The Liberal Alchemy: Crafting a World of Freedom

My Experience at the International Academy for Leadership (IAF)
Entrance Photo of IAF in Gummersbach

The Pivotal Role of FNF Sri Lanka

The support from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) Sri Lanka office was integral to the formation and growth of the Liberal Youth Movement in Sri Lanka. FNF Sri Lanka provided the foundational knowledge of liberal values, supported with the first ever liberal manual for youth in Sri Lanka, and enabled transformative workshops. Their guidance was a cornerstone in the establishment and blossoming of a movement aimed at instilling political literacy and inclusive politics within the Sri Lankan youth, thus playing a critical role in the country's journey towards democratic prosperity.

From the outset, the IAF experience was enveloping, much like the warm embrace of returning to one's childhood home. Upon arrival, greeted not just by the architecture but by the genuine smiles of the staff, I felt an immediate sense of belonging.

Namini Panditha

Discovering the Academy's Charm

The prelude to our workshop was a delightful exploration of the academy, unveiling every charming corner like hidden rooms within a familiar house. Our lodgings became more than just a stay; they transformed into a sanctuary where camaraderie flourished alongside rigorous intellectual pursuits. A simple coin system at the bar, unique to the academy, wasn't merely a transaction for beverages but a symbol of the shared experiences that each of us would cherish—a token of togetherness.

Group of Particpants posing

Camaraderie in Shared Spaces

Every meal served in the dining hall was a feast not only of nourishment but of ideas, where conversations flowed as freely as the sumptuous buffets. Here, the essence of camaraderie was brewed, strengthening the bonds between participants from diverse backgrounds.

Image in the dining area

Engaging Dialogues and Liberal Thought

Our seminars and discussions, conducted in halls that echoed with the passion for liberal thought, were not typical academic lectures but rather dialogues that sparked curiosity and inspired action. The knowledge imparted by esteemed facilitators like Sven Gerst wasn't conveyed in didactic tones but through encouragement and engagement, nurturing our liberal convictions and empowering us to weave these principles into the fabric of our society back home.

Gratitude to Mentor Sven Gerst

Sven Gerst

The gratitude owed to Sven Gerst is profound and immeasurable. Without his guidance and the liberal values he so passionately groomed and imparted, it is difficult to envision the existence of the Liberal Youth Movement Sri Lanka. The movement, now thriving and expanding, is deeply rooted in the principles that Sven not only taught but also exemplified through his unwavering support and humility. His readiness to assist at any moment with both knowledge and practical wisdom has been a cornerstone of the organization's success. Sven's contribution transcends mere education; he has been a mentor and an inspiration, fostering a legacy of liberalism that will continue to shape the future liberal story. His impact is etched into the fabric of the Liberal Youth Movement, reflecting a deep-seated commitment to nurturing liberal leaders and thinkers who are now ready to carry forward the torch of progressive change in Sri Lanka.

The Academy's Nurturing Environment

The people, undoubtedly, were the heart of this experience—the facilitators and assistants who, like a family, guided us, supported us, and laughed with us, making every challenge surmountable and every triumph shared. Bettina Solinger, the ever-present Director of the Academy, provided a steadfast presence that assured every aspect of our stay was seamless.

Learning from Global Liberal Perspectives

Speakers at IAF - Open Societies 2023

The team of facilitators and the academy's staff, including Dr. Bican Sahin and Ester Povysilova, were pillars of knowledge and expertise, enriching the learning experience with their diverse perspectives. The assistance of Juan Santolo, Aitana Carrillo, and IAF coordinator Axel Friedrichsen was paramount, ensuring a seamless and engaging program while fostering a supportive and friendly atmosphere that mirrored the comfort of a second home. Their collective efforts underscored the academy's mission to cultivate liberal leaders equipped to address global challenges.

The Academy's Guiding Leadership

Director Bettina Solinger was the embodiment of the academy's excellence and commitment, overseeing every aspect of the program to ensure a smooth and enriching experience for all. Her leadership set the tone for a welcoming and intellectually stimulating environment, where every participant could feel valued and empowered to contribute to the global liberal narrative.

