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NSKK NEWSLETTER distributed by
The Nippon Sei Ko Kai
(Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan)
Sri Lanka visit photo1
NSKK
Photo No. : P071201-5

Sri Lanka visit photo 2
NSKK
Photo No. : P071201-6

Sri Lanka visit photo 3
NSKK
Photo No. : P071201-7

Sri Lanka visit photo 4
NSKK
Photo No. : P071201-8

 
Sri Lanka visit
 
JAPAN 071201-3
December 1, 2007

NSKK NEWSLETTER 07

[The Nippon Sei Ko Kai - Japan] 
Overview
In June 2007 I went to visit Sri Lanka with members of the ARI visiting team with two purposes in mind:
1) to visit and evaluate the activity of graduates of the ARI (Asia Rural Institution: training institution for leaders in rural areas of Asia and Africa through agriculture) in Sri Lanka.
2) to evaluate reconstruction activities for the tsunami affected people.

Team members are two people of ARI staffs of which one is a native of Sri Lanka, two volunteers from the USA at the ARI, two local volunteers at ARI and myself, a total of 7 people.

The ARI is an interdenominational institution located in Tochigi Prefecture and supported accordingly. The NSKK Provincial Office, many dioceses, churches and individuals are among its supporters.

The duration of the visit was June 12 through June 23 for 11 nights and 12 days. We visited many NGO’s and local villages where the ARI graduates were very important members of the organizations and communities.

Very briefly I surveyed an area affected by the tsunami of December 2004 to observe recovery and reconstruction. There were many places still without any buildings.

Country and culture

Compared to other Asian countries such as the Philippines, Pakistan, Myanmar, etc the economical level of Sri Lanka seems higher. Education is very important for Sri Lankans. The educational system according to the people I talked to is as follows:

A child starts grammar school at the age of 5, and compulsory education continues for 14 years. Most schools are public and free of charge. The literacy rate is claimed to be 97%. I believe this to be true in the big cities.
People are very friendly towards the Japanese. Economical aid from Japan is a significant and large portion of their total economic foreign aid, but this is not generally known by local people.

Places we visited

8 NGOs were visited and a total of 18 locations to observe where activities are taking place. In general, NGOs are widely accepted in Sri Lanka society and there are many very active NGOs. For many of them their mission is to promote enhancement of people’s life and empower people to make their life better. Therefore, many NGOs are working for economically depressed people and/or areas left alone without government assistance. They do not encourage monetary giving.

One common practice run by NGOs is micro finance. For many family owned stores and small factories funding is an issue. First they teach local people how to manage financing; to start saving a small amount first and gradually increase the amount. Then once people feel comfortable managing their money, the NGO will lend seed money with a very well defined pay back plan. Once the NGO has verified that its loan has been paid off, then they may give business owners an additional loan. They go through a repetition of this until the businesses are fully capable and self-funding.

Of course NGOs teach specific skills needed to succeed in their own field, such as organic farming which is specifically taught at ARI. Thestrength the ARI graduates have in common is their experience of living at the ARI with people of different cultures, religions and leadership skills,because trainees at ARI are from different countries in Asia and Africa.

The experience which I will never forget is a visit to a family of tea pluckers in a small village. As is well known, Sri Lanka is one of the large tea producing countries. The tea producing industry is monopolized by large corporations, and pluckers are employed by them. They are paid according to what they pluck in a season and their pay seems very minimal, barely enough to support their large families. Typically pluckers are female.

Some NGOs are trying to teach them home gardening, i.e. first enough to feed their own family and then if there is any surplus they can sell it at market for additional cash. This is one of the ways to make life better financially. The challenge is to secure a field to grow vegetables. First they have to lease land from a landowner, which is a tea manufacturing corporation. Initially land is not fit to grow vegetables, so they have to cultivate it and maintain its condition.

Impression of this visit

In the last 30 years or so there have been over 70 ARI graduates from Sri Lanka. Some of them have gone to the ARI straight after finishing their education in Sri Lanka without any work experience. Some of them had good work experience before coming to ARI. Either way, most of the ARI graduates are contributing well to society in Sri Lanka after returning. In Sri Lanka I witnessed the value of the ARI graduates, and I am sure it is the same in other countries such as the Philippines, Myanmar, etc. which have sent many trainees to the ARI.

I believe many developing countries in Asia and Africa will need skillful leaders for their countries to prosper. I truly believe that theARI will be able to give people from these countries great opportunities by continuing its leadership training.
I briefly surveyed the area affected by the tsunami of 2004. I witnessed some progress but much more work is needed.

Article by: Shinya Samuel Yawata. Secretary in charge of PIM, NSKK