(Courtesy: Sunday Observer, July 29, 2012)
Five teenage schoolchildren from Sri Lanka, who had each lost a family member to an act of terrorism, attended this year’s ‘Project Common Bond’, a week-long peace building and conflict resolution program in the United States.
The Program was organised by Tuesday’s Children, a New York-based non-profit organisation serving the needs of those affected by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the United States, as well as other victims of international terrorism and their families.
Responding to a request made by the Embassy of Sri Lanka, Tuesday’s Children granted the opportunity for three female and two male students to become the second batch of Sri Lankan students to benefit from this year’s nine-day ‘Project Common Bond’ program, now in its fifth year. Six Lankan students attended the program last year for the first time.
This year’s program was held from July 12 to 20 at the Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts. The participants followed a curriculum designed by Harvard University Law School and Weatherhead Center for International Affairs in Cambridge. The program incorporated therapeutic community-building activities, conflict resolution, peace into action projects and team events designed to foster trust, healing, cooperation and communication.
The aim of the program, as elaborated by the host organisation, is to “impact the lives of young people who have suffered a similar loss as a result of an act of terrorism – and in doing so, give them the skills they need to make a difference in the lives of others”. The Lankan students shared their personal experiences with youth from the United States, Argentina, Ireland, Israel, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Russia and Spain, Algeria, France, Morocco, Nigeria and Pakistan. On the completion of the program, the students embarked on a two-day educational tour in Washington DC, arranged by the Embassy of Sri Lanka. During this study tour, the students visited national museums, historical monuments, the White House and Capitol Hill.The Embassy of Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan-American community members in Boston and the Greater Washington Area felicitated the visiting students.
The students visited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New England Buddhist Vihara and other landmarks in the outskirts of Boston with the Sri Lankan-American community members in the area.
During a reception for the students held in Virginia, a group of Sri Lankan-American benefactors presented among other mementos laptop computers to each student to assist them in their studies.
The students left the United States for Sri Lanka on July 24. The participants were Ayodya Perera, Ridmi Wijetunge, Piyumi Wickramasinghe, Himesh Withanagama, Achira Samaranayake and Chaperone Umayangani Abeyratna.