JRS Sri Lanka Refugees, sowing the future of the people

After the experience with Chin refugees in Delhi, JRS asked us to give another workshop, this time to the tamil refugees from Sri Lanka. In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu there are 107 refugee camps of tamils from Sri Lanka. These are refugees who mostly left Sri Lanka because of the civil war.

In Sri Lanka live a large number of tamil people. They are a minority, only the 25% of the population of Sri Lanka, while the Sinhalese etnic group is the majoritary. The origin of the tamil population are mainly two. Anthropological and acheologiacal studies indicated that the tamil ethnia was present in the island of Sri Lanka on the 2nd century BCE.

Additionally, during the english colonisation in 19th century, a big number of workers from India, mainly from Tamil Nadu, were moved by the british to work in the Ceylon´s tea fields (Ceylon is the english name for Sri Lanka). Once the british left, the goberment of Sri Lanka did not provide full citizenship rights to this tamils living in Sri Lanka.

The conflict exploded on the Black July of 1983, when started a national revolt against the Tamils. Since then, Sri Lanka was immerse in a long civil war. The Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ​​claimed the north and east of Sri Lanka as an independent Tamil state called Eelam. In 2009 the LTTE ​​admitted defeat and the war ended. During the civil war a great number of the tamil population moved as refugees to different destinations. One destination was the state of Tamil Nadu in India, where they reside since then awaiting a solution, without nationality from Sri Lanka or India, therefore, they are exempt from any rights as citizens.

JRS is responsible for training refugees to be teachers of personal and professional development within the refugee camps. These promote and teach skills to young people and adults in refugee camps to facilitate their integration into employment wherever they reside.

We were going to do a training for these teachers in the first edition of the teachers’ meeting of all refugee camps of Sri Lanka in Tamil Nadu, which would be held for two days in Tiruchirapally, or Trichy.

The objective of this meeting was to unite all the professors of the different refugee camps to get to know each other and share experiences. With the JRS staff that manages them, it was a total of 250 people. Our contact was the director of JRS Tamil Nadu, Father Alex, director of JRS Tamil Nadu, a very nice man.

We arrived at Trichy by plane from Delhi. The lack of time and the enormous distance between Delhi and Trichy meant that going by train would be too long. There we were welcomed by Father Alex, who took us to our accommodation, located in the center of personal development, TMSS de Trichy, where the meeting would begin the following day.

We went to the room to review the plan a bit for the next two days. We would do 4 sessions of 2 hours to groups of 60 people between 20 and 30 years old. Two people for 60 person was a challenge … but we were sure it would not be difficult.

And it dawned on Trichy !!!! Breakfast started at 7:30, but the sessions would not start until 10 a.m. First there was a ceremony to present the event with guests such as the United Nations representative of India for refugees (UNHCR), the chief of the Tamil Nadu police, a very powerful person, or the superior father of the Jesuits of Tamil Nadu. Between typical dances and speeches that we did not understand we spent an entertaining time …

And time of truth arrived. In a huge room we had almost 60 people. they had placed the chairs as a conference room and they were all sitting waiting for the speech … in India they love the speeches … Well, not this time … we made everyone get up and put the chairs stacked at the end of the room. Everyone did it with a face between shock and amazement … hehehe …

We started with the warm-up, a fun and casual tone, then the typical exercises of concentration to unite and focus the group, and we are already in the field. We had prepared communication exercises and group work. Everything was great, communication, coordination, everyone had a great time. They were surprised to perform practical exercises !!

The faces of concentration and fun were great! Every moment they discovered concepts by themselves, shared them, played with them. They discovered different realities besides simple and obvious …

The content of the workshops was the same for the 4 groups. Although we lacked time to perform the last exercise in all cases, the sequence of exercises was great, for the enjoyment and enrichment of all.

Group to group concluded with different comments but oriented in the same direction, and above all praised the teaching techniques … we are clowns! what did you expect? For good or bad this fact could not go unnoticed … hahahaha …

And the night came. In the program I had prepared a kind of Christmas gala, where different groups showed dances they had prepared, reading poems, skits, songs … Until it was our turn … They asked us to do something … they left us frozen, what were we going to do!!!!!

So dead of shame in front of about 250 people we started singing a song … without music! Well, that “we” is not completely true … Mayra very boldly stepped aside and left the brown in my hands … Anyway, we have the video but we will not be able to see it because we do not remember the moment … hahahahaha … In addition, of all this, two Santa Claus appeared, with masks of shrunken face that was scary … But everyone had a great time, we spent some time together enjoying and sharing … Good organization!

The next day we did the last workshop, with the same exercises. It came out great, and at the end I played the routine session of selfies … an endless round of selfies with everyone, alone or / and in a group … hehehe ..

And the day ended between greetings, hugs and talks about the workshops. A very interesting shared experience that has taught us a lot. Especially about the kindness of these people and the great work that JRS does for the refugees from Sri Lanka in Tamil Nadu. We will see each other again !!!!

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