Community radio: Samadhi - Voice of Sri Lanka

(caption for the above picture: Dr Kalyani Wijayawardana and 'young' presenters)

New Children of who attend the Sri Lankan Language and Cultural School in Christchurch play a large part in the production of Plains FM96.9’s radio programme about their cultural heritage, Samadhi – Voice of Sri Lanka.

Under the guidance of the co-ordinator of the school, Dr Kalyani Wijayawardana, the children help to host the half-hour show, which is broadcast at 1.30pm every third Saturday of the month, and repeated at 3.30pm on the second Sunday.

Essentially, the programme is intended to give the children, who get together every Sunday at the language school, located at the Samadhi Buddhist Vihara, 358 Maddison Road, Templeton, the opportunity to gain access to the richness of more than 2500 year of Sri Lankan history and culture through stories, folk songs and traditional music.

The school was created by Kalyani in 2008 to disseminate ideas, information and important aspects of cultural heritage, the Sinhala language and literature. The patron of the school is the head of the Buddhist centre, the Rev Makuldeniye Somarathana.

The children sing songs, ask questions and describe a variety of details about Sri Lankan history, culture and early literature either in Sinhala or English.

They are encouraged to talk in Sinhala. Most of the programme is spoken in Sinhala, with updates in English that explain the subjects being discussed.

Sinhala is the native language of the Sinhalese people who make up the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka, which has a total population of 21 million.

Kalyani explains that Samadhi – Voice of Sri Lanka aims to promote cultural identity among young Sri Lankans in Christchurch and to develop the children’s self-esteem by participating in radio programmes.

“The students are aged between 4-1/2and 13 years, and to host their own show is an impressive feat. I am so happy and proud about the children’s opportunity,” says Kalyani.

“There are now more than 200 Sri Lankan families in Christchurch but we have only 32 kids coming to the school. We want to give the other Sri Lankan kids this opportunity.

“The great support received from the parents and teachers is valuable. It is impossible to run this radio show without their support.

“As people move from their mother country and settle in another country, it is necessary for them to have their own ties to preserve their cultural identity, while helping them decrease their social isolation.

“We made New Zealand our home as adults and it is our responsibility to enable Sri Lankan children gain their cultural identity, while respecting other cultures in this multi-cultural society.

“We have a small community but get together to celebrate events like the Sri Lankan New Year, which we will feature on our show on April 15.”

When the sun moves from Meena Rashiya (House of Pisces) to Mesha Rashiya (House of Aires) in the celestial sphere, Sri Lankans celebrate their New Year, usually around April 13 or 14.

Respecting elders, strengthening family bonds and promoting togetherness are important aspects of the New Year celebrations.

Other subjects covered by the programme since its beginning in October 2015 include:

History: The ancient royal kingdoms from the third century BC to the 11th century BC, plus visits to Sri Lanka’s magnificent World Heritage sites.
Culture: The object is to keep Sri Lanka’s wide range of rituals and customs, including dance and drum traditions, alive and celebrated outside the home country.
Language and Literature: Explanations of how literature developed in Sri Lanka, including cave inscriptions of 3000 years ago, famous authors, messenger poems and folk songs.

The programme is financed by the Settling-In Fund, of the Office of Ethnic Communities. More information can be obtained by visiting http://samadhibuddhistviharaorg.nz

Samadhi – Voice of Sri Lanka is now listened to by people in the United States, Canada, Australia and Italy via podcasts from the Plains FM Website, www.plainsfm.org.nz