Walk the talk! | Daily News

Walk the talk!

Joshanth Terence and Shanjeevan Amalanathan
Joshanth Terence and Shanjeevan Amalanathan

For most of us a walk would mean taking a few rounds along the walking tracks and social service would be putting up statements supporting a cause on our social media accounts. Two students of St Michaels College, Batticaloa, Shanjeevan Amalanathan and Joshanth Terence, took matters further when they decided to engage in a walk of hope. Covering the distance between Point Pedro to Dondra on foot, the two lads hoped to spread the message of ethnic tolerance and harmony across the nation.

“We both sat for our Advance Level examination this year. We share the common passion for adventure traveling and engaging in social service activities. We were pondering what to do after the exam and decided to do something out of the box. We also felt the need to engage in something which will benefit our motherland as well as fuel our passion,” Shanjeevan reflected on how it all began.

Another fact the youth considered is their need to create public awareness and to promote youth involvements in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals universal agenda 2030 which had been approved by 196 nations.

With their parents

“Our nation faced many challenges for decades and for a short span there seemed to be an understanding building up between the ethnic groups. Then, unexpectedly, after the Easter Sunday bombings, racism began to raise its ugly head again. There was a downfall in tourism as well. Therefore we took on this venture under the theme ‘Let’s build a wall against racism’,” he explained.

The duo wished to prove that once again Sri Lanka has become a safe place for travelers. They confirmed this by traveling from Point Pedro in the Northern tip of the island to the southernmost points of Dondra by themselves, without the protection of any individuals or organizations.

Traversing 566 km across the island for 12 days, Shanjeevan and Joshanth were probably the youngest to engage in such a venture in the island.

Recalling some of the challenges that they faced in their venture Shanjeevan noted that communication had been the tricky matter in the whole process for him.

The starting point at Point Pedro Light House

“I don’t speak Sinhala fluently. Therefore we were unable to understand what people are speaking at times. However at the end of the day we still managed to overcome these obstacles and continue our journey,” he noted.

“I got a major foot injury on the way and had to continue about 50 km along with it. That was a painful experience but it was well worth it,” Joshanth added.

The youth had trekked from Point Pedro to Dondra passing Kilinochchi, Puliyankulam, Medawachchiya, Thambuththegama, Maho, Padeniya, Dambadeniya, Giriulla, Kadawatha, Wadduwa, Atakohota, and Angulugaha. Their parents joined them for the last lapse. Director of Sagacious Youth Lead, Consortium Kishoth Navaretnarajah, their Scoutsmaster Pathmanathan and Sahan, a past pupil of St Michaels College, Batticaloa, too were present on the final day to welcome the youth. Religious leaders blessed them once they have completed their task.

“I never expect to see my dad at the finishing point. I also loved the sight of the Dondra light house. Witnessing it was the most heart touch moment in the whole journey,” Joshanth expressed.

“While we are crossing Kaluthara we met a 81 year old lady. We had a quick chat with her. She had many words of appreciation for our venture. She said ‘We don’t need racism here. Sinhala, Muslim and Tamil people should live together. That is what I too am seeking.’ Those words and her tone melted my heart. I don’t know why, but they brought tears to my eyes,” Shanjeevan added with emotion.

The duo had met while they were scouting and had become bosom buddies because they shared common interests. Both of them have heard about, read and witnessed other projects whch engaged walks for a worthy cause. Joshanth recalls seeing former cricket captain Mahela Jayawardena engaged in Trail 2016 in a bid to collect funds for cancer patients while Shanjeevan had heard about Srishti Bakshi’s journey across India covering 3800 km in 260 days to make India a safer place for women.

Speaking about the hardships he endured during the journey Joshanth notes that he went through ankle cramps and could hardly manage his eight kilo backpack at one point.

Holding their school flag with their Scoutmaster Pathmanathan and their Old Boy’s Association Member Sahan

“Thought I felt like quitting, my heart never gave in. Everybody was overjoyed that we managed to fulfill our goal. They encouraged and cheered us all the way. Plus the encouraging words from Shanjeevan just kept me going,” he recalled with a smile.

Unfurling his thoughts about Joshanth, Shanjeevan adds, “He is a good soul. Joshanth was upset because of his injury and the heavy backpack but when I asked him if we should end the journey, he used to laugh at me inquiring if I am tired! He was determined to go on till he reached his goal. I learnt a lot from him.”

Joshanth’s ambition is to become an Aeronautical Engineer while Shanjeevan aims at earning money and continuing with his social service activities.

Shanjeevan hails from Thirukkovil. He is a President’s Scout and a Duke of Edinburgh’s Bronze Award winner. He also dreams of conquering the Seven Summits. Joshanth was born at Point Pedro and studied at St. Josephs College, Trincomalee, before moving to St Michaels College, Batticaloa.

“Youth are the game changers in the society. An empowered youth can create a better world and a healthy society,” Joshanth said.

Shanjeevan advises, “Don’t let go of your dreams. This is your life. Live your life to the fullest by following your passions.”

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