Reverend Sugathananda, from Sri Lanka, is being sponsored by CONEL’s Assistant Principal – Technical Industries, Marcia Summers, to travel to England and study an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course at CONEL. In return, the Sri Lankan native is delivering meditation classes to staff and students five times a week.
Marcia Summers said: “I met Ragama in 2015 when I was volunteering in Sri Lanka at the women’s development centre. I visited his village and witnessed the great work he was doing there to support the whole community.
“I sponsored him to come to the UK so he could improve his English, to enable him to better talk about and share Sri Lankan culture with others while he is in the UK.
“I was also aware that if he came to CONEL that he could deliver meditation sessions to our students and staff to improve their well-being, so it would be a reciprocal arrangement.
“Ragama’s feedback has been really positive. He’s learning a lot in his English classes which he attends 3 days a week and is enjoying leading his meditation sessions for our students and staff 5 times a week.
“After CONEL he plans to go to temples in Birmingham and Glasgow before returning to Sri Lanka in March.
“The taster sessions were delivered on the staff learning day and started with a brief history of Sri Lanka and an explanation of Metta meditation, which the group were about to take part in. Metta meditation is also known as ‘loving-kindness’ meditation, because it is designed to direct loving-kindness toward the individual and then, in a sequence of expansion, towards somebody who they love, then somebody they are neutral towards, then somebody they have difficulty with, and, ultimately, towards all beings everywhere without distinction.”
The organiser of the event, Louise Webber, said: “It was great to see so many people taking part in a class. It is a fast-paced environment to work in a college, so to have 5 minutes to remove yourself and relax can help so much.”
When asked how his ESOL classes were going, Reverend Ragama Sugathananda said: “It is the best, I have never participated in an English class like this before. Teachers are great and I no longer feel shy. This is a really good experience for my English. It is very good for me.
“Today in our three meditation sessions we had 40, 42 and 36 staff. It’s nice to make them feel relaxed and it went very well!”
Open to all CONEL staff and students, Reverend Ragama Sugathananda will be running sessions at our Tottenham Centre for the duration of his ESOL course.