Dalal Al-Ghanim - Care & Community in Sri Lanka
I specifically chose to volunteer in Sri Lanka as I wanted to do something completely different this summer. I wanted to have an adventure and make a difference and, for me, Sri Lanka ticked all the boxes.
When I arrived in Sri Lanka a million and one thoughts raced through my mind. My anxiety, however, quickly vanished the second I met the Projects Abroad team because the manager was there to greet the other volunteers and myself. He was lovely and welcoming, which made me feel at ease instantly. We took a lovely drive from Colombo to where our project would be in Panadura.
Host family and induction
The Peiris’ were our host family in Panadura. They were, hands down, the most welcoming and warm people I’ve ever met. Once we had settled they told us, ‘Sing, dance, laugh. Anything. This is your house for the next two weeks.’ We joked that they were our adoptive parents, calling them mum and dad. They had two sons who also made us all feel welcomed by watching movies with us and playing card games.
During our induction our supervisor, Nicky, told us what her plan was for the next two weeks and general things we should expect whilst in Sri Lanka. It was great to meet her and listen to all her experiences, as she herself had not been living in Sri Lanka for long. We cleared up any questions we had, which also added to my comfort. We were always informed of what was going on and were kept in the know.
The next day Nicky and Aruni gave us a tour of the main spots in Panadura in order for us to get our bearings and see more of the town we would be living in for the next two weeks.
The Care & Community placement
The work at the Montessori was honestly the best experience I have ever had. The children were all so loving and just wanted love and attention, which we were more than happy to give. We all grew very attached to one another.
Even after a few days the children started calling us ‘akka’ (meaning sister) and it was so heart-warming to hear. We started to get into the routine after a couple of days. Every day was filled with learning, laughter, love and a lot of posing for the hundreds of photos we took! By the end of the trip the children had become great photographers themselves.
The contrast between the nerves prior to Sri Lanka and the comfort and happiness during my stay was unimaginable. With the help of the Projects Abroad team and the wonderful placement, my trip was the best experience of my life so far.
On a typical day the children would arrive in the morning and say with daily prayers. We then gave the children a small task to complete before they had their warm milk. We helped the children with some fun arts and crafts activities (my personal favourite was making elephant masks and the children loved it), then they had their meal. We also got to try the food, which was great as we got to taste authentic, everyday Sri Lankan food.
If the weather was good we took the fun to the garden area where the children were free to run around and get fresh air. The end of the school day came way too soon, but when it did we all stood in a circle and sang songs together. Some days involved more academic activities, such as teaching them the English alphabet (which many of them impressively knew), colours, numbers and more.
Sri Lanka is the ideal place to go to do voluntary work especially if it is your first time volunteering. It really does live up to its reputation as the jewel of the Indian Ocean. The beaches that stretch for miles, the breath-taking views, the loving people who welcome you into their community with open arms, the exotic spicy food, the chaotic atmosphere, everything! All of these aspects of Sri Lanka add to its undeniably unique charm.
To anyone who is hesitant about volunteering in Sri Lanka I just have one thing to say - do it. Don’t think twice. Take a leap of faith, go with an open heart and mind and make a difference in people’s lives as well as your own. You will not regret it.
The Projects Abroad team were some of the nicest people I have ever met and I would like to thank them all for their love and support throughout my time there.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.