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A Happy Ending by Sylvie Bousselet   (published in Sri Lanka)

June 1, 2010 by   Comments(0)

  There's a beginning and an ending to every good story... Sylvie from France tells us hers...

The beginning: two years and half ago, in October November 2007, I undertook my first humanitarian project  with Projects Abroad; October 15th, arriving for the first time in Colombo, the following days I began to work in a village, the morning in a Montessori with children from 3 to 5, and at Jagadallah Temple orphanage with 36 boys from 6 to 18, in the afternoon (English lessons, art and sport activities). It was a great challenge for me and in the same time a very great experience that I will never forget. I learnt a lot.

Then, as I had taken a sabbatical year, I went to Cambodia for a project with orphans in Phnom Penh and in Peru to work in a pre-school.

Time went on but I was still thinking of the 36 boys that I had met in Sri Lanka; I was really proud of them; they cooked, cleaned their rooms, washed their clothes -- do not forget that in Sri Lanka they go to school wearing white clothes, still very white even if it is raining (magic !….ask them how they do it) --.repaired the building, gardening, and so on…and have few possessions of their own. .

I wanted to go back to Sri Lanka, to visit them and my host family as well, nevertheless I considered a visit too personal a goal to justify going there; I wanted to do something useful for them.

Last summer, a light lit-up in my head: a library!

Now: 2010, time for the New Year, time to announce my little project to Projects Abroad office in Colombo; it was important for me to inform them and to obtain their support. Gishan gave me encouragements as soon as I told him. So, in February I was organizing my trip and as I have an Irish friend, living in France, I explained to her my idea to launch a small library for the « boys » and asked her if she or her Anglophone friends might have some second-hand English books to donate. She was totally interested in this idea and sent an email to a group of friends; finally, eight days later, her husband collected more than 60 kg of English-language books! Amazing. It was a chance, someone from Chambery came to Paris (600 km) with all the books that I had to collect to a meeting point; as luggage allowance from Sri Lankan airlines was 30 kilos, I made a large choice of beautiful illustrated books, some of them reference books such as atlases and illustrated dictionaries. It was nice to do it: books were everywhere on the ground and table at home! Finally, my luggage was full of a beautiful collection. Ready to go, I left Friday March 19th with this heavy suitcase, 12° in Paris, and arrived the day after in Colombo, 37° at the airport !!! waouhh….but happy to be here again.

I spent the week-end acclimatising myself and on Monday, to follow my first plan, I went to a bookshop to buy books in Sinhalese as it was important that they could read in their mother tongue. When I explained to a seller what I was looking for, she helped me to find and after a while her colleagues did as well! it was funny. Finally, I chose 65 reference books, about Sri Lanka and the world, atlases, Sinhalese-English dictionaries, one more with pictures for the small boys, and some story books. With this collection and my luggage of 100 English books, I was like a mobile library!

Tuesday morning, Charley and Shyamalee picked me up at the hotel and I met all the team in the new office before going to the orphanage with Charley and Elise who helped me. It was nice to make the trip in their company; we had a lot to say. Then, when we arrived there, I recognized some of boys (some had left and some were new as the office team explained to me) but apparently when I saw how they were surprised to see me, I guess that the monks did not advise them about my visit.

By the way, we showed all the books to the Head Monk and he told me that he would insert a stamp in each book. I said it would be good to buy a bookcase to display the books, that I would donate. He accepted and asked me tp come back in the afternoon, between 4 and 5, to organize the donation. In the meantime, I met my host family again and it was a very nice moment. At 4, I went with Dinesha (a member of this family; I worked with her in the Montessori in 2007, but now it is closed and she has no job for the moment). A young Monk welcomed us and after a while, he said that they had no time to find a bookcase so I had to come back the day after at the same time. I was a little upset and stayed with the boys to chat. I asked them where was the ball and the net to play volley ball (as I know they played in the past and were really good). They answered « no ball»….I said, tomorrow I will come back with one! I saw them smiling…and the day after I had a volley-ball for them + a net ! and some balloons to blow up for the small boys. Again, the young Monk told me they had no bookcase and I had to come back. I was really upset….. I gathered the boys together and decided to offer them what I promised; they were so happy that they decided to hang up the net and play immediately. It was good to see them having fun together. Then, after 15 minutes, they wanted to play a match and asked me to keep score.

As I did not want to delay the donation for the boys, suddenly I had an idea; I asked Dinesha’s husband (Sunanda) to make the bookcase as he was unemployed. He was so happy to do something useful, that I was happy too, and Dinesha as well. I sketched the design, noted the dimensions, gave him money for the materials and money for his salary; and after some days of travelling, I came back the 1st April to the orphanage to end up the project. I had accomplished a final stage : put a stamp inside the 165 books !!!! wonderful !!! « Methsisila Library donated by Sylvie Bousselet and her friends from France » ; with the help of Dinesha, Sunanda, (and the little niece Thanuli, 1 year and half, so quiet and patient) we formed a team and completed the task. After that, we organized the books on the shelves by themes, and separately, Sinhalese on left, English on right, and some white paper with colours paintings and pens ; Dinesha had written nice labels in the two languages and the Indian Proverb that I like so much which was the message I told the boys  : « A book closed is a friend waiting for you ; a book open is a friend teaching you ».

The project is done. I am happy to give a possibility to these boys to travel a while reading, or to imagine a world with the pictures of the stories, ….it is important to learn but also to create one’s own world…

It is a small library but as I wrote to Gishan before launching it : « It will be like a garden where everyone can plant a seed »….so I hope that every volunteer will bring one or two books in the future, in his or her luggage, for an orphanage or any place where children live…..

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A Happy Ending by Sylvie Bousselet
A Happy Ending by Sylvie Bousselet