Expanding Horizons with Diverse Facilitators

Other notable facilitators like Dr. Tom Palmer, Dr. Stephan Davies, and Katharina Nocun provided a breadth of knowledge that spanned across various domains of liberalism. From discussions on the open society and the global free market to the intellectual depths of esotericism, their sessions were a confluence of ideas that broadened the participants' understanding and equipped them with insights to foster and defend liberal values in their respective corners of the world.

Interactive Learning and Joyous Community

Participants Painting

The workshops were interactive, moving beyond theoretical discussions to active engagement. The vibrancy of group activities, debates, and discussions melded the serious undertakings of our liberal quest with the joyous essence of a community gathered for a common purpose. It was a masterclass in balancing the gravitas of our mission with the heartfelt connections that underpin impactful movements.

Real-World Liberal Values and Reflections

Clock Tower and Church

IAF's thoughtful excursions offered a chance to step out of the academic setting and into the real world, where the principles of liberalism were reflected in the very streets and monuments of Germany. These were lessons outside of the classroom, instilling a deeper understanding of resilience, remembrance, and the indomitable spirit of democracy.

A Personal Milestone within the Liberal Journey

Book Launch

Within these walls, I found the opportunity to launch my book "Paint your Life," a moment as special as the setting itself. The act of unveiling my work in an institution dedicated to the promotion of liberal ideals was akin to planting a seed in the most fertile ground, hopeful for the bloom of liberal thought and action.

As the days unfolded, the IAF Academy became more than just a place—it was an experience woven into the essence of our lives, enriching, enlightening, and endearing. This was not just a temporary sojourn but an enduring chapter in our lives where we were not just students but members of a global family, united by a common liberal heartbeat.

Namini Panditha

The Liberal Mission Continues Beyond IAF

In the end, as we said our goodbyes, it was with the knowledge that while our time at the academy had come to a close, the journey of our liberal mission was just beginning. The memories, friendships, and lessons would travel with us, inspiring and guiding us as we continued to paint our lives with the vibrant colors of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Incorporating IAF Lessons in Sri Lanka

Practical Application of IAF Learnings

Our attempts as the Liberal Youth Movement to incorporate what we learned into practice in Sri Lanka were immediate and enthusiastic. Building on the momentum of the IAF training program, we orchestrated two significant workshops designed to permeate the ideals of liberalism through practical, hands-on learning experiences.

Workshop Endeavors in Colombo

The first workshop, set against the bustling backdrop of Colombo, Sri Lanka's commercial heart, was convened on the 10th of October. It engaged 25 young and eager participants in a discourse on liberal values and economic reforms. This gathering was not just an educational endeavor but also a fertile ground for sowing the seeds of liberalism among the youth, who are instrumental in driving progressive change.

Workshops in Colombo

Extending Liberal Education to Galle

Following closely, on the 11th of October, we hosted another workshop in Galle, the main district of Southern Province. Here, 35 young participants were introduced to liberal concepts, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the movement. The coastal city of Galle, rich in history and culture, provided the perfect setting for reflections on the importance of liberal values in the socio-economic tapestry of Sri Lanka.

The Liberals Fest: Sharing the IAF Experience

Furthering our commitment, on the 4th of November, we celebrated 'The Liberals Fest.' This event was not merely a gathering but a vibrant festival of ideas and liberal philosophy. It was an occasion to educate the core team and volunteers of the Liberal Youth Movement on the learnings from the IAF program. More importantly, it served as a platform to share the profound experiences garnered at the academy, disseminating the insights and inspirations that emerged from within those transformative walls.

Conclusion: The Liberal Youth Movement's Ongoing Journey

These initiatives marked the beginning of a new chapter for the Liberal Youth Movement in Sri Lanka. They underscored our dedication to embedding the liberal principles and practices learned at IAF into the fabric of our society. Through these workshops and The Liberals Fest, we aimed to ignite a liberal renaissance among the youth of Sri Lanka, equipping them with the knowledge and zeal to champion the cause of freedom, democracy, and progress in our nation.