Gemma Brookes - Care & Community in Sri Lanka
On 28 June 2015, I travelled to Sri Lanka. I have always been interested in the world and the many different cultures, but this was my first time traveling alone. The Projects Abroad staff was very helpful and made preparations for my trip so simple.
Arriving in Sri Lanka
By the time I reached Sri Lanka, I was very excited to meet my host family and supervisors; I stayed with Mr Sameera, his wife Nisansala and their young daughter Resandi in their home in Kotikawatta (a suburb of Colombo city). The entire family were very friendly and welcoming and were always approachable.
I shared a room with another girl who was on the same project as me, she was from New Zealand. Throughout my time in Sri Lanka I enjoyed teaching Resandi games and playing with her and her friends. I also was always impressed with Nisansalas cooking, which always resulted in tasty food and gave me a real ‘taste’ of Sri Lanka.
On weekdays, along with fellow volunteers, I worked in Sadae Pre-school in Kolonnawa. Everyone at the school was very friendly and it felt as if our work was very much appreciated by both teachers and children.
In the mornings we taught the children simple English (such as the alphabet), played games, taught dances (like the Macarena), helped them make fun art (like clown hats) and joined them on the playground. Then in the afternoon we painted a mural of transport methods on an old wall in the school.
It was a great chance to get to know the other volunteers and be creative. In the evenings our supervisors often planned local trips, which included a beach in Colombo, Seema Malaka Temple (a beautiful Buddhist water temple), yoga, a cooking lesson with the winner of Sri Lanka’s MasterChef and bowling.
Unfortunately, possibly due to food changes or the humidity increase, I got ill during my first week. The supervisors, however, were very efficient in getting me to a hospital and stayed with me at all times.
My experience in Sri Lanka
At the weekend the volunteers came together for a two day trip to Kandy, a mythical city in the mountains which was culturally significant. We also explored a market, one of my favourite experiences! During the evening we watched a traditional show on Kandy’s dances, and then headed to our overnight hotel where we ate pizza by candlelight due to power cuts. The next day we visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, a Buddhist temple and UNESCO world heritage site.
I enjoyed my visit to Sri Lanka as I got to experience what everyday life in this wonderful country. I also found it satisfying to know I made a lasting impression on Sadae Pre-school, by teaching and painting a wall that was damaged and drab. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.
On the last day we visited the temple next to Sadae Pre-school with the children. We then said our goodbyes and exchanged gifts. I made some good friends on the trip and met some great people, everyone was so friendly and Sri Lanka is a beautiful place with so much to offer. It was hard to say goodbye to my lovely host family, supervisors and fellow volunteers.