Mangaluru, Aug 24: Sonia Cathy Lasrado, the daughter of Clifford and Queeni Lasrado, residents of Holy Family Anegundi Ward, was invited by Friends Forever International (FFI), a global organization headquartered in Durham, NH, USA. FFI collaborates with middle and high school students, senior citizens, professional leadership groups, civic organizations, and more, emphasizing individual leadership and community-level action. The organization conducts a Global Immersion Program, and Sonia was chosen to participate.
FFI, a non-profit organization with campuses on two continents, offers cross-cultural trips for individuals regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or socio-economic status. The program aims to foster international and domestic experiences. This year's program was held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, from August 9, 2023, to August 19, 2023. Representatives were selected from Austria, Brazil, Canada, India, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Turkey, with Sonia representing India.
The program focuses on helping participants gain a deeper understanding of themselves, their community's challenges, and the skills needed to address these issues. The intensive phase covers FFI’s core curriculum sessions, service-learning activities, authentic community interactions, and personalized activities that promote collaborative leadership.
During the ten-day program, the representatives from different countries lived together without technology and followed a 100% plant-based diet. Their daily schedule included sessions on self-discovery through life mapping, identity workshops, and communication improvement. Each representative shared insights about their culture, supported by photographs from their home country. In addition to classroom sessions, the group engaged in physical activities such as meditation, trekking, hiking, games, beach visits, and farm tours.
The group also connected with local youth groups to understand their role in the community, held discussions with organizations providing health and wellness services to rural areas, gained insights into political life through meetings with the Northern Ireland Assembly, and participated in various other activities.
As part of the leadership program, participants were trained to develop creative, sustainable, and effective solutions to address challenges within their communities. This involved refining their public speaking skills, dedicating considerable time and effort to crafting speeches, receiving feedback, and supporting one another in improving their delivery. FFI Global Alumni served as program counselors, guiding sessions and mentoring participants throughout the program.
Sonia Lasrado is a student of 1st PUC at St Aloysius PU College in Mangaluru. The guidance and support from Friends Forever International continue to assist her and other participants in their community initiatives.