For my last Week Without Walls (WWW), I chose Jaffna Narratives, a trip that explored the historical, cultural and religious features of Jaffna, the northernmost region of Sri Lanka. Our trip lasted 5 days during which we visited temples and historical sites, met and learnt about the local people, and generally just had a fun and enjoyable time as a group.
A significant portion of our first and third days in Jaffna was spent in the SOS village with the children. These were kids who had lost one or both of their parents due to the conflict and now lived in a bigger community with kids in the same situation. Family doesn’t start from one’s parents or relatives, but rather from the close relationships a person forms within their community. This was faithfully what I learnt when we paid a visit to the children at the SOS village in Jaffna. They were the happiest and most contented children I have ever seen. Not one, but all of them. They enjoyed their life and didn’t seem to desire anything more than they already had. Sure they were delighted when we brought them some new toys including balls and bats, but who doesn’t like some presents once in a while. Whether we were playing their own made-up sports, playing cricket, running around frantically, having arm-wrestling matches, learning and teaching new tricks, or sharing some drinks and chocolates, we always felt heartwarmingly welcome in their tight-knit society. They probably feel a lack of one or both parents sometimes, but I reckon their friends and guardians make each and every one of them feel needless of their parents because they are so close together. During our second visit, one of the boys grabbed my hand and pulled me to one of the small houses where I met another young fellow. To my surprise, he was the same age as me, and when I asked why he wouldn’t come outside, he showed me that he had unfortunately hurt his hand. When I engaged in further conversation, I also got to know that he wanted to become a doctor or engineer when he grew up. Looking back at this moment makes me realize that nothing can hinder the SOS children’s success. It also makes me believe that in the future when they become adults, they will be very strong and successful men and women who will forever remain connected wherever they are in the world. That is the beauty of a place like SOS village where connections are only made and never broken.