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Transmitting the voices of children in Trincomalee

All over the world, radio is recognised as a powerful yet low cost communication tool. In rural communities, it is often the primary method of broadcasting information. Radio also provides a platform for community members to contribute to public debate, giving them a voice in society.

Recently, ChildFund Sri Lanka ran a five-day Community Radio Broadcast Training Program in the rural area of Trincomalee. This program formed part of ChildFund Sri Lanka`s Island Connect project.

Inspired by the success of the ChildFund Connect program, which provided children from around the world with an opportunity to interact and learn multimedia skills, Island Connect aims to link children across Sri Lanka. By taking part in a range of communications activities, children build confidence, have a chance to be heard on important issues, share their experiences with other children, and are empowered to make change within their communities.

As part of the program, three community radio producers and an engineer from Sri Lanka`s Prathibha Media Network visited a local school in Trincomalee to train the participants. The areas that were covered included: the history of radio, identifying the needs of listeners, designing a program schedule, and the use of technical equipment in the studio.

It was no easy feat to get the radio station set up. As the classroom did not have electricity, power cables had to be purchased and installed. Next, a radio antenna had to be mounted on top of the school water tank. Finally, the school`s telephone line was converted to radio station hotline, giving listeners the ability to call up and join discussions.

With the training and set-up complete, children took to the microphone to speak to their community live on air. As there are two main languages spoken in Trincomalee, Sinhala and Tamil, air-time was given to both.

“For the first time in my life, I had an opportunity to work with a radio program. Through this we were able to sharpen our talents and creativity, and show our capabilities,” says Lalitya, a Grade 10 student.

More than 35 children from different schools and youth groups took part, and hundreds of phone calls came in from both Sinhala and Tamil speakers, giving praise to the children and their radio segments, requesting songs, and providing feedback.

Many parents brought their younger children to the radio station to watch their older siblings, and sing songs together. Even government representatives took this opportunity to speak about important issues affecting children in the local area.

“As we live in a remote area, ChildFund conducting a radio program is an amazing and rare experience. I feel very glad that we had a separate radio channel just for us. I hope ChildFund decides to run these types of programs in other rural areas of Sri Lanka,” says Dilanthika, a Grade 12 student.

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