Celebrating Inclusive Participation on International Peace Day 2011

27 Sep 2011

Based on its theme of social cohesion, the Communities for Progress (C4P II) project celebrated International Peace Day on 21st September 2011 in Vavuniya. Over 100 children, as well as parents and teachers from Ampara, Anuradhapura, Jaffna, Polonnaruwa and Vavuniya districts participated in a variety of events held on the day aimed at promoting inclusive participation and interaction among children and adults from diverse ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds.

The day’s events featured interactive team games, painting of a 5-part cloth banner and cultural performances by the students. The event also saw UNDP partner with the Orhan School for the differently-abled children, which saw the participation of children with special needs in the day’s activities.

Funded by the Australian Government’s Overseas Aid Programme (AusAID), the C4P II project builds on the two predecessor projects, Sports for Peace (S4P) and Communities for Peace (C4P). The project aims to promote social cohesion and build linkages between communities across the districts of Jaffna, Vavuniya, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Ampara through dialogue, sports, recreational, cultural and social-economic recovery activities. The students who participated at the Peace Day event were those who had emerged as winners of the art and essay competitions held under the theme, ‘the importance of inclusive participation for peace’, in the lead up to International Peace Day.

The interactive team games were held at the Vavuniya Urban Council Ground, which was renovated under the Sports for Peace (S4P) pilot project. Painting of the 5-part cloth banner gave an opportunity for students to showcase their creative skills, as well as

In addition to the team games, a 5-part cloth banner was also painted collectively by over 50 students, where many children were seen enthusiastically using brushes and paint and freely engaging in painting, while also helping others with special needs to exercise their skills on canvas. 

Fathima, who was part of the banner painters, proudly showed me her award winning drawing and said it was good to be working on a collective painting where you help each other along, and suddenly arrive at a complete picture – something you did not quite think of as you started painting. Even the participating teachers and parents were happy to see the collective achievement that engaged many students from diverse backgrounds and enabled them to accomplish a shared piece of work.  

With the key theme of inclusion, the International Peace Day celebrations in Vavuniya brought together 60 children from the C4P II teams in the age group of 14-15 years from the 5 C4P II districts, 40 children with special needs from the ORHAN and SEEDS Schools for differently-abled children, along with 40 parents and teachers from the various participating schools, as well as educational officials from the Northern Provincial Education Authorities, Vavuniya Zonal Education Authorities, and School Principals and other officials from the visiting schools.

In the afternoon, a colourful event celebrating the International Peace Day with cultural performances and dramas by the participating school children and differently-abled children from the Orhan School, was held at the Urban Council Cultural Hall in Vavuniya.

With the Government Agent of Vavuniya, Mrs P. S. M. Charles as the Chief Guest, the event began with a welcome dance followed by a motivational speech by the Deputy Director of the Department of Education, Vavuniya South and President of the Orhan School, Mr V. Subramaniam, who is visually impaired. Following several dance performances by children from different areas, the speech by the Guest of Honour, Massimo Diana, Senior Project Manager of the TRP and Mine Action (MA) was of importance as it highlighted the key themes addressed throughout the day. The various performances brought together differently-abled children participating alongside other children and set a good example of inclusive activity and making room for the other. Some of the participating children commented that the entire event was of value to them as it enabled them to showcase their talents to a larger audience consisting of a cross section of Sri Lanka and gave them the opportunity to interact and learn from other groups.

Ensuring an inclusive approach, all communication throughout the day was carried out in Sinhala, Tamil and sign language, with specially trained interpreters always available to assist the participating children.

Altogether, the International Peace Day events held in Vavuniya brought a sense of belonging to the various participating groups and enabled them to realize the beauty of team work, build trust, understanding, and tolerance, importance of inclusive action across various divides of religion, culture, disability, and gender, and the value of working together for economic and social gains.