Last week was special to me. For the 1st time I traveled to Polonnaruwa with some friends in Stitch Movement for the initial stages of Stitch Exchange Project. The journey wasn’t comfortable, not due to the luxury of traveling medium ( Train rides are one thing I love) but because of the view and experience I had on the way to Polonnaruwa. Rail track to Polonnaruwa ran through a series of tropical jungles. Most of the tress seems to be suffering without rain. I felt like most of the trees were looking at me with sad faces. But the real sad faces were not of the trees, it was of the people who tried to sell vegetable in the train for a very cheap price! After talking with them I realized they are farmers in a nearby village who didn’t want to sell the crops to shops in the town because they pay a very low price for vegetables . These farmers’ only expectation was to sell a few bags of vegetables so they can find some money to survive the day!
With mixed feelings we got down from Polonnaruwa (Kaduruwela) Railway station. Ina minute, we were traveling to a village located 37km away from the Polonnaruwa Town. One of our partnering organizations was conducting a two-day workshop for the youth there and we were suppose to do a leadership development session for them.
After traveling another hour in a tuk tuk, we reached our destination. I should say I was surprised when I saw the place (School). It was in the middle of the jungle with no electricity ( Well at least it was powered by a solar panel)
However the workshop was filled with energy, there were participants aged from 14 to 29, but most of them were less than 18. I have to tell you this workshop was filled with energy. Everyone wanted to share their opinion, everyone had something to say and they were not afraid whether it was right or wrong!
After listening to some of the sessions, I got a chance to have a chat with the Gramasewaka officer in that area. According to him most of the youth/families were suffering from many problems but the main thing was economy! 90% of the families there lived through farming and this time results weren’t so good due to the lack of rain.
He was pointing out that what this society need are “jobs”, and not any other “useless” workshops. It was sad to see an officer like this think that providing some kind of job would solve these problems.
Later on I got sometime to talk with the family planning guys in that area. Well, the work they do is outstanding. They were organizing “Happy Family” Programs for newly married couples educating them about birth controlling methods and giving away free condoms! One interesting thing he said was that many people in that area were willing to buy condoms from anywhere because they were shy or afraid. To prevent this, these guys started mobile health caring centers and anyone can come and get free condoms from them. Pretty interesting.
After talking with the young people who participated in this program, I realized even though they smile and had some genuine fun through these kind of workshops, their real life is filled with poverty and related problems. Schools without electricity , youth without proper jobs but smiles hiding the sadness!