Interview with Tanuja Turairajah on the making of Project Belonging

Living as a migrant for the first time in Zürich, Tanuja Thurairajah found herself thinking about the narratives that people were exposed to in their daily life.

“When I came here I met other Tamils, but somehow I felt that they reached out to a different narrative and I reached out to a different narrative…”

[Read more…]

A Masters worth its Salt: Master of Development Practice, Peradeniya Uni

GAYA FERNANDO

[Re-posting this from 2012 Dec ]

Some people get into development work without a clue as to what it’s all about. They joined up to a corps of people who wanna make the world a better place. That’s fine.

Then there are professionals who slog away at commercial jobs and half-way take a break, unwind in the mountains or beaches of Sri Lanka and wonder if this is all there is to life. Then they apply with their corporate skills and experience for jobs in the non-profit sector. That’s great!

Some people are very career-minded and would like to start out with a degree in an area that will give them experience in working with communities and are interested in the concept of sustainable development.  That’s wonderful !

Oh yes, and what about the experienced employees in NGOs who think they are too ‘senior’ to come into a University classroom and take on a challenge sitting beside the young hopefuls twenty-something but are crazy about getting a Masters in the area of work they love?

Well, all of you are absolutely welcome !

Master of Development Practice (MDP) at Peradeniya

“Sri Lanka and its neighbours face compelling challenges as they move toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the context of pursuing a sustainable development agenda. These include threats from climate change, vulnerability to natural disasters, rapid urbanization, demographic change, persistent and substantial levels of poverty and malnutrition especially in lagging regions and among vulnerable groups. Addressing these complex issues requires professionals with many areas of core knowledge, practical skills and an interdisciplinary approach” MDP, Peradeniya University website

Why it is innovative and unique

There are some features of this MDP that make it an incredibly practical and workable challenge to those committed to development. They are not listed in order of importance.

FIRST, the MDP is open to those who may not have a University degree but instead may be able to meet the equivalent in terms of experience. We could give you a few courses you may need but the gates are not barred; they are open.

SECOND,  the MDP is conducted entirely on weekends so those who are working full-time as most of us do, can travel up to Peradeniya on the weekends when lectures are held.

THIRD, it’s just great that the MDP is inter-disciplinary, drawing on humanities, social sciences, management, law, health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, to name a few. And this inter-disciplinary thinking gets you good marks with UN and NGOs, non-profit sector as the work at hand demands this perspective rather than expertise in one discipline.

FOURTH, the MDP can place the students in ‘placements’ for their field work in unique locations and working with top-notch Development orgs, the range and scope of which cannot be rivalled by any other Masters in this field.

FIFTH, the faculty, the liaisons and connections with Columbia University and the global network makes this Masters a valuable experience and one that will give you the insight and professional knowledge to further your career and to expand your perspectives on Sustainable Development.

Applications for the following academic year 2016/17 are NOW OPEN  Dec-Feb. Please see the student resources page on the MDP website for details and for your easy reference here is the Applications Page.

Student Testimonials :

“when I found out about the new approach focusing more on field training and the inter-disciplinary course content itself, covering geography, biology, statistics and economics (which should be essentially included if the development practitioner is to design and implement projects that would benefit different aspects of life of the beneficiaries) it made more sense and yes, I thought this is it!”  Natasha Yatawara. Read her story from Gambia in this interview.

The Master of Development Practice is a programme in 17 countries.  The Peradeniya University is one of the five Asian universities to be included in the global MDP network. It’s a Masters programme worth its salt. iSrilankan is proud to promote its benefits to the Sri Lankan local and international student community.

Like the MDP Facebook Page  right away and you can keep up with the news and updates easily.

The images of Peradeniya University above and the collage below are credited to Kalpa Rajapaksha

Happy Independence to Diverse Srilanka!

 

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Maskeliya, Sri Lanka. Image Credits: Deepthi Peiris,

So we got our land back from the British and before that the Dutch and Portuguese. It’s one hell of a land with mind-blowing pics of each strand of sea n foam, pasture and plain, paddyfield and rubber estate, coconut palms to the south and palmyrah to the north, sunrise on white sands in Nilaveli, the gorgeous Arugam Bay and Passekudah, and sunset on Galle Face and golden sands of Mount Lavinia to Bentota.

