The promise of new beginnings - Inauguration of the new JRS-JC:HEM site in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka
24 September 2015

One of the newly designed computer labs at Vavuniya site, 16 September 2015 (Photo: Kathleen Ambre / Jesuit Refugee Service)
Delhi, 24 September 2015 - A new JRS-JC:HEM (Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins) site - Loyola Campus - was launched on 14  September in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka. This is the second JRS-JC:HEM site in the country providing tertiary education to war-affected youth and professionals in northern Sri Lanka.

Following three decades of ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, access to tertiary education is very limited. Many students are unable to pursue higher education due to financial restrictions. In partnership with JC:HEM and Sri Lanka Jesuit Province, JRS endeavours to address this challenge by  providing affordable, relevant, job-oriented and professional Community Service Learning Tracks (CSLTs) to war-affected students and working people in northern Sri Lanka.
The first JRS-JC:HEM site in the country, Pope Francis Jesuit Academy, was set up at the JRS building, Loyola Campus in Mannar. The Academy was officially inaugurated on 28 January 2015, and two batches have successfully completed CSLTs in English as a Foreign Language. A new CSLT is now being offered in Computer Applications at the Loyola Campus - and so far about 100 students have enrolled in the third batch.

With the launch of the Vavuniya site on 14 September, north Sri Lankan students have added reason to celebrate. The JRS building in Vavuniya has been redesigned to provide two classrooms, each equipped with 20 computers, and a space for students to use during breaks. At the inauguration, 30 students joined the JRS-JC:HEM team to celebrate the start of this program, which offers them an opportunity to invest in a new beginning for a better future. The morning started with the lighting of an oil lamp and a silent prayer. Fr. Joe Victor SJ, the JRS-JC:HEM Project Director, did the introductions and encouraged the students to make the most of this opportunity to further their education in English and Computer Applications, the first CSLTs to be offered at the Vavuniya centre. After a few ice-breakers to create a team spirit among the students, instructions about the course were given, followed by a sharing of expectations in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The students enjoyed meeting fellow classmates, were excited about the new training facilities, and eagerly look forward to beginning their courses. As of today, over 70 candidates have enrolled at Vavuniya.

The JRS-JC:HEM program places great emphasis on the spirit of service. All the students, regardless the course, are required to teach their new skills to others in the wider community in order to qualify to receive the final Certificate. This practical element will ensure that the wider community will also benefit from the program.

The JRS is very happy to partner JC:HEM and Sri Lanka Jesuit Province in this innovative program to empower the youth and the local community through higher education. Fr. Joe Victor and the three trainers at Vavuniya - Thiranjala, Lucia and Kathleen - are all geared up for their mission to “Transform Thinking. Transform the World”.

Press Contact Information
Stan Fernandes SJ
+91 11 4310 4661; +91 11 4953 4106