Hearing Anil, a 40-year citizen of Tangalle, Sri Lanka, describe his drive along the ocean near his home on Dec. 26, 2004, was a life-changing event. For Anil, witnessing a “silent ocean” meant only one thing — a tsunami.
Within moments of seeing the still water, he was shouting “run” to his fellow citizens and rushing to safer ground.
His words, spoken eight years ago, not only spurred me to action, but many others in our region and around the world. And the results — multi-faceted relief and support efforts to help people in Sri Lanka and throughout Southeast Asia — are still being felt today.
In the months following the 2004 tsunami, a new village of 24 homes, Kettakallawatta, was built, a trade centre evolved and public education became a priority. Many volunteers spearheaded a local contingency, organized through support from Developing World Connections, called the Kamloops Tangalle Friendship Committee. To date, more than 500 volunteers have travelled to Tangalle from Kamloops and beyond. Their efforts have improved life in Tangalle dramatically.
Our original education focus was on opportunities for less fortunate students to improve their English and computer skills. The first education commitment in 2006 was to provide an English-language focused after-school program at the Daffodil English School in downtown Tangalle. To date, that program has provided space, materials and staffing to enable 30-plus students per year receive certificates indicating their participation and educational improvement.
Dean Coder, our district’s International Program principal of the day, joined me during a volunteer trip to Tangalle in 2008 where we visited school sites, district offices and the Daffodil English School. The English teachers we spoke with indicated English verbal skills were the largest struggle for them locally. Through an agreement between School District 73 and the KTFC, our No. 1 wish became a reality. Our goal to have a Tangalle student attend one semester per year fully immersed in an English-speaking setting with a full scholarship, including home stay, has progressed and our fourth student arrived this month.
Previous Tangalle students increased not only their English skills, but their confidence and understanding of what they have to offer their families, friends and community members. With thanks to the Rotary Clubs of Kamloops, local home stay families, and to our graciously giving School District International Program staff and teachers, the program is very successful.
It’s heart-warming to hear of the camaraderie and support these students give each other and younger students when they return home to Tangalle. For me, it has been gratifying to see these students become increasingly confident during their Canadian stay. Based on our ongoing communication with representatives in
Tangalle, past scholarship students are pursuing local education in engineering and optometry, again, with scholarship support as a result of their individual hard work and commitment. A scholarship opportunity today can create a Tangalle leader of tomorrow.
Annette Glover is a school board trustee.