to actively march towards achieving peace and reconciliation first within oneself and then towards the nation. As part of the one-year program, these 25 participants shall be trained under this program. This will closely monitor the participants and guide them in participating and actively contribute to attain the end goal. To encourage them to act, think and work towards a peaceful world ultimately becoming an Active Citizen. 

  1. Pongal Celebration

Pongal is extensively celebrated between the 14-17th of January every year to show gratitude to the sun god and Lord Indra for helping the farmers in better yielding crops. IYAP took this opportunity to conduct a Pongal special programme at the 229-year-old ‘Naatukottai Nagaratthaar Shri Kathirvelaayutha Swami Kovil – Galle’ for the participants of the Peace Ambassador Leadership Program (PALP) supported by the Active citizen, British Council Sri Lanka, as part of understanding the intercultural indifferences between ethnic communities. Graced raced by his honorable Visuddhi Thero, along with Farhan Moulavi, Southern Province Cultural Secretary Mr. Vernard Perera, Galle District ASP Mr. Ajith Kumar, and Member of Colombo Municipal Council Mr. Charitha Gunarathne along with the resident Kurukkals making it a truly multi-ethnic celebration. The special event commenced at 8:30 a.m. with the preparation of the delicacy of the day; The Pongal, amongst participants, volunteers, friends and family along with the invited dignitaries. A special puja was then conducted by the resident Kurukkal in the presence of the respected religious scholars and government delegates. A sight to behold was when the local Buddhist monk was seen sharing fruits with all his Hindu and Muslim scholar friends and sharing a light hearted moment. Another delightful sight was when ASP, Mr. Ajith shared his childhood memories of Pongal in his neighborhood. The dignitaries, participants and volunteers were then offered Sakkara Pongal, Kesari, Vada and Laddu; some of the traditional Hindu sweets and savories as a participant of IYAP PALP programme addressed the gathering and explained the significance of the festival and its celebrations. This was followed by a speech from Member of Colombo Municipal Council Mr. Charitha Gunarathne pertaining to the improvements he wishes to see in the community in terms of Education, Work and Play. He had extended his support to IYAP and the Kovil delegates for future projects and collaborations which could benefit in uplifting youth and emphasize peace and prosperity. 

  1. Short Film Making Workshop 

On 3rd of March,2019 the International Alliance for Peace with the support of Active Citizens British Council Sri Lanka organized a workshop in Galle. This program was about making a short film for peace reconciliation and community resilience. It was basically conducted to the Peace Ambassador Leadership Program Participants.  This workshop included few highly passionate people who shared their knowledge of cinematography with our PALP participants regarding various topics related to making peace and community resilience.  A powerful lecture on Humanity was conducted by Anusha Sivalingam. She discussed on the topic the importance of peace and humanity through film making. She spoke on the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict and on the world cinema while also speaking on community based cinema in Sri Lanka. Cinematographer Maduni Alahackone spoke about camera shots and the way they can use a tripod and also she spoke about the basic lighting setup when taking a video.

Jayashika Padmasiri spoke about screenwriting also called as the scriptwriting, which is the art and craft of writing scripts for cinema. She was talking about the screenwriters’ tasks. They are supposed to be responsible for researching about the story, developing the narrative, writing the script, screenplays, dialogues and delivering it in the required format to the development executives. Chathurangi Rasikala, assistant film director. She discussed about the practical components to focus on the pre-production to post-production.   Nandana Sitinamaluwe spoke about editing for motion pictures and how these editing efforts should be logical and meaningful and how the visual presentation should come as close as possible to achieving the goals behind the original intent of the work to entertain, to inform and to inspire people.  This workshop was basically organized to give a brief knowledge about how a film can have an impact on the human society and how we can use it for the development of peace and community resilience and how us being as the youth of this nation can contribute towards achieving it and making this world a better place to live in and survive.

  1. School Initiation Seminar & Youth Camp for Resilience

“Youth for Resilience; Galle, 2019” was held on 31st August as the final stage of The School Peace Club Project organized under Peace Ambassador’s Leadership Program (PALP) by the International Youth Alliance for Peace (IYAP) Galle team. This program was conducted with 42 students out of 60 participants, including teachers and with honored presence of the Galle Zone Deputy Director of Education. Achieving the objectives of Inclusion and Equality considering gender differences in empathy, the workshop was held at the Bona Vista College Rumassalla, Unawatuna with the combination of 2 Muslim and 2 Buddhist Schools from the region.

The workshop which was carried out as an “Active Citizens” initiative by the British Council Sri Lanka enabled the participants to identify several societal issues (drug use, smoking and various addictions) presented in their school and home environment, collaborating with each other to bring up solutions while promoting reconciliation and peace; the primary focus points of IYAP.

These dialogues on public issues and interests, offered the participants a challengeable two days with a Campfire night, in awakening their common sense and critical thinking to form individual opinions to handle and solve matters in a creative and logical manner. The interactive sessions that were carried out between both the speakers and the participants displayed the sole interest of the partakers.

Adding success to the program the aim was to shape young minds to inhabit critical thinking and eventually unlocking the energy within them that is required for independent learning and decision making. The prospect of this task was both daunting but exciting, because having the power to change one’s way of thinking could lead to disaster if not done in an appropriate manner, but the thought of being able to instigate a certain mindset for the betterment of society was exhilarating! As an organization and as individuals, we were thus presented with the greatest challenge of effectively molding the young minds from a sustainable, to a better future.

