ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday September 2, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 14

Teenagers, it’s time for a break!

By Marisa de Silva. Pix by Saman Kariyawasam.

Ex- serviceman Sunil Peiris aims at bringing back the simple pleasures in life by launching an action -packed adventure package for youth between 15 to 20 years.

“Wake up, eat, go to school, come home, eat, go for classes, come home, watch T.V./play computer games/ check mail/ chat online/ hang on the phone, do homework, eat and go to bed…” If that sounds familiar, like the average day of a teenager today, maybe it’s time for a break, to return to an old routine…at least momentarily.

“This is not a commercial venture. It’s always been my dream – my passion to start up the Kapuwella Adventure Resort (KAR), a fun-packed learning day out for children between 15 and 20,” said ex-serviceman Sunil Peiris. “For some time since I left the Army, I have pursued with a passion, the thought of changing the value system of the ‘younger generations’,” he added. “When I mentioned this idea to some of my colleagues, I was confronted with the question, what’s wrong with the values of the current younger generation?”

“I think there is a consensus among many of the older generation that life for our children is just not what we used to have or would have liked them to have. I look back with great nostalgia at the simple pleasures of life that entertained us, moulded us and developed an adventurous spirit within us. The initiative, the confidence, the trust, the resourcefulness and the camaraderie amongst friends, where has it all gone?

Life for most kids revolves round the television, the computer, other electronic gadgetry, bowling, go-cart racing, pool and for the older kids drag racing, gambling, drugs etc., he said.“I may be slightly over the top but, let’s be fair by the kids and question what they have to choose from in terms of an alternative lifestyle or attractions. What has society got to offer?

With this in mind Mr. Peiris has created an adventure-based challenge initially to be a day programme to titillate the interest of both the parent and the child. There are challenging contraptions which require the use of body and mind, team events that require cooperation and individual events that require courage, skill and initiative.

The programme starts off at Independence Square where the kids are picked up at 6 a.m. They are then brought by coach to Kapuwella, welcomed to KAR, briefed on the objectives, safety precautions and challenges to be met during the course of the day. Thereafter, there are a few ice breakers so the kids can get over their inhibitions and interact with each other, Mr. Peiris explains. There are three ex-commandos who are working with various local adventure outfits who have been hired to conduct this programme.

For instance climbing the wall can translate to a real life obstacle which one has to face and overcome in life; it’s just a case of mind over matter, he says. There are also motivational slogans sporadically located along the way like “no joy without pain” and “sweat saves blood” to keep the kids focused and interested. Both the team members and the instructors keep the morale up, egging each other on the course and shouting the names of the respective team “Ekamuthu” and “Commando” after the completion of each task.

And what was the response from the young participants? Shanuka (16) said, “The support we received from our team-mates when we were participating in the activities was very encouraging.”

“Our principal saw an article about this programme in the newspaper and selected five girls and five boys from our school to participate. We were told to wear a track outfit and come to the resort on a specific date. We thought it was going to be like an army training but, we had the wrong idea. Through this experience we were taught that nothing was impossible,” said young Sheran (15), a student from the area.

“I was a bit scared at first but, then when we finally got around to doing the activity, it was much easier than we anticipated,” said Jayani (14) adding, “now that I managed to overcome most of the obstacles, I have a sense of pride and accomplishment.”

“We learnt to overcome our fears and rise up to a challenge and it felt really good to be a part of this programme,” she said. “Although we were from different schools, we didn’t think of it like that and worked together as one team,” said Jayani.

“I chose this location as it’s a 150 acre rubber plantation where there’s ample space for everyone to stretch their limbs, take a run in the mud, come sliding down an aerial rope, climb a rock and then rappel down it, feast on a good old village meal and finally, wind down with a nice dip in a fresh stream at the end the day,” Mr. Peiris explained.

“This is only a start, my ultimate ambition is to expand it to a three-day or seven-day programme as time goes on. This will include camping out in virgin jungles in the foothills of Adam’s Peak and surviving in the heartland of nature. My vision of changing the values of children is a challenging pursuit, especially in a society where our children seemed to have lost the ‘joy of childhood,” he said.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.