In the summer of 2023, a group of 20 British Tamil students and graduates embarked on a transformative journey to the rural heartlands of the Tamil homeland. The trip encompassed activities in Jaffna, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Vavuniya, Killinochi and Mullaitivu. Their mission was to make a positive and lasting impact on communities through volunteering in schools, orphanages, hospitals, and care homes. This two-week endeavour, known as the 'Aram Trip,' was organised by a group of recent graduates and facilitated by Tamil Aid, a reputable UK-registered charity.
The inspiration for the Aram Trip stemmed from the profound Tamil moral philosophy encapsulated in the phrase 'Aram seiya virumbu'—meaning 'desire to do right.' This ethos, rooted in Avvaiyar’s Aathichudi, a collection of quotes shaping Tamil morals since the 3rd century BCE, guided the volunteers in their mission.
The Aram team, a group with a diverse range of skills, undertook various activities during their journey. Activities ranged from leading crucial talks about hygiene and mental health to conducting self-defence workshops tailored for young girls and conducting medical checks. Prior to the trip, the team organised fundraising events, including bake sales, casino nights, and bike rides, amassing over £20,000. These funds were channelled into essential contributions such as dental and medical equipment, rape alarms, education materials, sports equipment, musical instruments, and even chicken coops.
The impact of the Aram Trip reverberated through heartfelt comments from the visited organisations. The chairperson of a home expressed gratitude for the invaluable experiences and insights the volunteers brought. A coordinator at an autism centre acknowledged the practical utility of donated items in enhancing training programs. The principal of an orphanage thanked the team for the enjoyable visit and emphasised the positive impact of their teachings on safeguarding.
Upon reflection, the Aram team identified persistent challenges in the communities they visited. In response, they plan to construct a well for a more reliable water supply, launch a mentorship program to guide students in their career paths, and address shortcomings in the on-site physiotherapy service by exploring the creation of a mobile physiotherapy unit.
Speaking to Tamil Guardian, one of the organisers highlighted the profound impact the trip had on both the volunteers and the communities. They expressed a hope for young Tamils to reconnect with their roots, forging relationships and experiences that would last a lifetime. The Aram Trip, therefore, not only stands as a testament to the power of youth-led initiatives but also underscores the significance of homeland-diaspora links in uplifting a nation.
As the Aram team returns, their commitment to addressing identified challenges signifies a long-lasting dedication to the communities they touched. The Aram Trip 2023 was not merely a two-week excursion; it was a catalyst for positive change and a beacon of hope for a brighter future in the Tamil homeland.