Humanitarian and Youth Programs


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Religious Youth Service

Religious Youth Service Helps Orphans in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka


RATNAPURA, SRI LANKA - Tamil and Sinhalese children in the city of Ratnapura whose parents abandoned them or are in jail are sent by the government to the local orphanage. Twenty-two boys, all less than 12 years old, live there; five are Tamils and the others are Sinhalese.

The August 18-24, 2007, RYS project in Ratnapura, southern Sri Lanka, helped improve the living conditions for these children. The orphanage is managed by the Buddhist Society of Ratnapura, which depends heavily on the donations of well wishers, but the donations are barely enough for the day-to-day maintenance of the children.  

A multifaith city of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians, Ratnapura is world famous for its gems. Geographically Ratnapura is situated in an area of regular rainfall. Therefore, it is abundant with natural beauty in the surrounding vicinity including a virgin tropical rain forest. Surrounding it are rubber and low-country tea plantations.

On August 18, participants gathered , and the son of the president of Sri Lanka, Mr. Namal Rajapakse, paid a surprise visit to greet everyone and offer his good wishes at the beginning of the project. 

After all the formalities, the enthusiastic participants arrived at the field to do their part. The work consisted of building a study hall and repairing the play area at the orphanage. Some worked hard at digging holes for the foundation and pillars, while others did landscaping. Cement was mixed and used in repairing the study hall. 

The participants enjoyed visits to a Buddhist temple and also took part in a Hindu ritual. They visited a gem mine and finished their stay on August 24 in the rain forest. “Although I’ve participated in several youth projects, this is the first time I was able to really be ‘interreligious,’” said Ishara Guruge from the Lyceam International School in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital.

She was a member of the Sri Lanka basketball team at the Interreligious Peace Sports Festival held in July in Korea. Daniel, a school teacher from Jaffna on the northern tip of Sri Lanka, thanked RYS for the wonderful experience he had because it changed his idea about the Sinhalese people in the south, who are thought to be discriminating against the Tamils in the north. 

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