A life in the day…Sri Lanka
My day starts at 6.30am when my alarm goes off. Of course, I set it to snooze a couple of times and eventually get up at 7am. This will no doubt change when my room mates arrive in the next couple of weeks. The morning starts with a nice cold shower (eurgh!) just as the call to school starts up from over the road. This is a collection of songs, blessings, prayers and chants to remind the students to get a move on and lasts for about half an hour. Once I’m ready, complete with sun cream and insect repellant, breakfast is a bowl of cornflakes and a yogurt then it’s off to catch the bus. There’s one about every 10 minutes and it’s only 20 metres or so to the bus stop. Once on board we travel slowly for 10km to get to work – for the price of 18p! Work is at an orphanage for girls with learning and physical disabilities – although for a couple of them the ‘disability’ is dyslexia and those are the girls who need lots of stimulation. In the mornings I work with the adults who don’t go to school. Some of the girls have been abandoned by their families. Those that can usefully work after the age of 20 do so, the others stay here and help look after the youngsters, do the washing in the river, help cook meals and keep the place tidy. We generally spend our mornings doing puzzles, playing games and having a go at art and craft work, with varying degrees of success. We then serve lunch for the school aged girls (and the boy or two who live there as well). It’s rice and curry, brought each day by neighbours in turn and usually fish based. We put a helping each onto a metal plate and put each serving ready for the girls when they come back from school. As you can imagine, doing sixty meals takes a while, so food is usually cold by the time the girls eat. My lunch comes from the remainder of the food, although it’s taken from its large plastic bowls and put into nice china ones before it then goes onto my plate!
In the afternoons my ‘class’ grows to nearly sixty! Sometimes we play games with the parachute or the basketball, other times we do colouring in. We’ve done a lot and one wall of the dining room is now covered in artwork.
At about 3pm I tidy up and cross the road to wait for the bus. The journey home is always quicker, and if you sit too close to the back of the bus you get shaken and jolted with every pothole – and there are lots. The stop I get off at has a man selling fish there too – real ones for keeping in a tank, not ones for eating. My host family are still at work so the maid lets me in. She’ll bring me a drink and insist that it’s her job to do my washing, as I clearly can’t work the machine! My host family are lovely. The dad works for the electricity board and has a good level of English, the mum works for the health department and tries hard with her English. I’m picking up a bit of Singhala at work, but it’s not really any use in conversation (pencil, paper, elephant, monkey, flower…). The youngest son is still at home, he’s 20 and we watch the cricket and the football on the TV together. His English is quite good, but he is reluctant to use it. The house is large and my room is upstairs, complete with my own bathroom (no bath, of course, just a shower). Afternoons and evenings then involve reading, listening to music, talking to my host family or perhaps a trip to the beach to watch the sea which takes 10 minutes. The sea isn’t good for swimming in, it’s far too rough. Other times I’ll go to Kaluthera which is the town, it’s 4km away so that takes probably just over half an hour. There are lots of shops there, some only sell on thing, like seats for the car, others are confusing. A ‘hotel’ is really a café, and a ‘bookshop’ also sells a wide range of craft equipment. I got a jigsaw puzzle from a shop that seemed to be selling mostly plastic things for the home. At the moment, it’s still monsoon season, which means at any moment it might rain, so my umbrella is my constant companion, along with my hat, my sun cream and my camera.
Weekends are different. I get to meet up with the other volunteers who currently range in age from 17 to 50 and come from all over the world. We travel to distant parts of Sri Lanka. Parts that would take someone living in England a couple of hours to reach take anything up to six hours, due to a combination of bad roads, strange driving and an overcrowded public transport system. So far I’ve been to the rainforest, a National Park where we saw wild elephants rather close up, a beach which has a Coral conservation area and the ‘Ancient Cities’ which are the ruins of civilisations from 2500 years ago. When we were at the Ancient Cities – which are between four and six hours drive from each other – it was Poya weekend, which means the Buddhists were celebrating a full moon. They do this every month, so every full moon is a day off work. It meant that the ruins and temples we had gone to visit were very busy and everywhere we went people were staring at these six white girls, wondering what we were doing there.
On Sunday evenings I get a chance to use the internet at home and catch up with my journal, as well as reading the Sunday paper. Sri Lankan English is very different to the way we use English, so sometimes I have to read it several times to work out what it’s saying. It’s warm at night, so I have a fan on and have to sleep under a mosquito net which makes my bed look like something a princess might sleep in. I fight with it most nights when I forget it’s there!
By Marion Frankland
I’m Yvonne van Persie, 24 years old and from the Netherlands. In my first month I’m working in Karapitiya (near Galle) in the Ruhunu Orphanage. I’ve collected some funds from family, friends, neighbors and from people in the restaurant where I work in the Netherlands.
