October 25, 2019
SAN ANTONIO - Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) is partnering with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to develop a leadership network for youth in the eastern region of Sri Lanka this coming year.
The project will target youth in two districts – Batticaloa and Ampara – to work towards realizing peace and justice for the marginalized communities. These regions are still recovering from the decades-long civil war that ended in 2009 as well as a devastating tsunami that struck the area in 2004. In addition, the local populace was further traumatized earlier this year by a series of terrorist bombings targeting churches and tourist areas that killed more than 350 people.
Under the new program, adolescent girls and boys ages 14 and up who are active in local youth clubs or youth parliaments will be engaged to serve as “agents of change” and promote Youth Centered Peace Building, which is a youth-led initiative to bring different ethnic and religious groups together.
“Engaging young people in peace building initiatives is critical. We must proactively build the next generation, by fostering inter-ethnic dialogue and inter-religious compassion,” said Connie Belciug, CERI Executive Director. “Youth have the energy to accomplish this goal in their local communities and reach their entire nation.”
UNICEF will provide financial assistance while CERI will work to provide the youth with the knowledge and skills they need to meaningfully engage their communities while also addressing other vulnerabilities they may face. They will be given suitable platforms to learn competencies that foster peace and to promote practices of respect, diversity and social cohesion. The goal will be to implement social action projects in five selected regions over the next year.
If the program is deemed a success it may be expanded to other areas in the coming years.