On the way to 2020 - Sooriya Bandara, 2020-team member

Sooriya is one of those volunteers within SCI who moved along the way, in his case from Asia (Sri Lanka) to Europe (Catalonia). His specific interest is in 2020 at the moment, therefore he is an active member of SCI’s 2020-team. 

When was your first workcamp?
It was in 1998, in Sri Lanka. It was in a time that SCI Sri Lanka still offered two, three workcamps in a row. I started as local volunteer in an orientation-program in Blue Rose school, a school for children with special needs, helping and cleaning for 4, 5 days. Afterwards I continued with another project, building a rural road to a remote village, and we slept in a meditation-center. At the end we moved to another remote rural area,isolated  with hardly any public transport. Schools were abandoned. Our work was there to paint and clean the school-environment,we were with 30-40 volunteers. During the day-time locals helped as well, so sometimes we had to prepare lunch for 150 persons. We called that duty ‘kitchen party’.
The year after I participated in a village, with Tamil, Singaleze and Muslim community. The work was again constructing a road, but most important was linking the communities with each other. This project made a huge impression on me. Two days before the project started, two SIngaleze were killed at the project-site. Senior members of SCI Sri Lanka visited the village and requested the villagers for a guarantee for the volunteers.At the end the camp was successful and volunteers, Tamil, Singaleze and Muslims had difficulties to say goodbye to each other after a month and a half - I still remember a huge guy crying….  
When did you realize that peace is something important?
I grew up in a village, where the majority were soldiers. I was about to enroll as soldier myself ( at 17, 18 years of age).  Many of my friends went to the military academy. Luckily I got in contact with SCI at that time,  waiting for my final school-results.
The other time was the camp with different ethnics, which I mentioned. It was good to be a kind of facilitator in that place. The great willingness to volunteer together, and to sacrifice. Without sacrificing something, you won’t get peace. 
What are the strengths of SCI according to you?
In 100 years of time we have created a path to many activists to reach their objectives. Comparing to other NGOs we focus maybe less on our image and the motto is maybe less colourful. But I compare SCI always with the role of the grandmother: not very visible, but still the impact is for sure present! Other strengths is our grass-roots based network and that we offer a concrete alternative to war.
And what are the challenges?
One challenge is retaining volunteers in a changing world with individual pressure. The other is maybe funding and the dependency SCI still face towards EU-funding. But the concept of SCI will go on: if needed the volunteers themselves will bring rice,coconut and dahl to a workcamp!
You are member of the so-called 2020-team. Can you tell us more about it?
The 2020-process already started in 2008, at an international SCI-meeting. We asked ourselves how  SCI would be in 2020, in 12 years time. It turned out to be a funny, crazy brainstorming session. The years later we had nightworkshops at the ICM (annual meeting of SCI) and the brainstorming continued.  In 2015 the ICM decided to make really work of the centenary and the 2020-team saw its light. We have and had many ideas, and some also received criticism, for example the Nobel Peace Prize. We have a pretty good team, which is covering the regions and support from secretariat and board. Actually we need the concrete support of the branches now, to start planning and carrying out ideas. We hope that the branches take the lead now, because they are the key-actors.
What does the year 2020 mean to you?
I was very excited to get engaged in the 2020- process, it is a strong feeling inside of me. We can confirm that people went for a long period to be involved.  In the process towards 2020 we  can see the richness of our movement. It is not, by the way, just a big bang - on the contrary:  we should move forward towards the next 100 years.
How do you personally want to celebrate ‘2020’? 
Be somewhere,  does not matter where, as long as it is with my SCI friends and colleagues, with like minded people, activists. I just want to meet. 
It would be good if I can also see that the goals of the 2020-team have been achieved in 2020.


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