Hands-on skills

People in the village of Matale, in Sri Lanka’s central uplands, 142 kilometers from Colombo, were exceptionally joyful on January 21, when a group of 15 boys from remote villages received their graduation certificates, upon completing a seven-month vocational carpentry course. The course was sponsored by the Swiss charity Bridges, and organized by c, Sri Lanka’s largest grassroots organization that is active in some 15,000 villages.
Honored guests at the ceremony were young carpenters Simon Strickler (21) and Pascal Sturzenegger (24) from Switzerland, who had spent the previous six weeks living and working with the boys, giving a Swiss polish to their new-found skills.
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“We have no common language so we used our hands and feet to communicate,” joked Sturzenegger. Strickler added, “Seven months is not long enough for the apprentices to learn everything they need to know, but it is amazing what these guys know today, since most never held a tool in their hands before this course. They are ready to start work as carpenters.”
Indeed, each young man is now equipped with a certificate and a tool kit, donated by Bridges, which was established by Strickler’s father, carpenter Reinhard Strickler, who simply showed up in Sri Lanka following the tsunami in 2004, determined to lend a hand any way he could.
New friends introduced him to Sarvodaya and Reinhard, and by late 2006 an unused workshop was located at a Sarvodaya district center in Matale. It was renovated, the Swiss donated tools and machines and the facilities were adapted to meet the needs of the program.
By March 2007 the first group of 15 apprentices started in the first program.
(To sponsor a young carpenter, contact the Sarvodaya International Division: sarvishva@itmin.net.)