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Ralithi: Sharing Stories, Creating Hope | Yowan Dias | Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka

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ශ්‍රී LankaNZ is a free distributed Sri Lankan Community Newspaper that aims to reach a Sri Lankan population of over 18,000 all over New Zealand. The demand for entertainment in literacy media itself gave birth to ශ්‍රී LankaNZ

Books are a creation of human imagination and ingenuity, a form of expression, an outlet for intellectual ideas and thoughts, and an instrument of exceptional creativity. They are an embodiment of the freedom to think, express, and voice oneself while being a medium of communication and connection. But as the world enters a more fast-paced digitalized era, books – and reading, for that matter – have been relegated to a lower rung in the ladder of our collective priorities. They gather dust in old bookshelves, the ink on their pages slowly fading, quite like our interest in them.

With the noble intention of reigniting the love for reading, especially among children, project “Ralithi” – an International Service initiative by the Rotaract Club of the Faculty of Science, University of Colombo (RACFOSUOC) – hopes to connect the hearts and souls of children around the world with captivating literature. The name ‘Ralithi’ is the Sinhala word for ‘ripple’, symbolizing the project’s ambition to create ripple effects of positive change in communities and societies around the globe. This year, the project continues for the 4th consecutive year, to bring joy to the lives of children, through storytelling.

Driven by the desire to ignite the love of reading in the minds of children, project Ralithi brought to life 10 children’s short stories within its lifetime, all of which were written and illustrated with love by the creative and talented Rotaractors of RACFOSUOC. These stories highlight various aspects of Sri Lankan culture and values that a child growing up in Sri Lanka would be exposed to, and create a rich repository of diverse tales touching various facets of life.

The project went a step further to make these stories also accessible to blind and visually impaired children by converting 5 of the 10 books published under the project into audiobooks – voiced and crafted by the club’s very own members. The audiobooks along with the printed books were shipped to underprivileged communities in Nepal, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and India.

The collection of stories includes “Melody of Avurudu”; a short story revolving around the traditions and customs of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, “Life by the Sea, by Hand”; a tale of a postman’s encounters with different village industries in Sri Lanka and the lives of the people he met”, “Little Dilum’s Dream”; a fictional story of a Sri Lankan boy and his dream to become a dancer at the Dalada Perahera, and many others. These stories showcase the richness of Sri Lanka’s cultural tapestry, its unique customs and traditions, and the livelihoods of its people.

Ralithi allowed the stories of Sri Lanka’s heritage to reach foreign shores, piquing the interest of the kids reading them to explore new horizons while exposing them to cultures different from their own. Through those books, we hope that they become tools to effectively sharpen their literacy skills while also developing their reading habits.

As the project stepped into its 4th year of its ambitious journey, the members of RACFOSUOC have undertaken the collaborative task of producing a travel magazine, written in the style of a novella, stitching together fictional travel experiences of a traveler journeying through Sri Lanka’s diverse and mystical landscapes, from ancient ruins and bustling cities to lush forests and white, sandy beaches. This travel magazine is to be one-of-a-kind, presenting a unique perspective into the rich heritage of Sri Lanka, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. The travel magazine is to be published within the coming months and will be distributed to rural community libraries in Sri Lanka and India, in order to inculcate the habit of reading among underprivileged children.

The complete collection of short stories and audiobooks has also been made freely available on the Rakuten Kobo ebook store as ‘Ralithi Digital Library’ and can also be accessed via the club’s online repository titled ‘The Bookshelf’ (https://bit.ly/Ralithi_TheBookshelf).

By Yowan Dias – Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka

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