Meeting an IIL champion

21 June 2017

Privilege is a word that we hear less and less of nowadays, yet it is a word that sums up life in this school and for most of Geneva in one word. We have: a high-standard education, a secure environment, the comfort of our homes and families to return to after a day of learning, something most of the world has difficulty relating to. Often, and more than we would like to admit, we think of these as the ‘norm’ rather than the luxuries that they are. It only takes a step, or in this case 8,190 km from our bubble for us to realise the harsh struggle in the world beyond IIL.

Competing in a tennis tournament Chaska encountered ‘ball boys’, who were more or less his age helping out at the tournament and using their wages to help support their families. Intrigued, Chaska learnt that their wages consisted of 10 euros a month with 11 hour days; seems like an insufficient wage. Benevolently, after winning second place in the national tournament Chaska donated the prize money to the boys, splitting it equally between them. We take a closer look in this interview …

What would you say were the most shocking contrasts between life in Geneva and Sri Lanka ?

I would have to say the fact that most of the population was poor yet none of them were badly dressed to indicate their economic status. Whereas poorer people in Geneva are be immediately identifiable by their attire. Next would have to be the heat and humidity, of course. The food is Sri Lanka has much more diverse in taste compared to the food here. As well the state of homes and restaurants, which are basically constructed from wood making them appear fragile, which in fact they are.

What is the one most valuable thing you took from this experience ?

This experience, it opened my eyes about how protected I am when I live in Geneva. My reality is not necessarily anyone else’s reality and I really began to appreciate the luxurious life I live here.

How did meeting these boys make you feel ?

Meeting them at first didn’t change much for me as I was concentrated on my first match and I didn’t know they would be there for the whole tournament and receive such a small wage. In the end, they did change. I became more motivated at school and at tennis.

I knew that I wanted to help them after meeting them on my 3rd match and interacting with them, but at the same time I did not know how to give money without looking arrogant or rich. At the end of the tournament, during the award ceremony, I won money as runner up in second place. After the ceremony I spoke to my parents and then to the organiser and the hotel manager funding the tournament wondering if they could split the money in between the ball boys. They cashed the cheque into liquid money to distribute evenly to every ball boy. It was equivalent to 45,000 rupees with his father donating 5000 to evenly split it between all the ball boys.

You don’t have to fly 8,190 km to a less economically developed country to become aware and to help those in a less favourable situation. The beautiful thing to do is have an open heart to all and to appreciate all you have because there are people with so much less. We congratulate Chaska not just for placing so well in the tournament but for having the kind heart to do something that no body made him do, but which he felt was right.

Niya, Year 12