And we have the blue whales and dolphins and what-not. We’ve got what looks like a rainforest in the middle of a dry zone— if I’ve got it right—by visiting Ritigala, A glimpse of Adam’s Peak which is paradise in the morning mist and the majestic elephants, crocodiles and yes, the birdlife of Kumana.

Nope, that’s not all. We’ve got opportunistic politicians and bloody history and chauvinism and a threat from extremist militant Buddhist monks calling themselves the BBS and yes, enough people who forget how amazing life can be in Sri Lanka.

We’ve got more diversity on this little 68 410 sq. m. (that’s my memory from parisaraya days and Wiki says 65, 610 (snort)) teardrop isle than you can imagine. We’ve got (very broadly speaking) four faiths and four ethnicities and  on a single road a church, a mosque, a temple—at times side by side.  Diversity is no easy game and preservation is going to need a higher sensibility than displayed by many politicians in the past.

 

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Mosque and church on Vivekananda Hill. Image Credits: Vasee

Geography and a divine indulgence gave us this diversity, and deities not unlike the Greek Gods, it appeared, cruel and playful with human life, were determining the fates of humans on this island. But as a non-believer I do not blame the Gods or the British. I blame ourselves, our politically opportunistic, immature, violent and chauvinistic leaders and those who took the cue from them. Simple really.

But today the national anthem was sung in Thamil. Perhaps one of the first steps of national reconciliation along a road well trodden already at the popular level by (extra)ordinary people who are putting the past behind them and moving on with the business of multiethnic coexistence. Why is it important?  Because reconciliation is only of credible value when it is sanctioned by the State.

All the good intentions of the  Sinhalese and Tamils and Muslims are of nought if the State does not lead in national measures and a national process of addressing the past and dealing with memory, trauma and the conflict. A book by that very name was published on the Irish Troubles by Graham Dawson. I think we can do better than Ireland if we demanded this from our Government. Because we have homegrown diversity and this would lend an energy and new interpretation to a new land and a transformation of conflict rather than forget an issue that continues to grow between just two factions.

As Sayed Kashua, an Arab in Israel, author of Second Person Singular and whose uniqueness is writing in Hebrew puts it (quoting from memory)

I am living in a country where I will not be part of the narrative, where the narrative does not have me in it, I have no hope for the Palestinian problem and for my people. I have hope even for Egypt, for Syria, they are making their futures and will make something of their countries in the future even if right now, what they are making of it looks bad. But for us, I have no hope, no hope at all. And this is a great sadness. I wish my country were like others, a normal country, well, what is normal? It’s a country where everyone hates the government and each lives according to his bank account. I wish we were like that. Normal.

I think we, unlike Sayed Kashua can now wish for many things; we have dreams, hopes and desires. We have a government we can afford to criticize and less said of the bank account the better ;). But we were once Sayed Kashua. Let us not forget so easily how much we nearly lost forever. I never thought I would have this wish come true in my lifetime. It has.

Let’s determine to preserve our land, our flora and fauna, our diverse peoples and their diverse aspirations to be treated as equally as others. We have destroyed so much, let us take pride in the Thamil version of the national anthem if it means that it is a step towards preservation of this Diversity.

Yes, that is a wish for independent, diverse Sri Lanka!

These are a few wishes that came in time for this post from a few spots around the world where they live right now. I posted the ones that were sent it without selection. All were born and bred in Sri Lanka and Gary did time by coming home alone to get to know his motherland for a year or so.

I was happy to hear the national anthem sung in Tamil at the end of the official ceremony. I happened to be watching the live telecast on Rupavahini today. When they opened with just the Sinhala rendition, I thought here we go again. But was pleasantly surprised at the end.  Though I wish in future there is less display of military might (MBRLs, really?) and more cultural events.
Vasee, Australia (now holidaying in Sri Lanka)

“Honestly, with singing the national anthem in both Sinhala and Tamil, I feel like my wishes for the day has come true. For the year to come, I hope for more of this, more reaching out, more “eka mavakage dharu kela bavina, yamu yamu vee nopamaa”.
Nushelle, USA

Happy independence day Sri Lanka! You have more that unites you than divides you. The children of your land  have no real, telling differences: nothing that says you are Sinhalese or Tamil, Moors, Malays, Memons, Bohras, Burghers or Eurasian. Each one just as sun-kissed and unruly-haired as the child next to him/her. The squeals of delight, those eyes that twinkle with mischief- they choose no race nor religion to divide. You have more that unites you than divides you
       Iman Hameed, Singapore