  1. Community Stakeholder Consultation

IYAP supported by the Active citizen, British Council Sri Lanka in light of Resilience, Community resilience rather, conducted a stakeholder consultation session comprising of religious leaders representing all major religions of Sri Lanka alongside other dignitaries. Siva Shri Jaya Chandra Deshan Sharma Kurukkal, Reverend Father Nelson Balakumar, Walawwatte Vihaarastaanaya Rideeyagama Visuddi Nayaka Swamiwaanse, Mohamed Safwan – Dep. Director Human Rights. Ministerial Media Division, Methsiri De Silva. Former Mayor of Galle. Chief Organization SLFP Galle and M.P.P Arunalal – Inspector. Galle HQ were present to grace the occasion. The idea was to conduct a World Café session to address the needs of the hour. I) The Power of the People II) Transformability III) Systematic Thinking IV) Sustainability V) Courage VI) Adaptability VII) Combating Psychological Stress VIII) Fear Mitigation IV) Planning V) Inclusivity Campaigns… were the topics that were put forward to the stakeholders to be discussed. As part of the event, memorabilia to Abdul Hameed Mohammed Naleem (Demised 26/03/2018) and Kusuma Kumudunee Abeywickrama (Demised 31/03/2019) in remembrance of their services were awarded to the family of two deceased mentors who had immensely contributed to the society. The event concluded with Ifthar alongside a volunteer from IYAP thanking the religious leaders, dignitaries, the volunteers themselves and participants for the gathering.

  1. Spotlight on Peace

Spotlight on Peace 2019 concluded on 30th of June 2019 with International Youth Alliance for Peace (#IYAP) in collaboration with British Council Sri Lanka at the British Council Library. Spotlight on peace 2019 was a successful event with the presence of our Chief Guest Hon. Mano Ganeshan, Ministry of National Integration, Official Languages, Social Progress and Hindu Religious Affairs, and with all our special invitees and amazing volunteers. Chief Guest Hon. Minister Mano Ganesan, speaking about the role and Participation of youth in reconciliation emphasized the vital need to respect and embrace every religion and all the cultural indifference. We express our solidarity with Sri Lanka on preventing extremism and emphasized that British Council Sri Lanka represents the UK in all aspects of cultural relations, building connections, and opportunities between the people of Sri Lanka and the UK.

Through the conduction of these events, the main aim of the PALP Project was to encourage the youth to act, think and work towards a peaceful world ultimately becoming an Active Citizen. The active citizens workshop was able to educate the youth about the political instability, the inflation and depreciation of the currency to the lowest level in the history of the island and immense international pressure and intervention has pushed the country to take a deep plunge in terms of growth and financial stability. This in-depth understanding of the current financial situation of the country is instrumental to the future development of the nation as steps would be taken to rectify this by the future leaders. This discussion of the financial status of the country also engages youth in policy dialogues and decision-making processes on the economic affairs and will help them get to the government level processes such as policy making and decision making. The Pongal celebration brought together different communities in order to strengthen the understanding of the importance of different cultures. This will give people an exposure to different religious and cultural events so people can learn from each other and promote a culture of non-violence and peaceful resolution of conflicts. This succeeded in unifying all ethnic communities emphasizing peace and prosperity. This also promotes the concept of social harmony while simultaneously cultivating respect for all religions, faiths and cultures. The saying “Strength comes in numbers” is apt for this unification of different cultures would be instrumental for our nation to flourish without adversity due to religious/cultural conflicts. The workshop on short film making gave the participants knowledge of cinematography to a certain extent. The short films shown are based on how film impacts human society and how we can use it for the development of peace and community resilience. Films greatly influence the audience with the message behind it. Films usually draw a large audience. This can be taken advantage of by making and showing films with underlying themes of peace, resilience, humanity…etc.  A film with a strong message impacts the society like no other. The Youth camp for resilience workshop provided a platform for the youth to engage and create a better future through discussing youth related matters. This also allowed participants to identify and divulge into the various societal issues such as drug use, smoking, consumption of alcohol and other detrimental addictions. This promoted the understanding of the issues faced by society and using critical and logical thinking, solutions were given by the participants. The campfire night awakened the participants’ common sense and critical thinking to form individual opinions to handle and solve matters in a creative and logical manner. The Community Stakeholder Consultation was done to address certain topics like the power of the people, transformability, Systematic thinking, courage, adaptability, combatting psychological stress, fear mitigation, planning, inclusivity campaigns. These are vital in enforcing resilience in the society and molding young minds for a better future. The Spotlight on Peace gave participants an insight on how to actively work towards peace and reconciliation within oneself and then the nation. The spotlight on peace was focused for the PALP team to recognize their enthusiasm towards the society and the community. The team was appreciated and was awarded certificates. The program had an interactive panel discussion on the topic that disability is not a challenge. As part of this one-year program, the participants of PALP were trained, monitored and guided to actively participate and contribute to attain the end goal. To encourage them to act, think and work towards a peaceful world ultimately becoming an Active Citizen.

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The videos and interviews –  – the project being selected to be among the first 5 for Active Citizen global Competition.