Monday, February 27, 2012

A Sunday of Youth events – a visit to ‘Diyagala Boys Town’ – Ragama

Yesterday was another day of packed events, starting with a 9 am toss up of a IPL type soft ball cricket tournament in Malwana just across the Kelani River. This area is predominantly Muslim, and it was arranged by the old boys of Al Mubarak National school, one of the 1000 schools program, in aid of building a parapet wall around the school grounds. We have promised about Rs100,000 worth of band equipment to the school which is mired in a recent controversy of an organization collecting fees for computer classes from all the students and disappearing with the money. So here the Principal is implicated. Another case of school fraud!

After a few other events including the regular funeral house route, we were off to the Diyagala Boys Town in Ragama, where we were invited to attend a youth camp of about 100 boys and girls from the Colombo East area, who rarely get a chance from getting out of a congested city into an open area to enjoy some fresh air and companionship, in an environment and conditions quite alien to them. We witnessed a soft ball cricket tournament of mixed gender, great for team building.

The location was ideal for this type of leadership program for young people, where the lodging and meal costs for the two day event including a night campfire run around Rs1000 a head, but hopefully these young people will go back with memories that are priceless. There is a special place for this camp, and the income the Boys Town receives from these camps helps to subsidize their activities.

A few words about the Boys Town, that is successfully operated for many decades by the Catholic Church for disadvantaged boys above 15 who come with many social and psychological problems. The usual annual intake is about 50, with all undergoing a 4 year vocational training course which guarantees a job at the end of it and the graduates usually are completely transformed into useful productive citizens, hardly recognizable from the troubled childhood they come in with.

The 75 acres includes a farm and coconut estate that helps defray the costs of maintenance. Successful old boys also contribute to the Rs1M a month operating costs. All the boys must have a sponsor who is able to take responsibility for them, and pay a monthly Rs1000 for their enrollment. They have a disciplined routine which help to husband the property. They are given plenty of time for organized games, with a volley ball and basket ball court to get off the natural aggression of youth, which they have hitherto not been exposed to. The boys are from all religious faiths and a Buddhist priest teaches religion to Buddhists who are encouraged to go to the local temple on Poya. Appearances were of a well managed establishment, practiced in the art of doing the impossible.


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