The travel with the vans
With the money I’ve collected I arranged a trip for a group of the children for one whole day! At Wednesday morning 14th of July we went with two big vans to the orphanage. There were 18 children coming on the daytrip and 11 adults (staff members from the orphanage and volunteers from Projects Abroad). The children were very excited and when we left the orphanage at 9.30 o’clock, they couldn’t stop saying ‘bye, bye’ to all the people on the street! It was really adorable to see and hear!
The beach (Unawatuna)
First we took the children to a small, quiet beach in Unawatuna. When one boy, who looks like the boss of all the kids, saw the sea, he started crying and didn’t want to come near the water.. We were all a little bit surprised, but laughing. Unfortunately for him, the sea ruined his image;). The kids were allowed to go in the water en play with the toys I bought for them, under good supervision of all the staff members and the volunteers of course! The kids loved it! The directress told me that some of the kids have never left the orphanage, so it was really good for them! Everybody got some water and yoghurt.
After the beach the children could shower near the hotel where we had lunch. The lunch was real Sri Lankan food, so the kids (and the volunteers also!) filled up our tummies! For the children there was also a special Sri Lankan, very sweet, dessert!
Around 13.45 o’clock we went back with the vans to Galle. There the kids could play in park, which they were really enjoying! We drunk some apple and orange juice and eat some biscuits. They were sitting so sweet together! After that we walked to the Dutch Fort. We had to catch our big guy again, when he saw the bridge over the water we had to cross;) Unfortunately it started to rain, so we decided to go to a museum instead of a walk through the fort. After that we went back to the orphanage, where we arrived at four o’clock. It was a very exhausting day for the kids, which you could see immediately, because the half of the children slept right away on their beds, chairs and even sitting on the ground!
I couldn’t take pictures of the day, because of the privacy of the children. But believe me when I see that the children had the time of their lives! Their smiles say enough to me! I want to thank all of the sponsors in Netherlands for making this trip possible! And of course a big thanks to all the volunteers that helped me on this big day!
I also spend a little money for the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Karapitiya Hospital. This was for buying cleaning stuff, because they had bacteria that infected two healthy patients. With the cleaning stuff they’ll hope to be running again this week!
There’s a travel quote I love that says the following: “Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do then by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” - Mark Twain. And that’s exactly what I, in my case, did... I dreamed, I abandoned my safe harbor in Spain and I went exploring in Sri Lanka.
And Twain is right, I’m never going to regret this trip.
My firsts days in Sri Lanka were difficult -as the culture shock was hitting hard. It isn’t that easy to get into a totally different culture, all by yourself, and live there. But, as they say, time heals everything... and the pain of leaving home soon disappeared. My host family was great (Malika’s house in Demanhandiya, Negombo) as was the pre-school and orphanage there. Every morning we went to the pre-school and stayed with the almost 60 kids, trying to teach them some basic english and make them talk. We sang, drew, talked and played. Then, we had lunch and in the afternoon we went to the orphanage, where we helped with some tasks but most of all stayed with the kids.
I’m not going to explain my trip (I have an online blog of everything: www.ceylonvolunteeringtrip.blogspot.com) because I prefer to explain my highs and lows of the whole trip.
What I’ve learned is impossible to teach to someone else, you have to experience it yourself. Living with the basics during three weeks is awesome, and in no time you start enjoying and appreciating everything 100% more. It’s silly how long you have to travel to figure this out. To wake up every morning with a coffee and then going to the pre-school to teach the kids some English... how can we call that? I think Paradise. And its not only because of what I did I call it paradise, its also because of everything you get back from the people around you, the kids, the host family, the village people... Always smiling, always a cheerful “Hello” when you pass by, always a laugh... incredible.
Of course, you also experience some lows. I remember all the times we went to Negombo town, and all the people we saw there asking for money on the streets. Its hard to see very thin, old, maybe blind or cripple people at every corner, but what can we do about it? Also all the stories behind the kids at the orphanage were hard to listen to... but that’s reality. I still think everyday of a boy at the orphanage. He’s 15 years old, and due to the fact that I’m only 17, it was difficult to see a boy almost my age living in a total different way than I and even so, being able so smile. It made me realize that we’ve got so much and we don’t even appreciate it. Yes, carpe diem, enjoy.
I would like to thank everyone taking part in this mind-opening trip: Malika and her family, Projects Abroad Staff, all the other volunteers (specially my room mate Krystel) and most of all, the kids, that even though they might be small, I learned everything from them.
I’m never going to forget this experience, it was perfect. I encourage everyone to to this, it really makes you grow and see the world in a different way.
Tara Siches, Holland - Spain.
July 27th, Delft - Holland.
"Closing time - time for you to go out, go out into the world...
Closing time - you don't have to go home but you can't stay here...