My thoughts on Independence Day: Certain Sinhalese and Tamils should change their attitude. They should just see the country as Sri Lanka not just a sinhala country and tamils, not as a separate country in Sri Lanka.  We need justice for the war victims. And yes, I hope in the next few years that religious extremism should be sorted out with zero tolerance . And the people of Sri Lanka should be able to elect super governors in future. We should all explore every part of this little island to love it more. My wish is  just  to see a happy Sri Lanka.
        Arvind, Jaffna

 

Happy Independence Day, Sri Lanka! We’ve had a rough ride. I spend half my life fending off Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism and Tamil aspirational separatism. Alas, I love you like the nationalist fool that I am. We all need a place to call our own. You are mine. Forever and always. xx
Gary, Australia

I’m going to quote..(nearly)… Roosevelt. He said it all… “Here is our country. Cherish these natural wonders. Cherish the natural resources. Cherish the history and romance and the ugly truths as a sacred heritage… for our children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish or greedy interests skin our country of its beauty, its riches or peace.”
Kasuni, London

Was glad with the Anthem sung in Tamil. I wish the majority would give the mandate to the government for proper reconciliation, even at times if they feel they are sacrificing a bit. For example, if they think, singing the National Anthem in Tamil may be a dignity issue for Sinhalese, they can forgo this, just as a compromise, which actually doesn’t cost them anything, but contributes to a national and genuine reconciliation.  The anthem sung in Tamil is not what I mean, the bigger picture needs a lot more understanding, and I hope we all strive for that.
Danny Subramaniam, Jaffna

“Let us look forward to goodness that will prevail over bias for a better tomorrow”
Fazli Sameer, Saudhi Arabia

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Featured Image on slider Credits: Isuri Merenchi Hewage

 

 

 

In Benghazi today or Jaffna then, the teachers kept on teaching despite the shelling!

The BBC reported this today on a school reopening in Beghazi and I was reminded of what the Jaffna teacher said …

[Read more…]

Remembrance day 2015: I remember going to ‘the front’

GAYA’S INTRO:  He left his parents behind in Northern Jaffna to join up ten years ago, strangely coincidentally on May 19th 2005. He has much to remember…

bike jaffna

 

BY ARAVINTH RAJESH

 

Ten years ago,  this day this time…

many things were in my head.

[Read more…]

No poppies by request! Remembering with olu-nelum-manel, ambal-thamarai-alli!

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POPPY DAY? We didn’t have horses who died in battle. We didn’t have bagpipes.

Poppies don’t really mean much to us in Sri Lanka.

But the poppy campaign meant a great deal to the old war veterans when they came to Grants Advertising and asked for a creative poppy campaign, free of charge.

Tikiri de Zoysa wrote an amazing poem ‘Give to those who Gave’  and I remember how proud we were to see creative poppies floating around Colombo in wreaths and singles. Most cars had that wreath, vans too.

We were not remembering, but living it, trying to forget each day for a couple of hours that Sri Lanka, the very name, was loaded with hopelessness, bodies blown apart, shelling and fighting. The year was 1993 and we were in the bloody thick of it. No end in sight. I still can feel the hopelessness as if it were yesterday. Was it yesterday?

Remembering the fallen in our long war, from which we have emerged after decades, with the conviction that war is not the answer. Remembering the war veterans, and the identityless privilegeless members of the forces and the LTTE who are now without power and influence but relegated to poor people in the poorer part of the country once more.

Remembering the relatives who cannot visit a war memorial due to the lack of one both at home and in Canada, UK, Australia, Europe, Singapore, Norway, the list goes on.

Screen shot 2014-11-11 at 10.06.08 PMRemembering the victims of the massacres, the bombings the extorted, the defenseless, the harrassed, the exiled, the victimised and vanquished.

Remembering those who walked away from their childhood homes too far to return and those who walked the last battle and never did return.

Remembering the mothers of the missing and the fathers too. Remembering the children without parents who are in school-hostels today for want of responsible adults in the family to take care of them.

Remembering daughters and sons who left their schoolrooms and teachers and parents for life as a rebel.

Remembering that we can only remember and we can never forget.

Give to those who gave. All who gave. Let us lay an olu, a nelum or manel,  an ambal, thamarai or alli for the fallen.

May peace prevail! அமைதி, சமாதானம் காண்!
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Photocredits: First image is Dev Wijewardhene’s amazing photography on Nil Manel in Kandy, the second and third from seedsofdesign influence website.

