Hayley Dearlove - General Care Projects in Sri Lanka
Hello, I'm Hayley and I volunteered in Sri Lanka for a month in July! This was definitely the best experience of my life; I had such a good month and met some amazing people. I am studying Childcare at college and had always wanted to travel, but only being 17 I thought I was too young for something like this. But after hearing about Projects Abroad I knew I could go with this company as you get so much help before you go, and also while you are there!
I was lucky enough to be travelling with my friend to Sri Lanka, so it wasn't as nerve-racking! The first thing that hits you when you arrive in Sri Lanka is the humidity of the place, and the traffic! (It’s so busy!) Arriving in Colombo was a great experience as we got to stay here for a couple of nights before heading down to Galle.
Adapting to Sri Lankan Culture
It took us about a week to fully get used to the culture in Sri Lanka. As you walked down the street most people would look and comment! Every morning we had the children come out of their houses and shout 'Good Morning' to us, and every tuk tuk driver would offer you a ride! This turned into a fun game for us as we would try and banter them down and use the whole, 'but we're volunteering in your country, so we get cheaper rides!?' Most of the time this would work.
The food in Sri Lanka is...different. Every morning we had toast with pineapple jam, a smoothie and a cup of tea. Then when we came back for lunch we would have rice and curry, followed by fruit (which is amazing in Sri Lanka!) Then in the evening our meals varied. Sometimes it would be rice and curry, sometimes pancakes, twice, we had pasta!! It took a while to get used to the food and what the Sri Lankans eat, and how they eat! By the end of our month, our host Sister had fully taught us to eat like a Sri Lankan :)
Our Sri Lankan Host Family
Staying with a host family makes the whole experience here. We were lucky to have an amazing host family down in Galle. They make you feel so welcome, and it's so nice to be able to teach them some more English, and also for them to teach you some Singhalese. Our family looked after us so well, they helped us organise our weekends away and always asked if we needed anything.
Sri Lanka is such a beautiful country, with amazing scenery. In our month we visited, Kandy, Colombo, Panadura, Hikkaduwa, Udawalawe Park and were able to look round some tea plantations. We were also lucky enough to be 10 minutes away from Unawatuna. Such an incredible beach area, where we saw many tourists which felt like we fit in more!
Working in an Orphanage
Over the month we worked at the Ruhunu Orphanage in Galle. Such an incredible experience. We spent most of our time with the babies and toddlers as we felt like these needed most the help. The first moment you step into the building you get a strong smell of urine and dirt. This took a lot of getting used to, but as soon as you see the babies all you want to do is care for them.
Our days mainly consisted of changing nappies, feeding babies, playing with the toddlers outside on the playground, changing more nappies, cleaning beds, and cuddling the babies! The children absolutely loved having the volunteers there, their faces used to light up as they saw us coming, which was such a lovely gift! It was one of the hardest things to do when we had to leave, saying goodbye to all the children.
The one thing that was a struggle at the orphanage was communicating with the women that worked there. Because not many of them spoke any English, there was a communication barrier. So when we tried and asked for something, or tried to tell them a baby was sick, it took a while to get our point across and try to explain. But after a couple of weeks, as they had seen we were capable of looking after the babies, they all eased up a little and enjoyed our company!
The orphanage was such a great place to volunteer, one weekend we decided to go and help out, (usually volunteers travel away on weekends). We saw there was only 3 or 4 staff members there, so much needed to be done on the weekends!
Highlights of my Sri Lanka Trip
My time in Sri Lanka was such a memorable time. One of the highlights of my trip was getting stuck in the Safari Park when the van got stuck! Luckily no animals came too close! Another highlight was went we went to Hikkaduwa festival, who though we would be going to a music festival in Sri Lanka! This was definitely the craziest weekend of my life!
I would recommend Sri Lanka to anyone, and encourage you to do a placement there. Thank you Projects Abroad!
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.