Closing time - every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end"
It's really time to go. I'm packed (almost) and I'm being picked up to be taken to the airport in about 4 hours time. I don't want to leave; I've been made to feel so welcome at home and made some good relationships with the girls at work that it feels so much longer than 2 months since I said goodbye to the UK. I've even just had the pleasure of a free trip on the bus thanks to one of my regular conductors on the way to work!
Things I have learnt:
I am practical, proactive and (apparently) stylish. I'll do what I see needs doing, and not just make plans to do it which I then forget about when things get tough. You can't change the world, but you can help to make it a little better in places.
And some advice if you're thinking of coming to Sri Lanka:
Don't bring a white towel to Sri Lanka, it will only show how badly you have cleaned yourself in the shower (feet in particular never seem to be clean!)
Keep your eyes open. On my way to work I've seen more animals than I saw on safari. Elephant, lizard, bearded dragon, giant lizard (water monitor I think it's called), porcupine, mongoose, giant snail, millipedes, rat, giant spiders, water buffalo, parakeets, monkeys, fireflies and of course dogs, cats and cows. I've also seen the variety of life than is Sri Lanka - men pouring over the pages of the Race Card, women at the temple, men playing cards outside the coffin shop, children at school.
Ride the buses. They can get so crowded you have to stand on the steps and hang out the door (don't tell my mum!) and they take an age to get anywhere but they are dead cheap. If you have a seat you may end up with someone elses' shopping on your lap, or yours on theirs. There's always a lot to see out of the windows too. Just make sure you have your fare ready in your hand when you get on, it's a bit hard to rescue money from a purse with only one hand!
Try it!! Eating local food, eating with your hands, that small restaurant on the corner that looks like it's never seen a foreigner before. You are in another country, embrace the culture. Actually, the food isn't usually that hot, so eating with your fingers isn't as hard as it sounds (and it makes me eat faster?!)
See as much of the country as you can. Ok, it takes a while to get anywhere, but it's beautiful. Go on a train, for the journey as well as the destination.
Stop and talk to people. Everyone wants to know where you are from and what you are doing in their country, particularly in the places that don't get tourists very often.
Accept that if you are working in a residential setting with children you WILL get head lice. Make sure you take a comb with you and check regularly. :)
Don't expect people to leave a comment on your blog to let you know they are reading it. They will pass messages in mysterious ways by other means.
SO, Projects Abroad gave us some cash for paint and stuff...let's see what we did with it!!
That's the dining room - now one tone of paint complete with fish, flowers and butterflies
That's part of the garden before...
...and after. The rest of it looks pretty good too, but you're going to have to wait for photos :)
Hip hop, breaking, popping, locking... These were the moves we were all showing off last week at Wadduwa Town Hall. Break dancing outfit from Switzerland, the ABCrew, were kind enough to share their talents with around 60 school kids from the Panadura and Mawala areas.
"Every Sri Lankan can dance!" said one of the group's members, Sebastian Rajakaruna... And it turns out he was right! Everyone got amongst it...
Milk packets and cream buns galore, the kids and volunteers danced their socks off. The crew taught us an hour of hip hop followed by an hour of break dancing. Gishan got some real cred after pulling off an awesome headstand!
The final treat was a performance from the professionals… they lit up the stage with flips, helicopters and incredible holds. Seeing the kids breaking it down was brilliant too. I’m sure the kids’ parents were tearing their hair out all night while the mini b-boys were breaking furniture all over the house! It was such a super day and it’s certain that the children will remember it for a long time!
By Ayesha Cubukcu
Dans le cadre de mes études je devais réaliser un stage professionnel à l’étranger et plus particulièrement dans un pays anglophone. Apres avoir fais de nombreuses recherches je tombe sur l’annonce de Projects Abroad, recherchant une personne francophone pour travailler dans le service des anciens volontaires, a Colombo, au Sri Lanka, après avoir passée plusieurs entretiens, me voila sélectionnée pour ce poste et prête a faire mes valises ! Les jours précédents le départ, j’étais très angoissée, stressée, allais-je réussir à m’intégrer ? Où allais-je atterrir ? …
Apres 12 heures d’avion dont une escale a Dubaï, j’arrive enfin à l’aéroport de Colombo, le chauffeur de Projects Abroad me reconnait immédiatement et me conduit dans un hôtel : Indra regent hotel. Premier repas du midi, attention très spicy, la rumeur est donc vrai : les sri lankais mangent vraiment épicé.
Le soir venu je rencontre la responsable du réseau alumni (anciens volontaires), avec qui je vais travailler durant plusieurs mois, nous prenons un tuk tuk pour aller au restaurant et en même temps en profiter pour visiter un peu la ville, cet a ce moment la que je me suis vraiment senti en Asie : le tuk tuk, la chaleur étouffante, les paysages, les palmiers, les noix de coco et les bouchons !
