Sydney, (Australia) -- Work camp in a fishing village

In July, a group of 30 Australian high school and university students dedicated three weeks of their winter vacation to a work camp in Maggona on the west coast of Sri-Lanka. The local authorities had asked Nairana Study Centre in Sydney to coordinate a social service project to help remedy some needs in the village.

Maggona is a fishing village 30 miles south of the Sri-Lankan capital, Colombo. It is a community with few financial resources but a rich cultural tradition.

The group of volunteers was divided into four working teams. One of the teams dedicated its time to installing a computer room at the local school. The computers had been donated by the University of Sydney. Another team took on the job of building a large concrete ramp on the beach so that the fishermen could deposit their fish and weigh them on the scale that they installed.

The third team dedicated its energies to rebuilding a community hall for meetings. Among other things they plastered and painted the building. The last team spent its time painting the interior of the Catholic parish church, constructed in the 19th Century. They also built a small shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin on a nearby hill, as a place of pilgrimage for the local inhabitants.

At the end of the work camp, the villagers showed their gratitude for the energetic work of the volunteers by giving a going away feast. The group was invited to return the following year. Given the extensive Tsunami damage in the area, such a return trip is under consideration.

Romana, n. 39, July-December 2004, p. 259.

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