Working Together for School Renovation

January 5, 2024
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Oshini Anushka is a 28-year-old lawyer from Colombo. Ever since she was an undergraduate  student it had been her dream to work for the UN. She volunteered for various UN agencies and kept applying for positions until she was accepted to the job as a provincial coordinator for the YCLI project. Having never been outside of Colombo, Oshini was particularly excited to support a YCLI-initiated project on renovating a rural school in Sabaragamuwa Province.

In her role as YCLI provincial coordinator, she onboarded the 63 selected participants in her province out of over 1000 applicants, acted as facilitator during the training and supported the participants in writing project proposals. In the case of the school renovation project, which was selected for implementation, Oshini further supported the participants, especially in interacting with government officials, and financial and legal matters.

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“I learned to work with people”, says Oshini. Be it the local school children who after school came to the school grounds to help Oshini, the YCLI volunteers, members of the village who volunteered to renovate the school or local government and school officials. “Everything was new to me, I learned from scratch”, says the 27-year-old.  One of the biggest challenges but also the biggest learnings was how to work with government officials. She learned how important it was to be diplomatic and the importance of maintaining good relationships with project participants and other stakeholders. Getting official permission to renovate the school, for instance, turned out to be quite difficult. Oshini did not expect the local school authorities and government officials to be so reluctant to give permission to renovate a school which had not been renovated for at least 20 years. Ultimately, she managed to navigate the difficulties by obtaining the permission from a higher administrative level.

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Moreover, working on the YCLI project also further developed Oshini on a personal level. “I even participated in Ramadan”, says Oshini. During the implementation phase of the project which partly coincided with Ramadan, she resided with some of the YCLI participants who were from Muslim communities. “I slept from 9 pm until 4 am, had breakfast and then slept again a little.” Even after the project ended, Oshini kept in touch with some of the participants with whom she formed lasting bonds. “Some became like family to me”. This was not always easy, because many of the participants would ask her for life advice regarding their studies, their families, or their personal relationships. Which was not a responsibility to take lightly.

Oshini currently works as a lawyer again. Her learnings on how to work with people from very different backgrounds are still very useful to her. She hopes to come back to work for the UN in the future. “I want to give something back to my community, as I got so much from them. There are so many people who need support.”


YCLI Project 
The Youth Community Leadership Initiative (YCLI) aimed at improving access to opportunities for young aspiring leaders to meaningfully engage in promoting social cohesion and development. Implemented from 2021 to 2023 by WHO, UNDP and UNV it connected and trained over 573 youth leaders. Participants engaged in trainings, community needs assessments and project proposal writing. Seven of these project proposals were ultimately selected for implementation.


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