MUST-SEE: Pattini-Kannaki devotion photo exhibition 22 & 23 Feb

new poster with edited website
By Sharni Jayawardena
& Malathi de Alwis

[Read more…]

Sari-Nathan: the Awesomes!!

sarinda and nathan

TELLIPPALAI TRAIL CANCER HOSPITAL IS OPEN! They did it. And if you know how these things are done, it was not easy to give wing to a dream in Sri Lanka with all the political ramifications, the naysayers, the sceptics, those who wanted spanners thrown into the works. But this was different cos it had the inimitable Sarinda-Nathan combo and these guys are what they would call in younger generation circles : Awesome.

trail photos

They gave this dream LEGS as well as wings and it was an awesome moment indeed to have a nation walking behind em. I met a Diasporan Thamil friend for lunch during the last days of TrailSL. He was born in Jaffna, living in Canada, now on vacation-the first time in 14 years-back on the island. “Why didn’t I hear of this in Canada?” he says and registers to walk in Jaffna : the last lap.

There is a time to grieve, a time to heal and a time to take pride in what Srilankans achieve on their own steam. What a story, what an action and what a great moment !

The photo on the left is symbolic of a scene which can only be viewed in multi-faith, multi-ethnic Sri Lanka where the many roads meet both Western and Eastern, urban and rural, rich and poor.  More photos and writing on the Trail and Opening of the Tellippalai Trail Cancer Hospital can be found here

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Sarinda: His Excellency Mahinda Rajapakse declared open the Tellippalai Trail Cancer Hospital. Thank you all for the support extended to make this project a reality. Tellippalai Trail cancer hospital was only possible through the hard work of many individuals who were committed to the cause.
 

The Trail team were overwhelmed with the kind messages and acts of generosity over the past few days. Thank you to all who made the visit yesterday for the opening. I hope all that the others will have a chance to go there. Many have helped and a few have worked hard to over the past 3 years to bring it to life. Thank you to all of you for giving us strength.

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Lighting a Bucket Lantern with ‘Uncle’ next door !

GAYA FERNANDO

Today was such a special day when I was a child.

Weeks ahead, the front room of my neighbours,’ the Wijesuriyas’ home, would be gradually filled with Vesak stuff. No last-minute rush or mess was allowed, for Uncle (as we used to call him) did things at a ritualistic pace repeating the activity in precisely the same way down to the last detail, each year in May. I knew the important months when I was a child in which I did something with someone and this was something special joined in by other people in the community as well and so it made that month important like Christmas in December, Palm Sunday, Easter and Avurudu in April, Vesak in May, the temple Perahera in August down the lane and the Church Harvest Festival in October.

Vesak Lantern VI

So in the front room the bucket lanterns and the candles would appear separately in their brown paper packs. As no one slept in this room there was plenty of space on the floor for preparing and lighting the bucket lanterns. [Read more…]

A mother’s tribute to her community !

 

Natalie Soysa: A Mother’s tribute to her CMB Community from iSrilankan on Vimeo

 

NATALIE SOYSA

 

I’ve often complained about everybody knowing everybody’s business in too-small Colombo.
Today, I’m ready to eat my words.
I am bringing up my son in what you would call a single-parent household.
But there’s never really been just a single parent in my home.
I thought the benefit of being a photographer meant that my son’s every moment would be frozen in time.
Juggling a camera and baby was not as as easy as it looked, but I still have so many pictures of him!
And its only because he’s always in someone’s arms!
So many different arms have come to spend time with him, play with him, dance with him, change him, bathe him and feed him.
My son doesn’t have a single parent, he has a village.
Its been a wonderful reminder that humans are essentially pack animals and not isolated family units.
My son is being community raised and he’s going to be all the better for it.
This is a tribute to all the arms that have held my son close, reminding him that he is loved.
This is a tribute to my community.

 

Words & Photographs – Natalie Soysa

 

Bio

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Natalie Soysa in her own words : I am a freelance photographer and journalist based in Sri Lanka who quit a 13 year career in advertising in 2010 to pick up a camera and head off on what most would call a fool’s journey.

After a few photography & photojournalism projects that feature the post-war explosion of arts & culture in the country, this June, I will be taking over as new Manager-Arts at the British Council.

Most importantly – I’m an incurable Star Wars geek.

Visit Natalie’s about me page for more info.

 

 

 

Photo by Indu Bandara