Mangaluru: Sonia Cathy Lasrado D/o Clifford and Queeni Lasrado, residing at Holy Family Anegundi Ward, Bejai was invited by Friends Forever International(FFI), a global organization headquartered in Durham, NH, USA, that works with middle and high school students, senior citizens, professional leadership groups, civic organizations, etc. and emphasizes individual leadership and community-level action, for a Global Immersion Program. FFI is a non-profit organisation that has 5 campuses on two continents uniquely situated to provide cross-cultural trips that are both international and domestic. Applications for the programs are accepted on a rolling basis and can be started any time and everyone is encouraged to apply regardless of ethnicity, religion and socio-economic status
The program this year was held in Belfast, Northern Ireland from the 9 to 19 of August 2023. The group had one selected representative from Austria, Brazil, Canada, India, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Turkey. Sonia was the representative from India.
The program accentuates that participants develop a deeper understanding of themselves, the challenges in their communities, and the skills and determination required to tackle these challenges. This intense phase encompasses FFI’s core curriculum sessions, meaningful service-learning activities authentic community interaction and personalised activities that emphasize collaborative leadership.
The representatives from these countries stayed together for ten days without any technology and a 100% plant-based diet. Their daily schedule included sessions on discovering themselves through life maps, identifying workshops, and improving communication. Each representative spoke of their culture supported by photos of the country. Along with the classroom sessions, the group was exposed to physical activities such as meditation, trekking, hiking, games, visits to the beach, farms etc. The group met with youth groups in the city to understand how these youth groups serve the youth in the community, had discussions with organizations that provide health and wellness services to rural communities, got a glimpse of the political life by meeting with the Northern Ireland Assembly, and many such activities.
As a leadership program, participants were trained to build creative, sustainable, and effective solutions to the challenges in their communities. It helped the participants to speak in public, so an incredible amount of time and energy was spent on writing speeches, polishing the speeches by listening to feedback and helping each other with their speeches. FFI Global Alumni served as program counsellors facilitating sessions and mentoring participants throughout the phase.
Sonia Lasrado, an Ex-Lourdite, is a student of 1PUC Science at St. Aloysius PU college at Mangaluru. The Friends Forever International group continues to guide and help her and other participants with their tasks in the community.