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The Gavel UOK – From ‘just a club’ to ‘my family at university’

The members speak about life and experiences with the Gavel Club, University of Kelaniya.

“They will make you look at a door and make a speech out of it, you will become innovative and you learn to look at things in a more creative way” Himansa Herath, a semifinalist for All Island Inter University Best Speaker 2015 says, commenting on how the Gavel Club of University of Kelaniya supported her individual development. As the first Gavel Club in South Asia, it has given a second home to many UOK undergrads not to mention the improvement of their public speaking skills.

Himansa Herath

Himansa Herath

Tharindu

Tharindu

Chrishari

Chrishari

Nandula

Nandula

Malith

Malith

Having founded in 2004 the Gavel Club has improved in many aspects thus far. Inter-university Best Speaker contest and Intra-university Best Speaker contest are held every other year, which mark important dates in the UOK events calendar. Bilaal Hassan won the Best Speaker title in the Intra-university contest last year while Chrishari de Alwis Gunasekare and Darshatha Gamage became the Best Prepared Speaker and the Best Impromptu Speaker respectively. Inter-university Best Speaker contest 2015 is currently progressing with 21 semifinalists, ten from University of Kelaniya, six from University of Moratuwa, four from University of Colombo and one from University of Sri Jayawardenepura.

A moment from the Intra-university Best Speaker -2014 (Photography by Pulasthi Bandara)

A moment from the Intra-university Best Speaker -2014 (Photography by Pulasthi Bandara)

‘Unleash Yourself’ is a workshop series that is conducted to improve public speaking skills of the students of local schools, the Gavel family visited three schools in Galle this year. “It is one of the many unforgettable moments as a Gavel member”, Nandula Perera, the current president of the club mentioned, “to see the happy smiles of those children and to hear them say we’re a family.” As an extension to these workshops, the club was able to organise an inter-school Best Speaker contest last year, with the participation from the schools in Colombo, Kelaniya and Mahara educational zones.

Quite contrary to the popular belief, the Gavel Club has not been a place only the English-speaking students get together. According to Chrishari, last year’s Best Prepared Speaker, “you don’t have to be talented to be a member, you can just talk about your personal experiences and how they impacted your life, it actually helps people to feel free and confident about themselves.” “The Gavel Club is basically my extended family in Kelaniya, so every day is an unforgettable day for me,” she says. Himansa who recalled the experience at the last meeting she attended said, “we had two speakers who had never spoken in front a crowd before, the Gavel Club made them talk and has become very impactful.” “I learn at least one thing, every day,” says Chrishari.

A promotional poster by the club

A promotional poster by the club

Malith Rukshan Jayasinghe, 29, although graduated in 2010 is still an enthusiastic member of the Gavel club. Having been an organizing committee member as well as the chairperson of the organising committee for the Intra university Best Speaker contest in his final year, he credits the Gavel club for making him the young entrepreneur he is. “With constant closures and because of various other reasons the uni image was zero back then,” he says, “we in the Gavel Club were fighting out from the bottom and we were able to uplift the image of the university at least to some level.” “The Gavel taught me how to start from scratch experience, and that helped me immensely when I was starting up a new business,” Malith stated.

Interestingly, some members are particularly fond of being in the organising committee other than competing in the best speaker contests. Tharindu Weerasooriya who is a third year undergraduate joined the Gavel last year and is now a very active member of the organising committee for the Inter – university Best Speaker contest. “Because of the Gavel Club, I know so many undergrads outside my own faculty,” he says, “it is so much fun you know, to interact with people and get to know various personalities.”

A Gavel Club member speaks at an educational meeting organised by the club. (Photography - Gavel UOK Facebook profile)

A Gavel Club member speaks at an educational meeting organised by the club. (Photography – Gavel UOK Facebook profile)

Malith Jayasinghe provided remarkable insights about his experience as an organiser. He says, “organizers are unsung in most cases despite their effort is in multiple times higher than that of a contestant.” “And the good thing about that is they get used NOT to get recognised which is a good learning.” He offered food for thought, “Endurance levels go up that way because you simply do not care even if you are not recognized cause you are so used to that, and you realise the fact it is ok not to get recognised knowing that it does not demean the work that you have already done.” “I never regret not showing my face up on stage back then,” he said.

All the members I interviewed associated ‘family’ with the Gavel Club and I thought it really says something unexplainable about the club. “Why haven’t you left the club yet, you’re 29?” I had to ask Malith. He promptly said, “I have seen brilliant speakers acting so small and humble who would just hold a hand of a person who is even struggling to utter a word in a foreign language which she/he is not very familar with, and I have a fair deal of respect over that mentality.”

Isurinie Mallawaarachchi

Department of English

Faculty of Humanities


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