Le jour suivant je rencontre une autre membre de l’équipe, qui est allemande, ce qui fait au moins 2 européens à Colombo ! Tout en regardant le match entre l’Allemagne et l’Angleterre, ma future collègue de travail m’explique son expérience, me raconte quelques anecdotes, la culture sri lankaise, les choses à faire, a ne pas faire… après un copieux repas et la victoire des allemands !! Je retourne à l’hôtel, enthousiaste a l’idée de rencontrer l’ensemble de l’équipe de Projects Abroad.
Mon premier jour de travail fut tres instructif, j’ai vu le fonctionnement du bureau, l’équipe en charge de la logistique et de la gestion des volontaires, l’équipe chargée de tout ce qui est informatique et ma future équipe responsable du suivi des anciens volontaires. J’ai également pu apercevoir la gentillesse de la population sri lankaise et leur sens de l’hospitalité.
Le lendemain, je suis allée visiter les missions dans lesquelles les volontaires sont placés, cette journée fut tres éprouvante pour moi, notamment lors de la visite de l’orphelinat pour enfants handicapés, ou malgré le manque de moyen, la population est très accueillante et généreuse. Je me suis rendu compte qu’il y avait beaucoup de besoins et que les volontaires font preuve de beaucoup de courage et de dévouement. Les familles d’accueil ont des maisons typiques magnifiques et sont surtout très hospitalières.
Ce que j’ai beaucoup apprécié durant cette semaine fut le dépaysement total, le choc des cultures mais aussi les rencontres de personnes venant du monde entier : Danemark, Allemagne, France, Angleterre, Etats Unis, Singapour, Philippine, Australie et Sri Lanka bien sur !
J’espère que les autres semaines seront aussi intéressante que celle que je viens de vivre, j’ai hâte de parcourir cette ville mais surtout ce pays qui semble être magnifique, de faire de nombreuses rencontres qui me permettront de mieux connaitre cette culture a part entière et d’autres encore.
This week the kids at Modarawila Tsunami Camp got into their Sunday finest and ran a special fete selling fruits and vegetables. Dressed in blouses and skirts, the children sold melons, papayas, lychees and jackfruit at bargain prices! A couple of the volunteers working at Welapitiya Montessori and Malamulla wandered around to pick up some goodies.
SO, I thought since I've been here a while I should let you know what I'm doing when I'm not swanning around the country!
My host family are lovely - Mum and Dad are Lanka and UK, then there's Rayan who at the moment seems to be taking a lot of leave from work to study (=staring into space ;) ). There's a German Shepherd called Blackie and a 'lady what does' called Mala. I have my own room and the other two volunteers are sharing the other room. It's a great house, the food is lovely and the family are really friendly.
Work, now that's a different matter. I'm at an orphange for girls with special needs. Although it's not really an orphange in the truest sense of the word since a lot of the girls go home for the holidays. Oh, and there's some boys living there too! Anyway, there are about 65 girls and women there, most of them go to school and those that don't are expected to help out around the house - cleaning, cooking, washing, looking after the younger girls. On my first day there, they gave me a class of 6 teenage girls and said 'teach them'. These girls don't speak English, I don't speak Sinhala (I'm getting better, but then I had no words at all) and I didn't know where they were at. We did some numbers and some colouring and then they went off for a music lesson and I didn't see them again.
The next day I stayed up at the house and helped occupy/stimulate the ladies who don't go to school. We do puzzles, play games, draw, make things from tissue paper, make necklaces and generally have a lovely time. I have lunch there, which is always rice and curry and is supplied by someone locally as 'alms' - usually in remembrance of a family member.
I have done some other things too. When I arrived I didn't know anyone's name and no one seemed able to tell me. There's now an information sheet on each girl; name, photo, disability, family circumstances, likes and dislikes. That's taken a while to get all the info that I need from files, particularly since most of the files are not in English! Since Natalie, another volunteer, has arrived we've also cleaned the back wall which is painted but was so dirty that you couldn't see the pictures any more and redecorated the dining room.
It's the same hours as at home 8.30am-3pm. I sometimes stay a bit longer, if I'm in the middle of something, but things get more than a bit chaotic once the girls come up from school at 1.30pm. With lots of volunteers there it's easier to manage, but when it was just me it was hectic.
I'm glad I've been here, I'd like to think that I've made a difference, apart from the weekly de-lousing sessions!
Another bunch of graduates collected their certificates from Projects Abroad’s Mawala IT Centre. Arnaud, Tom, Laura and Martin were there to give the honours. Arnaud and Tom have been working hard at the IT Centre over the past couple of months, teaching the children basic Word, Xcel and internet skills which they can use for life. We would like to thank the boys and teacher Kaushalya for their hard work once again!
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