Mahatma Gandhi once said, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. Fuelled by this principle, the IMU Community Service Club organised Project Connected 2018 to Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka this year from 29 July to 4 August 2018, with the participation of 16 students from various IMU programmes including Medicine, Chinese Medicine, Pharmacy, Psychology, Biomedical Science, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Chiropractic and Foundation in Science.
Project Connected has been an annual project organised by the IMU Community Service Club over the years, where project teams visited Laos in 2012, Myanmar in 2014 till 2016, and Sri Lanka from 2017 and 2018. The project has consistently been organised to provide a platform for IMU students to serve the society and is in line with IMU’s vision of to support a community of scholars and professionals committed to serving the society.
The project was conducted under the supervision and advice of Dr Ranjit De Alwis, an IMU senior lecturer and the advisor for the Club and was supported by the High Commission of Sri Lanka in Malaysia. The team managed to link up with Vasantha Senanayake Foundation as a collaborative partner for the project in the Dalukana Primary School, Polonnaruwa.
Throughout the project, students helped in conducting the health and hygiene awareness programmes to primary school students on hand washing and tooth-brushing, building and repairing school pavement, building and painting of separation wall of classrooms, mural painting on classrooms’ walls, packing lunch for school children and giving out school supplies to two primary schools. The Hon State Minister of Foreign Affair, also the Member of Parliament for Polonnaruwa district, Hon Vasantha Senanayake was invited to the closing ceremony of the project, to inspect the project work done in the Dalukana Primary School and subsequently gave out school supplies to the school students. Besides volunteering on the project work in Polonnaruwa, the team was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Sigiriya and Kaudulla National Park with minimal expenses as the entrance fees were being waived off with the help of the High Commission of Sri Lanka in Malaysia. The team was also given an opportunity to visit the medical faculty of the University of Colombo, where they were exposed to various departments namely the anatomy dissection, microbiology, parasitology and forensic medicine department. It has been a great exposure for the team to experience the lifestyle of students living in rural areas, and the process of helping them in improving their infrastructure and knowledge. For some of the participants, it was their first-time volunteering overseas and they had the opportunity to understand the Sri Lanka culture better. Furthermore, the project provides a platform for the participants in strengthening bonds and social ties besides developing management skills and understanding the importance of teamwork. The project managed to achieve several of its targets by creating awareness on health and hygiene knowledge especially on the importance of hand washing and tooth-brushing, create a better study environment by building and repairing certain school infrastructures, and by providing school supplies to primary school children. The school staff, teachers, villagers and children were grateful and we are glad to be able to put a smile on their faces.