We listened on Wednesday morning to one of our three GRSP (Georgia Rotary Student Program) students, Nipuna Ambanpola, tell us about himself, his family, his life, and his hopes for the future.
Every year the Rotary Clubs of Georgia invite some fifty students from all over the world to spend one academic year at the colleges of the University of Georgia. This is not an exchange program; its aim is to introduce a group of young people to the United States in the hope that they will become “ambassadors” and spread understanding of the US in the countries from which they come. Most of their expenses in the US are borne by the Rotary Clubs and host families volunteer each year to accommodate and entertain them when they are not resident in the college dorms during the breaks between semesters.

Nipuna Ambanpola was introduced by our member Karen Jahn. He is 21 years old, comes from Sri Lanka, has a diploma in International Law and Human Rights, and is studying Business and Managerial Economics at Armstrong State University. He is an excellent public speaker in fluent English and gave us a description of his country, his hopes for the future, and his experiences in Savannah since arriving last September.

Sri Lanka, once known as Ceylon, is an island in the Indian Ocean off the Southeastern tip of India. It is some 275 miles long and 170 miles wide, and is known as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” Its population is 20 million, it is the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, and its capital is Sri Jayawardenpura Kotte, known commercially as Colombo. Its languages are Sinhala/Tamil/English and its currency the Lankan rupee (USD1=LKR144). Formerly a part of the British Empire, Sri Lanka became independent in February 1948. It was ruled at times by the Portuguese and the Dutch as well as the British; civil war broke out in the 1980s and continued for more than 20 years. After its end, Sri Lanka started to flourish and international contact and trade began; ports, harbors, highways were built and prosperity came.

Nipuna showed us pictures of his school on Sri Lanka, known as the ‘Royal College,’ considered the “Eton of Sri Lankan education” and of his family, father, mother, and two brothers. His older brother is a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, and his younger brother is in high school. He spoke at some length of his hopes for the future and of his interest in elevating the quality of human life worldwide through international understanding and youth engagement. He hopes for a role in UN Peacekeeping with the objective of International Peace and Security. He has an impressive record already in his short life, including scouts, sports, and acting. At Armstrong he has taken roles in student organizations and alumni affairs. His presentation to us ended with scenes from some of his activities with Georgia Rotary families and new friends among the students who came this year from other parts of the world.