Youth compose the most precious resource in every country yet
remain in many lands among the most underutilized. Especially is this so in Asia where
young people make up more than one-half of the total population, and unemployment or
underemployment are often the lot of the majority. Without jobs in sight, young folk are
easily discouraged from using fully opportunities for self-development. In turn, they lack
the skills that would make them useful. Thwarted in their ambitions, they fail to discover
the creative satisfaction of disciplined, productive work, and their country's development
suffers the loss of their latent talents.
Fourteen years ago when Brother HERMENEGILD JOSEPH first looked at the desolate slopes
of scrub jungle surrounding the water tank on Orange Hill of Ragama Town Council near
Colombo, his mind's eye saw beyond the inauspicious appearance. With imaginative
determination he chose this 44.53-hectare site for the Brothers of Christian Schools to
provide refuge and redirection for very poor, orphaned and handicapped boys, and
delinquents released to them from correctional institutions. Diyagala Boys' Town opened in
1963 in makeshift buildings with an entering class of 25 youngsters.
Today the hillsides have been transformed. Neat gardens, farms, dormitory, workshops,
livestock and poultry enclosures, and a chapel all tell of contributions in kind and
effort to create the Sri Lanka Technical Institute. This certificate-granting arm of
Diyagala Boys' Town is schooling for a responsible life 315 youths, aged 14 to 20, in
scientific agriculture and practical trades. More than education, it provides a rounded,
character-forming experience with a guiding philosophy expressed in the motto, "Deeds
Diyagala Boys' Town cooperates with the government assault on unemployment that seeks
alternatives to the futile hunt for white collar jobs by cultivating pride in the art and
dignity of the craftsman's and farmer's skills and performance. Hard manual work in field
and workshop under strict, competent supervision is part of the four-year curriculum.
Income generated from machine and carpentry shops, farms and livestock covers most running
costs. "Corporations," with rotating membership of as many boys as a job
requires, are accountable for every activity from housekeeping, water management, meat
processing, a bakery, crops, roads and equipment to sports. A point system instills
cooperation and healthy competition among these teams. Responsible democracy is taught by
participation in the tribunal that judges guilt for wrongdoing.
With a waiting list of over 2,000 seeking entrance, word has spread that the Institute
offers a future, for its skilled, diligent graduates are readily employed. Neighbors come
to learn and buy planting material at a highland extension center raising seed, potatoes
and vegetables, and at other stations specializing in rice, coconuts and mixed-farming.
All are a tribute to the nine De La Salle Brothers and a lay staff of 10. Special credit
belongs to the dynamic 60-year-old French Founder Director whose thorough planning, shrewd
enlistment of local and foreign support, and efficient organization has permitted rapid
progression from land clearing to creating a thriving showcase of the power of teaching
boys to take confidence in themselves and their work.
In electing Rev. Brother HERMENEGILD JOSEPH to receive the 1976 Ramon Magsaysay Award
for Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his effective teaching of skills,
values and discipline that build underprivileged and delinquent boys into self-respecting,