Thursday, November 16, 2006

My visit to Sri Lanka,
January 2006-March 2006

In January this year, I travelled to Sri Lanka as a HelpLanka volunteer. I spent two months coaching sports, teaching English, donating gifts to children in orphanages and also working with children who had been made homeless by the tsunami in December 2004. My two months spent in Sri Lanka were both enjoyable and rewarding whilst at times being very moving.
I visited Sri Lanka with only a limited knowledge of the country, its culture and traditions. When it became time to leave however, I had grown to feel at home in this place of vibrant colours, exotic foods and cricket-loving people.

I spent most of my time in Moratuwa, a busy suburb, south of the capital Colombo. My main role for HelpLanka was as a sports coach, and this took me into a number of local schools where I worked with children from as young as 3 up to 19 year olds. The devastating impact of the tsunami, that occurred 13 months before my visit, had had a massive effect, leaving many homeless and large numbers without possessions and without hope for the future.
Through my coaching sessions, I tried to create activities that would provide enjoyment and also improve the children’s confidence and self-esteem. During these sessions the children were able to use skills that they would otherwise be unable to practise in a normal classroom environment, such as teamwork and leadership. The language barrier was easily overcome as the children were enthusiastic and extremely co-operative at the mere sight of a cricket ball!! I was also lucky enough to have many more experiences during my stay including teaching English to a group of 10 year olds and also visiting an orphanage in Moratuwa.

These experiences enabled to me to build up a picture of the destruction caused by the tsunami, and as a result I was able to provide feedback highlighting the best use for some of the donations received by HelpLanka. Hopefully by doing this, the areas that were identified as in needing most aid, will be the first to benefit from the money raised by HelpLanka and also the services provided by Serve. By working with HelpLanka and also people in Sri Lanka I was able to build up information on each school that I visited, which will hopefully be of use in the future when money and other forms of aid are distributed out amongst all of the HelpLanka projects.
My two months in Sri Lanka seemed to fly by, and before I knew, it was time to come home. During my stay, I ate Sri Lankan food, travelled by tri-shaw, went on safari in search of leopards and elephants and joined in traditional festivals! I stayed with a Sri Lankan family which enabled me make friends straight away and have local knowledge whenever I needed it! The people I met were very friendly and always grateful for the help and support that was being given to them.

Every day the terrible effects of the tsunami were there for me to see. Whether it was the shortage of equipment, the lack of anywhere to play, the fact that most children could not afford uniforms or the many stories told of children who had lost homes and family members. It is hard to leave knowing that there is so much left to do, but only through many small contributions, and the work of HelpLanka, will more children receive the help they need to firstly survive and then to build a better future for themselves.


Post a Comment

<< Home