The British Council engages with young people around the world to create opportunities and develop cultural relations among the UK and other countries.
The organisation’s Active Citizens International Study Visit (ISV) programme recently gathered 36 social activists in Sri Lanka, from Bangladesh, the UK, Pakistan, Egypt, Bosnia, and Sri Lanka, for a period of seven days, to allow young advocates to share experiences and learn crucial skills needed to develop communities and implement change across Europe, Asia and Africa.
As part of the British Council run trip, the participants – all of whom are aged 18 to 30 – visited some of the grassroots development programmes in Sri Lanka in a bid to understand the challenges they face, and learn lessons.
All 36 young activists have been trained in community development by the British Council’s Active Citizens programme – and many have subsequently developed creative and unique ways of working with marginalised groups.
One of the Sri Lanka participants is using theatre to empower children with learning disabilities and overcome prejudices. Another participant from Bangladesh is working to prevent early marriage of young girls and 'eve-teasing', or sexual harassment.
A UK participant is working with British women from a South Asian background to tackle issues around domestic violence and mental health – while another is working in post-revolution Egypt to help tackle the ignorance that exists about the rights and freedoms those from all sections of society should enjoy.
A key part of the week-long trip is the exchange of knowledge between the different countries, helping participants to understand the similarities between their disparate communities, becoming better globally connected and locally engaged.
Michael Unwin, Active Citizens Project Manager with the British Council, said: “So far, the Sri Lanka international study visit has been truly inspiring. The bonds created between the participants are very strong, and they are already exchanging the kind of knowledge that will lead to sustainable, powerful community development.”
The programme has included visits from Sri Lankan guest speakers, including the respected documentary maker and film festival director Anomaa Rajakaruna, and disability activist and founder of the Young Voices campaign, Ishan Jalill.
Over their seven day programme in Sri Lanka, the group travelled to Colombo, Kandy, Galle, and Matara to see social action projects across Sri Lanka. The Colombo group saw the work of Team Muslim Aid, who work with disabled and orphan children and provide disaster relief across the country, and the H3 Foundation, who work with orphans and children from impoverished and broken families. They also visited EMACE and GreentheClimate.Org, who carry out environmental conservation, and provide social enterprise and development support and training. In Kandy, they visited Green Revolt in Dumbara Valley, an environment conservation project involving schools and the wider school community. And in Galle, participants visited the areas bordering the Sinharaja and Kanneliya Rainforest Ecosystems to see the positive measures taken to restore the forest and improving the economic future of the area. In Matara, they visited an awareness programme focussing on child rights and drugs prevention.