This blog is a document of my travels as a volunteer to Sri Lanka in the Summer of 2011. I traveled with co-workers, Elizabeth Smith, Assistant VP, College Communications and Cynthia Ganote, Professor of Sociology . Our trip was sponsored and arranged by the joint efforts of Lasallian Institute and Saint Mary’s College to provide volunteers an experience of the Sri Lankan Lassalian missions and projects associated with the Brothers of De Lasalle. I taught classes on technology and graphics to students at St. Xavier’s Boys College and led after school programs in English as a second language. Working twelve hour days in 100 degree heat, we were sometimes responsible to teach 9 classes per day. No small feat!
Though our time in Sri Lanka was brief, we were deeply moved by hospitality and compelling personal histories of those we encountered. In addition to learning of the incredibly tumultuous history of civil war and accompanying racial, religious and gender related inequities, we were at the same time embraced as family and treated with warmth, love and openness. Though our lives may seem to have little in common at the surface, this chance to step out of my normal way of seeing and try on a new world perspective has helped me to gain perspective.
This trip has enabled me to experience first hand the deep wounds created by civil war. It is a painful reality that religion is often used by those in power to control and suppress revolt against unjust policies. That like the Palestinian people, Sri Lankan Christian and Muslim minorities are literally treated as non-citizens with separate rules and fewer rights, less access to education and health care and far fewer opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty. I learned that only 5% of all Sri Lankan students are able to attend college or university.
Not knowing history does not mean you are separate from it. We are all part of the travesties of war wherever they may be and however hidden. I have come to realize that for the moment, there is no one right answer. There are not one clear and perfect solution to the complex issues faced by our Sri Lankan friends. That said. I believe that looking the other way is yet another a form of deep injustice.
Please take time to browse through the links provided within the blogroll area to learn more about Sri Lanka and the plight of the Tamil people in the northern regions of the country. My sincere wish is that the stories and experiences of those we met during our stay will be heard, and that visitors to this site may see a glimpse of life not normally seen by many westerners. If you have time an inclination please watch the video link:
Please support the efforts toward creating a UN War Crimes Tribunal for Sri Lanka.
I would also love to find some way of continuing my connection with St. Xavier’s College Boys School and am open to suggestions about the best ways to offer support. Two separate shipments of books that I have arranged from various American publishers, failed to arrive at their destination. I have also tried to help set up a Paypal account for the purpose of sending future donations to the school, but the local bank refuses to work with Paypal. If you or anyone you know have worked in similar conditions and can offer any advise please feel free to contact me at this email address: