One Young World Profile profiles

Nushelle de Silva

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MSc Architecture

I am passionate about

<p>Post-war reconciliation and reconstruction are my passions, sparked by early skirmishes with intolerance. Taunted because of my colour at school in Sydney, I later moved to Colombo, growing up amidst the bomb drills and curfews of Sri Lanka&#39;s civil war. Especially poignant was a visit, at age sixteen, to a cemetery constructed by the separatist LTTE for their fallen cadres. The innumerable gravestones were a stark reminder of the war&#39;s human toll, and I realised that those I dismissively labelled terrorists were my compatriots. I resolved to spend my own life making amends. I graduated with honours from Princeton University in 2011; my senior thesis analysed the relationship between architectural aesthetics and political violence during Sri Lanka&#39;s civil war, advocating the use of hybrid architectures as a tool for reconciliation. My favourite class, a creative non-fiction seminar with John McPhee, taught me to record sympathetically the stories from displaced communities I have worked with since 2010. Currently, I am devising weekly theatre workshops for the ethnically diverse children of these communities, to nurture self-expression and sustained dialogue. My hope is to effectively use my love of these arts - design, writing, and theatre - to heal wounds and build bridges of trust.</p>


<p>Funded by a postgraduate public service fellowship, I lead weekly arts workshops for schoolchildren in formerly displaced communities, to inspire confidence, communication, and collaboration between ethnically diverse youth. In preparation, I successfully applied for an arts research grant to attend workshops providing instruction in Theatre of the Oppressed (techniques enabling non-actors to lead engaged discussions about social issues) at UT Austin in 2010. I currently serve as administrator for Citizens Initiative - a volunteer-run Trust seeking to empower these communities - handling logistics and expenses for field visits. We have provided agricultural pumps and sprayers, livelihood training, and solar lighting, organised health camps and sports workshops, and constructed a children&#39;s playground of recycled materials, whose construction I supervised. I also drew floor-plans and created BOQs for a community centre in each village, construction of which was largely funded by two further community service grants, including the Davis Projects for Peace Award. At Princeton, I have organised an independent fundraiser for Sri Lanka&#39;s displaced (raising $2000 in three days), tutored prison inmates to reduce inequalities that contributed to their incarceration, volunteered during midterm breaks at an after-school enrichment programme and a community non-profit, and was a volunteer performer for a children&#39;s theatre group.</p>