future visions

Building Bridges has been a little silent over the past few months, and this is partly because monsoonal rains have made it difficult to go. Given that I have unsuccessfully battled with the rains twice, I want to be sure that it doesn’t happen again! Most likely we will wrap up the drama series after the New Year, towards the end of April, and kick off the language initiative in early May. More details on that soon. I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs, though, so this post is just to say what’s been happening over the past few months!

I’ve put together the entire syllabus overview for Building Bridges Through Language, and have a shiny new notebook to laboriously write down individual lesson plans, which I plan to do in small chunks so that I’m not sick of the programme before I begin! In some ways, the language initiative looks to be easier – the skills it aims to teach are much more concrete. At the same time, the challenge is to ensure the programme doesn’t just devolve into a tuition class, but includes (as I envision) team-building games and activities that supplant rote learning. I have no idea how I’m going to do this, but because I’m working with an older group, I’m hoping to teach them about things like mnemonic games, mind-mapping, and other study skills that they’ve never been exposed to. I’m a little fearful that a lot of this will get lost in translation though!

Next, I held interviews (with the help of Muradh Mohideen of Connect) for internships in conjunction with Building Bridges and Connect. An announcement will be made soon, and there will be two new positions, to handle programme development and administration, respectively. Originally, I wanted to find someone who could accompany me on the trips to Mullaitivu, but it requires quite a time commitment and I think it’s easier to start in a few key locations (like Colombo, Galle, Jaffna, Kandy, for example, since it’s easiest to travel to these locations) and work our way outwards. However, it does help me appreciate just how unique my work over the past year has been, how near-impossible an opportunity it has been, and how grateful I am to ReachOut, Citizens Initiative, the communities of Kakkaiyankulam and Chiraddikulam, and of course my parents, for making this happen.

Thirdly, I’ve applied for a grant from the FRIDA Feminist Fund for the year 2014. I’m hoping I might be able to conduct a 10-week series in the two communities again, perhaps this time drawing from Karen’s experiences with her ReachOut fellowship in Nablus in the form of a recycled arts series. I’ve also applied for the YouthActionNet Global Fellowship, which pays for a weeklong retreat for young social entrepreneurs (or would-be entrepreneurs) seeking mentors, networks, and advice on moving their initiatives forward. I’m also working with Connect, meanwhile, to apply for the UN Habitat Youth Fund, to create a really solid programme in Colombo (or other urban centre) starting in 2014. I will also be applying for the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund in May, for the same purpose, to provide funding for those who will be coming on board for Building Bridges.

Lastly, I’ve been trawling the internet for inspiration in taking Building Bridges forward, and I’ve been reading the blogs and websites of many young entrepreneurs to get an idea of what they did to get where they are, and the direction that I hope Building Bridges will take. I’ve found two initiatives that appeal to me greatly, both started by two Australians (yay country of birth?) one of whom is of Sri Lankan origin.
Mayibuye is a great arts initiative, founded by Kumari Middleton, and what I really like about it is of course the arts focus for youth at risk, and the fact that their applications process includes a 1-year fellowship position that seems to provide a high level of autonomy. I like that Building Bridges started like that with the ReachOut grant, and would really like to give that opportunity to other young people – but women, especially, since I’ve enjoyed working and travelling independently, and have learned so much from it!
Robogals is a robotics initiative founded by Marita Cheng, that seeks to fill a particular education gap for girls. It does one thing and seems to do it really well, and has an incredible reach around the world. I’d like to see Building Bridges having chapters in major cities in SL, and utilise university student volunteers the way Robogals does. It’s also a good warning to me, because I have so many ideas for so many programmes (drama! creative writing! arts and crafts! language! MORE!) and it’s quite possible that BB won’t be able to handle all these ideas. Better to offer only a few things but ensure that these few things are really solid.

And that’s a summary of what I’ve been doing amidst the monsoon, which has now come to an end. Moratuwa is now hot, muggy, and airless, and my face is always unbecomingly shiny. You can’t have it all, sadly.

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