There needs to be investment aimed at increasing the quality of life of the people as well. With prices sky-rocketing, the perception of security disintegrating in front of our eyes and people losing confidence in the system, it is clear that though change is challenging, it is also vital.
In the present administration’s promise to make Sri Lanka the “Wonder of Asia”, youth has a pivotal role to play. However, on a realistic note, there is very little opportunity for the youth of this country to air their opinions freely, and opportunities to initiate real change in governance is also limited due to the weak link between the state and the citizens.
This does not mean we should watch and wait to see what happens. Perhaps, we should start small. The revolutions that the world has witnessed did not happen overnight. Change requires sacrifice. It also requires patience and more than anything, it requires a beginning.
For that initial step, I believe that the youth need to focus on what they can do; what they have the power to do. Start where you can visibly see people suffering or in need of assistance. Some of us are blinded by the misconception that philanthropic activity requires great effort and a considerable amount of funding, when in reality all you need, is to care.
Youth organizations play a great role in this regard. Such organizations can create cooperative enterprises, inspire, empower and motivate youth while channelling their talents constructively and encourage stable and harmonious urban and rural communities.
There are several ways that youth can make a considerable impact on a number of lives. It can range from donating books, stationary or shoes to kids who need them, or help organize awareness campaigns on various diseases, or simply even spending a couple of hours a week at an elders home.
Such philanthropic activities help individuals by developing their personality and making them more sensitive to the feelings of the less fortunate and the needs of the marginalized community. It is this sort of a community that our nation needs; a community which is sensitive to another’s needs and feelings. There is no point in Sri Lanka becoming the ‘Wonder of Asia’, if citizens are unable and unwilling to see beyond what is material. Such a nation would self-destruct eventually. Therefore, I believe that the role of the youth is to do something, anything, to make a difference in areas that they can.
Further a study by the National Conference on Citizenship has shown that high rates of volunteerism are linked to low unemployment rates. Hence volunteerism will help individuals to learn essential skills along the way which will help them in work life as well and help reduce the unemployment rate of youth which currently ranks at 21.26%. Such a skilled labour force, would only contribute even further to increased development in the nation and better quality of life, thereby contributing to the administration’s vision of the “Wonder of Asia.”
On a more thoughtful note, it is evident that we live in times where bribery, corruption and violence are no longer exceptions to the norm, but is the norm itself. In fact, without even realizing it, our perception of what is right and what is wrong often becomes unclear when we witness such unfairness, day in and day out.
Therefore, as young citizens, there is one definite thing we as individuals can do. The role of youth in contributing to the development of Sri Lanka can be as simple as doing one extra right thing every day. “Imagine the power of 20 million people doing an extra thing right, every day -it can be as simple as learning a useful word or two, switching off an unwanted light or buying a book instead of a bottle.” - Ajith de Alwis.
Development is not just about infrastructure and economic growth. It is also about increased quality of live and citizens who are happy. Hence, it is the duty of the younger generation to acquire the correct attitude, for individuals who are intelligent and sensitive to the needs of others are an important factor in the development of a nation. As youth, we also represent our country’s future and it is more important than ever that we are able to clearly distinguish right from wrong, fact from fiction and truth from falsehood. It is only then that our actions would lead to better times and contribute to making Sri Lanka the “Wonder of Asia.”