Posted by Peter Meers
on 31 October 2016
Following highly successful visits for the last three years, a team of fifteen Year 11 students and three teachers from James Sheahan Catholic High School in Orange, again travelled to Mannar in northern Sri Lanka over the recent spring holidays to visit schools run by the De La Salle Brothers, as well as working in the De La Salle English Medium Primary School in Mannar itself.
I was fortunate to undertake my fourth such visit to Sri Lanka, alongside fellow staff members, Ms Jane Edwards and Ms Robyn Stevens.
The team stayed at the De La Salle Brothers Community House in Mannar and were inspired by their warmth, generosity and commitment to their ministry.
The team also witnessed the work being done with the poor and underprivileged in Sri Lanka's capital city, including visiting a vocational training centre for young women from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds being run by the Brothers and visiting schools run in the very poor area of Colombo where the James Sheahan team stayed when they first arrived in Sri Lanka.
Over 2 ½ weeks the team worked intensively in schools in Mannar as well as experiencing many unforgettable moments.
This included washing an elephant at an elephant conservation reserve, visiting Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, in the central mountainous region of the country, famous for its tea cultivation, enjoying a traditional Sri Lankan dance and music performance and visiting Buddhist and Hindu temples, including the famous Buddha's Tooth Temple in Kandy.
The team snorkelled on Pigeon Island at the beautiful eastern sea-side city of Trincomalee, cycling in the famous southern coastal city of Galle, watching Batik production and fabric hand weaving, and visiting the renowned Dutch fortress in that city.
Before leaving, the team spent 12 months raising money to donate to the educational work of the De La Salle Brothers in Sri Lanka, and in particular Mannar and surrounding communities in the Tamil north of the island.
By the end of fundraising, the team had raised twenty thousand dollars, including a wonderful impromptu donation by the parishioners of St. Mary's and St. Joseph's Parish.
I would like to share with you some of the comments from the students as they reflected upon the dedicated work of the De La Salle Brothers in Sri Lanka-
Emily Kennedy- The work you do is truly amazing and I wish there were more people in this world as kind hearted and inspirational as you all. I am eternally grateful for the wonderful experiences I have encountered in this beautiful country.
Bridget Miller- Your work in all the schools we visited has had a profound impact on me. The people and children that I have met, especially at your school, and the joy and smiles on their faces are wonderful to see.
Sarah Meacham- Your devotion and commitment to the education and humanity of your community has greatly encouraged me to not only help and do as you do, but to grow as a Catholic and grow in my own faith.
Jemarnie Orge- I will be eternally grateful for the experience you have provided us with in Mannar, and for making me strengthen my belief in the underlying, enriching power of the perseverance of the Christian faith and the possibilities that can be achieved through this.