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Exploring Peace and Culture: SAI International's GIP 2023 Journey in Sri Lanka

by SAI Admin

05 October, 2023

"Exchanging cultures creates bridges of understanding and tolerance." - Anonymous

SAI International students embarked on a transformative Global Immersion Program to Sri Lanka, with a mission that resonates with several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Attending the 16th Global Youth Peace Fest in Colombo from September 28 to October 4, 2023, these young SAIoneers are not only fostering global peace and cooperation (SDG 16) but also actively participating in cross-cultural exchanges that promote understanding and tolerance (SDG 4 and 10). With 14 students and 2 teachers as their guides, the trip embodies the spirit of education and collaboration.

Day 1: A Journey Begins

On the first day of their trip, they boarded a flight from Bhubaneswar to Chennai after an hour's wait. Arriving in Chennai at 2 am, they rushed to catch their connecting flight to Colombo. They arrived in Colombo at 4 am, where they received a warm welcome from the GYPF 2023 team with flowers and chocolates. They then proceeded to the Galadri Hotel, where they were greeted with a delightful welcome drink and allocated their rooms. After room allocation, everyone retired to their rooms for some rest.

Day 2: Culinary Delights and Colombo Exploration

The day began with a delightful breakfast offering Indian to Italian cuisines. A poolside rendezvous and Indian Biryani for lunch set the tone for exploration. They toured Colombo's landmarks, including St. Lucia's Cathedral, the Red Lotus Tower, and the Red Mosque. Souvenir shopping marked the day's end, followed by a surprising pizza dinner.

Day 3: Empowering Voices and Gender Equality

The students journeyed to the Global Youth Peace Fest, starting with an ice-breaking session and discussions on gender equality. After lunch, the SAIoneers took the stage as the first speakers, presenting their projects and meeting the Former President of Sri Lanka, Mr. Maithripala Sirisena. The day culminated in a powerful candlelight march for gender equality through the streets of Colombo. This immersive experience left a profound impact on the SAIoneers, making Day 3 a day of growth, enlightenment, and meaningful encounters.

Day 4: Community Engagement and Cultural Showcase

SAIoneers braved the early morning chill to participate in a beach cleanup initiative at Colombo Beach, a commendable effort by GYPF 2023 promoting "saying no to plastic." Following breakfast, they visited Sarwodaya Sri Lanka Country Headquarters, a community dedicated to uplifting the underprivileged and advocating for women's empowerment and gender equity since its establishment in 1958. Representatives from various NGOs worldwide delivered enlightening presentations. In the afternoon, preparations for an evening cultural program took center stage at the NYSC Sri Lanka Building. Our SAIoneers showcased unity in diversity and performed a skit promoting good health and hygiene. Their performances resonated well with the appreciative audience, capping off another enriching day.

Day 5: Sharing and Reflection

The SAIoneers shared thoughts on "I am the change" at the Global Youth Peace Fest's final session. In this significant session, they spoke passionately about the changes they can initiate in themselves and how they can raise awareness about gender equality, good health, and sustainable development across all domains. The day concluded with the presentation of individual certificates of achievement and school participation certificates. Post lunch, the group journeyed to Kandy, arriving at 6 pm. They indulged in some shopping and returned to the hotel, marking the end of another fulfilling day.

Day 6: Cultural Immersion and Farewell

On the final day in Sri Lanka as a part of the GYPF 2023 Fest, the journey took the students to remarkable places that added the perfect finishing touch to this unforgettable trip. They bid farewell to their Kandy hotel and embarked on an enjoyable mini-bus ride. The day began with a breathtaking stop at a hill station offering stunning views. Next, they explored the Temple of the Tooth Relic, where the worship of Gautam Buddha's tooth and elephants revealed the deep cultural significance of these magnificent animals in Sri Lanka. Engaging with local children and fellow tourists added a personal touch.

A visit to a wood carving shop showcased intricate woodwork, from raw materials to finished pieces. They then delved into the art of tea production, learning about the meticulous steps involved and purchasing some exotic tea leaves.An encounter with bathing elephants at Elephant Bay added charm to the day, followed by a delicious lunch. The day concluded with an exciting opportunity to ride and feed elephants. As they checked into a Colombo hotel, SAIoneers reflected on the incredible journey, filled with cherished memories & experiences that would be treasured forever.

Photos from the Event