A group of people from different walks of life gather for a meal casting aside differences of race and religion, united by the fact that they are all children of mother Lanka.
This sums up the aim and purpose of the Unity Mission Team in organizing the Ekamuthu Oray Makkal Unity Camp. Consisting of a group of professionals on an inter-faith platform, the Unity Mission Team was formed in 2009 as Sri Lanka witnessed the end of a three-decade long war. The team reached out to those affected by the war as they set out for Manik Farm with milkfood, books and hearts full of love.
This was followed by visits to Jaffna and Kayts too, where they continued to help their brothers and sisters in need. Having chosen two economically challenged schools, they lent a hand building toilets and facilitating water supply systems. The team focused mainly on children, many of whom were orphans, and provided them with books, shoes and other essentials. Observing the scarcity of doctors, the Unity Mission Team went a step further and held medical camps.
During one of these missions, the idea of bringing the children of the north to meet their counterparts in the rest of the country was proposed. This idea bore fruition when the Unity Mission Team held the first Ekamuthu Oray Makkal Unity Camp at Colombo in December 2010.
The Unity Mission Team, meanwhile, was determined that the camp should be a continuing concept. As a result, the Ekamuthu Oray Makkal Unity Camp 2, was held on June 11 and 12, this year in Mullaitivu. The team received a warm welcome and was treated to a hearty meal on June 10.
“Though many of the Unity Mission Team members dined often at various prominent eating places in Colombo, that meal was one of the most enjoyable we had ever experienced,” says Bertal Pinto Jayawardena, a pioneer of the team.
The meal which was cooked and served by the students of the Mullaitivu Maha Vidhyalayam was a gesture which spoke volumes of their appreciation and gratitude. The school showed no scruples in hosting the meal though they themselves were still recovering from the tragedies of the 2004 tsunami and the civil war. Most of the children who participated in the camp were those who had lost loved ones in the course of the civil war and were now craving for a unified and happy Sri Lanka.
The following morning saw the commencement of the Ekamuthu Oray Makkal Unity Camp at the Vidhananda Maha Vidhyalayam, with the schoolchildren performing songs and dances in welcome.
The audience was moved by the performance, which spoke of the tragedies they had suffered and their yearning for a united and peaceful Sri Lanka, he said.
The camp saw the participation of 520 students in the 16-18 year age group and teachers from 13 schools in Mullaitivu, Olumadu, Tharmapuram, Visvamadu and Kilinochchi areas. These were the same children who had come to Colombo. As these children held positions of leadership in their respective schools, the Unity Mission Team felt they would be able to go back and educate their peers.
“It was heartening to observe the continuance of the friendships that had been formed during the December camp,” says Bertal.
This time the camp focused mainly on developing leadership, self-confidence and capacity building.
Public speaking was one of the many activities that had been planned and a competition was held with 15 students being asked to volunteer. Interesting and heartfelt were the speeches on ‘My future, my dream’.
Many expressed a desire to become teachers to educate and serve their community, while others spoke of their hope for a unified and prosperous Sri Lanka. The speakers who secured first, second and third places were given prizes, while the others received consolation prizes.
Sports, fun and games were held in plenty and the children thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Dramas, concerts and musical programmes which served as a means for them to articulate their thoughts and feelings were also held, said Bertal, explaining that motivational speeches were delivered by prominent personalities, inspiring the children.
The children in the Mullaitivu area were given transport to return to their homes after dinner, while accommodation was made available for the others in schools close by.
A significant change was apparent in the children since December as they were more confident and had learnt to overcome their shyness.
“We received much encouragement from the positive response that we got not only from the children but also from the education authorities and the army,” says Bertal, pointing out that the Unity Mission Team has lost no time in preparing for the third Ekamuthu Oray Makkal Unity Camp to be held in December this year.