Mirror Magazine

Beyond the norm
Beyond Borders is aimed at bringing awareness to the youth, about their place as responsible individuals and citizens of the world. Focusing on issues of contemporary importance, it brings them together from several countries. Here’s a closer look

“We’ve just crossed the border. Now let’s go beyond.”
This is what Nafisa Asgerally, a core group member from the Beyond Borders Sri Lanka team had to say, fresh after returning from the Life Skills Training Camp in Bandaragama.

Beyond Borders, Sri Lanka… Core group members???
From afar, they are just a group of people sharing a few (actually many) laughs, while sharing their ideas, but if you were to stop and listen for a little, these were serious ideas that were being discussed. This group of young individuals are motivated, dedicated and have a passion for what they are doing, making certain that they see things through. They don’t have their way (get ready for a volcano to erupt). They will make their point and have good reasons for it…

Identity, diversity and active global citizenship; the three themes Beyond Borders is tied up around. These youngsters represent these concepts. They are so diverse in every aspect; be it religion, ethnicity, talent, outspokenness, way of thinking, outlook on life, their sense of humour and even the food they eat!!!!

Beyond Borders is a regional sharing, learning, and networking project for young people between the ages of 18 to 23, in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and the UK. The project focuses on building greater mutual understanding, learning and respect, while developing an understanding of active global citizenship, which is the theme assigned for the year 2005. The unique element in this project is that its agenda of activities are designed by young people for young people.

A functional network of a hundred Core Group Members (CGMs) in all five countries will manage project activities, focusing on active citizenship and social development, within a period of eighteen months. With workshops and outreach work to distribute learning gained through project work, the CGMs will gain exposure to best practice community projects, in collaboration with partners. A colourful highlight of Beyond Borders are the five festivals organised in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the UK.

Working within the themes of identity, diversity and active global citizenship, the three action project topics chosen by the CGM of Sri Lanka are HIV/AIDS and the youth, patriotism and ethnic understanding, and teaching English and vocational skills to women in rural areas. The chosen action projects under these topics are the running of documentary/presentation/quizzes and other HIV/AIDS awareness programmes at schools and other organisations, and also a website designed and developed for HIV/AIDS youth and others in general to share ideas, talk and gain professional advice. A mobile clinic to detect HIV/AIDS for people in rural areas, beginning with Jaffna, is yet another action project decided by the CGM of Sri Lanka.

Under the topic of patriotism and ethnic understanding, the action projects suggested consist of a slogan-driven campaign, including the creation of products focusing on inspiring these notions, which will culminate at the end of the year, with the launch of an inspirational book for the ‘Sri Lankan’ Soul. A fund- raiser involving school children and other young people too is on the agenda. The formulation of the action projects for the final topic of teaching English and vocational skills to women of rural areas are still in progress.

“The Beyond Borders Project gives us the opportunity to start understanding ourselves as individuals, our country and its culture and finally, other countries and their cultures,” says Shameema Akbarally who heads the Sri Lankan Core Group. As she sees it, “Our generation has grown up in a time of conflict, both within our own country and overseas, causing many people to lose their lives and others their livelihood. Misunderstanding has led to mistrust.”

What attracted the rest of the Core Group Members to this project varies. It revolves around what they are passionate about. Spend ten minutes with Dinidu de Alwis, and you would know that he has a sense of humour that needs a little tolerance, and is very passionate about working on AIDS awareness. He says, “I joined mainly because Beyond Borders was a networking project. That means we would get to meet a lot of people, and share their experiences, and we would get a glimpse of the knowledge that others posses. This would be of great assistance for any kind of community work, as greater understanding of people would result in community workers, to work with more knowledge and understanding of one’s culture.”

A mathematics whiz from the University of Moratuwa, Gayan Malinga, says that he was attracted to this project, as it’s team work of young people, which develops their potential in many aspects, and gives them opportunities to serve the society via the experiences they get. “I’d like to get a better understanding about different cultures, develop my leadership, management and communication skills via this project, and be a dynamic team player,” he says adding that he hopes to contribute to social issues through these experiences.

Having killed quite a few brain cells trying to come up with a quote, Yusuf Hussain says that he is not a very good one-line person. Instead he decided to more or less quote one of the trainers, and to get everyone else thinking about their actions, “The next time you jump a red light or throw something out the window, think how it affects the image of the country.”

Moving on, he talks about why he wanted to join Beyond Borders. “What I hope to achieve, now that I am a part of Beyond Borders, is a better Sri Lanka. I hope to be able to work with the core group on projects that would make Sri Lanka a more culturally aware and tolerant place, and meet new people and learn new things in the process.”

At first glimpse Beyond Borders sounds like a good project, and once you get to know a little more about it, you realise that this is an amazing opportunity for young people. Not only are they gaining what can be considered one of the best experiences of their lives, they are also changing themselves within, while helping to make an impact in society.


Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.