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Technical school

Salesians continue to help post-tsunami Sri Lanka

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 Contents - Feb 2008AD2000 February 2008 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: Can Catholic schools recover their 'salt' - Michael Gilchrist
Spe salvi: Benedict's second encyclical calls for a rediscovery of hope in Christ - Michael Gilchrist
News: The Church Around the World
Grace under fire: ordinations, and first Holy Communion in Iraq - Babette Francis
Technical school: Salesians continue to help post-tsunami Sri Lanka - Michael Lynch SDB
Paganism: 'New Age' activities continue in Brisbane Archdiocese - Tim Pemble-Smith
A remarkable father remembered - Maria Rankin
How to reform Catholic education: get the world view right - Chris Hilder
The need for solitude and reflection amid today's cacophony - Andrew Kania
What the social reign of Christ means today - Bishop Peter Elliott
Letters: Dissent - Frank White
Letters: Natural Law - Fr Bernard McGrath
Letters: New look Mass - Jessie Roger
Letters: Virgin Birth - Eamonn and Pat Keane
Letters: True Church - John Frey
Letters: 'Schoolies' - Fr. M. Durham
Letters: Poor communication - Don Gaffney
Letters: Vatican II - Anthony Bono
Letters: From India - Fr. A. Alex Prabhu
Books: NO PLACE FOR GOD: The Denial of the Transcendent in Modern Church Architecture - Tony Evans (reviewer)
Books: WHEN MIGHT BECOMES HUMAN RIGHT:Essays on Democracy and the Crisis of Rationality - Tim Cannon (reviewer)
Books: A YEARBOOK OF SEASONS AND CELEBRATIONS, by Joanna Bogle - Eric Hester (reviewer)
Books: Books available from AD2000 and Freedom Publishing
Reflection: Devotion to Our Lady: eclipse and revival - Br Barry Coldrey

I was pleased to participate, on 15 November 2007, in the official opening of the Don Bosco Skills Training Centre at Ahungalla, near Galle, in the south west of Sri Lanka, where Catholics are about five per cent of the population and the remaining 95 per cent is Buddhist.

This region of Sri Lanka was devastated by the 26 December 2004, tsunami.

The Salesian priests and brothers in Sri Lanka were heavily involved in post-tsunami relief supported by funds collected throughout the world and sent to them via Salesian headquarters in Rome. Their assistance to victims of the tsunami included:

* construction of more than 700 new homes and apartments;

* manufacture of 284 new boats for individual fishermen;

* purchase and distribution of 248 sets of fishing nets, 210 bicycles and 244 engines;

* the repair of 32 boats and 99 engines; and, now,

* the Skills Training Centre at Ahungalla.

There were more than 1,500 at the opening. Among the special guests were Dr Greg French, Australian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Minister for Vocational Training and Apprenticeships, Mr Piyasena Gamage, Freemason, Mr Bruce Bartrop and his wife Adela from Ballarat, Victoria, and ten Buddhist monks.

The Centre was substantially funded by Australian donors with the largest contribution of $440,000 being provided by the Freemasons of Australia (and New Zealand). A further $175,000 has come from donations to Salesian Missions for tsunami relief.

The Centre will be fully equipped and furnished as funds become available and initially will have facilities to teach dye and mould making (which implies welding and machinery training), information technology (computers) and inboard and outboard motor repairing.

An open hall and classrooms alongside the Centre are used almost daily by more than 1,000 local primary and secondary school students (Years 6-10) for tuition coaching free of charge and as a quiet study venue to do homework. (Parents feel almost compelled to send their children to private after-school coaching to prepare for examinations - a very expensive undertaking for poor families.)

Sporting facilities, including a basketball court and a volley ball court, will be added to the Centre when funds become available for their construction.

In his speech during the opening, Mr Piyasena Gamage, Minister for Vocational Training and Apprenticeships, expressed delight that a Don Bosco Technical Centre was being established in Ahungalla. The Don Bosco schools were, he said, the best providers of technical education in Sri Lanka.

Two Buddhist monks, in their addresses, reflected on their past highly co-operative working relationship with the Salesian priests and brothers for the benefit of young people in Sri Lanka.

Adjacent to the Centre is a boarding house/hostel, with funding from Italy, to cater for 50 orphans and semi-orphans, and 50 students undertaking skills training.

Ahungalla is a coastal fishing village, part of the Divisional Secretariat of Balapitiya in the district of Galle. Population in the local district is about 70,000, with more than 10,000 under the age of 18.

It is an agricultural area with rain-fed paddy cultivation, coconut cultivation in the coastal areas and rubber and cinnamon in the interior. Cinnamon is regarded as the main economic crop within the Division. More than 4,000 people have been traditionally engaged in fishing and fishing related industries.

The rural environment of the region does not offer many opportunities for employment. Many young people, recovering from the trauma of the tsunami disaster, welcome the opportunity for technical and vocational training.

The Don Bosco Centre Ahungalla has the potential to make a really significant contribution to thousands of young people in south west Sri Lanka. I am personally very grateful to the Freemasons for their support of this project.

The Salesians in Sri Lanka are working with impoverished people, many of whom are the poorest of the poor. Through their centres of education they are building bridges with local communities by providing the young people with skills to secure employment and earn an income to support their family.

Brother Michael Lynch heads the Salesian Mission Office in Australia.

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 21 No 1 (February 2008), p. 7

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