Yaluwo 2017 Reflections and Gallery
Yaluwo Photo Gallery
Yaluwo 2017 Reflections
My Sri Lankan “Yaluwo” Immersion Experience started off probably, like most other boys at De La, listening to past students come back and tell their stories about how it changed their lives and what a wonderful experience it was. Going through applications and interviews were strenuous but all in all worth every second of it. Before I knew it, I was selected as one of the 16 boys to represent the College at Diyagala Boys’ Town, Ragama. Leaving Melbourne International Airport on the 23rd November was both exciting and daunting. Arriving at Colombo Airport at roughly 3am, feeling exhausted, sleep was all that was needed. Starting our first two projects, sanding the music room and pulling out ‘the fence’ went for many days and students gained what can only be explained as a special dedication and commitment to finish with their respective projects, made it so hard to move on. At times, work seemed like it would never end but to our surprise the kids at Diyagala were always right there next to us, either working hard or on the odd occasion, just busy keeping us entertained. Boys such as Kumar (much referred to as Tarik) and Nilroy provided entertainment all throughout the days which kept the boys in a good mood. Throughout the working stages we came across a lot of hurdles, whether that was lack of tools, materials or workers, however, this gave added incentives to the Yaluwo boys to get the job done knowing we were there to make a difference to these boys’ lives forever. After a long and strenuous three weeks came the toughest stage of the journey, leaving the school, but mostly leaving the Diyagala boys. My Sri Lanka “Yaluwo” Immersion experience was one full of happiness and surprises but it was honestly the best experience of my life.
Following Year 12, sixteen boys volunteered to participate in the Yaluwo Immersion and spend a month away in Sri Lanka. Being one of those boys, I spent most of my month away at Diyagala Boys’ Town. It was a challenge, to say the least, but growing close to the students there was extremely fulfilling over the weeks. We were welcomed into their lives with completely open arms and we were able to see first-hand their different way of living. As well as growing close with the Diyagala boys, the De La boys bonded every night through reflection and every day through our common goals and getting our work done. Following our stay at Diyagala, leaving was rather emotional and one I’m sure none of the boys will ever forget. The remainder of the trip was used to take in the spiritual and cultural history of Sri Lanka. After a month, we left the amazing country, happy to be home to our families and to have experienced something so special.
Prior to leaving for the Yaluwo project to Sri Lanka, I was not only making a list of what should go in my pack for the obvious physical necessities but I also had a list in my head of what I might need to sustain the emotional, psychological and spiritual necessities. Having been on the Coolies project in India in 2015 I had a good idea, but this was a new country and different travelling companions. Sri Lanka is simply beautiful with stunning beaches, tropical landscapes, superb food and a people whose culture almost overwhelms its visitors with kindness, generosity and a unique honesty. Sri Lanka is also a third world country dragging itself up from a cruel civil war, a devastating tsunami and the subsequent raw poverty and fragile infrastructure. We were welcomed like long lost family not only at Diyagala Boys Town but everywhere we went. Yaluwo means ‘Friends’ and friendship was thrust upon us in its purest form and we can all be proud of the way that friendship was reciprocated by our De La boys. Watching our modern day teenage boy farewell his new friends with tears falling softly down his face is an experience which rattles the chains around your heart and soul. To encapsulate the essence and purpose of this project and put it into words is difficult, however, I did had some clarity after walking through Colombo 15, a dreadfully disturbing slum where the De La Salle Brothers work bravely and tirelessly. One boy walked with me and quietly remarked that he wished he knew the answers to solve this dreadful mess. In amongst my own anguish, I slowly answered by encouraging him to just keep wishing. I felt strongly that if these emerging young men could continue through life, wishing and striving to find the answers, perhaps they can modify their own lives to a point where they can take the lives of others to something that is different, something that is better. Saint John Baptist taught the poor and the marginalized and in 2018 it is our challenge as teachers and parents to guide our young to be problem solvers, inquirers, critical thinkers and faith-filled people. Perhaps then they can see clearly the way forward for the poor and the marginalized. Yaluwo is an experience which has the potential to be life changing but is undoubtedly life-giving.
Ms Clare Kennedy
One of many things from the trip which reminded me of what I studied in Year 12 came from a mason we were working with, Vinsun, 29. Being intrigued by his manner of work with the old manual tools which I had learnt at TAFE, I spent a lot of time with him. He was one of 5 masons, working 9–10 hour days, then he played cricket with the students of the school before dinner. As he spoke Sinhala and only a little English, communication involved mainly actions, gestures, learning the names of tools in each other’s language and sharing pictures of family and home life for us both. He is from a very beautiful village in the highland tea country called Talawakele which we (the Yaluwo group), later saw from a train in the touring week. However, the moment in particular was when he showed me a picture of his wife, son and daughter. The immense pride, genuine love and welcoming spirit shown by Vinsun embodied the difference to the sometimes superficial values and ulterior motives of ‘western’ society.
It was also showed how easy it is to enter a third world country and meet people which on face value seem very happy with very little material possessions., but as our time at the school came to an end, it became very evident to us of their deeper complications of family separation, loss and the lack of opportunity for them in their own country. Instead, what they do have is an intrinsic sense of identity and community which, along with their positivity, has inspired me to be more grateful for the smaller things in life, and has built my appreciation and respect for the boys in Diyagala Boys Town.
My time in Sri Lanka was a life-changing experience that opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know existed. Being able to work hands-on with the boys in Diyagala Boys’ Town was an opportunity that I’m extremely grateful for. Although the boys were aged from 14–19 years old, alongside their study, they worked long, hard hours and they taught me how to be patient with and respect my work. The language barrier made communication difficult, however, there was an unspoken language between us (the Yaluwo) and the Diyagala boys that was priceless and it allowed us to build strong relationships over the three weeks that we were working with them. The hardest part was saying goodbye and knowing that we were going home to our comfortable homes. However, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and wouldn’t change it for anything.
Yaluwo was most definitely an experience I will never forget. It was truly a once in a lifetime immersion. The relationships that developed throughout the trip, both within the Yaluwo group of De La boys and the wider Diyagala Boys’ Town Community, are ones that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Not for a second do I doubt my decision to be a part of such an amazing trip and I am proud to say I was on the first Sri Lankan “Yaluwo” Immersion.