Jessica Brown - Care & Community in Sri Lanka
I decided to volunteer in Sri Lanka in the summer because I wanted to try something different whilst helping other people. I’ve always wanted to travel to Asia and heard that it was beautiful so naturally I couldn’t wait to go! I went to Sri Lanka alone although I’m glad I did because it meant I got to meet loads of new people.
As soon as we arrived in Sri Lanka we were made to feel very welcome. I was only 16 when I did my project, so obviously it can be quite daunting going alone. However any queries or problems I had were quickly put to rest by Charlie from Projects Abroad, who met us at the airport. We were soon whisked away to a hotel in Colombo where we were met for lunch and given a welcome pack that proved extremely helpful.
My Host Family
I stayed with Kumudu and her family in Kindelpitiya near Panadura. Kumudu had three children, who I just loved spending time with. I used to come home from my afternoon placement and play hide and seek and cricket. I remember once we were playing hide and seek and I was hiding behind the shed in the garden when I came across a huge iguana – it’s fair to say we don’t get many of them in Scotland! The kids all started laughing at me as an iguana is virtually harmless, something I definitely didn’t know!
Kumudu and her family were so welcoming and friendly - it feels like I have a second family now in Sri Lanka. Every morning we would eat these glorious Sri Lankan pancakes called hoppers and Sri Lankan tea which was extremely sweet. For lunch and dinner we normally had curry and rice which was just gorgeous or my personal favourite - Kumudu’s noodles. I really got immersed in the rich culture in Sri Lanka staying with Kumudu, when I came home it took some adjusting to eating with utensils and not with my right hand anymore!
In the morning I would go to the local Montessori school, where my host mother was actually a teacher. The school was a short distance away so it didn’t take long to get to. Every morning the children would do their prayers, and then myself and the other volunteers would create an activity for the children to do before their mid-morning break. Whilst at my morning placement I was looked after by Bianca, a member of Projects Abroad staff who helped me out whenever I had an issue. I had great fun with Bianca and she would often come to spend breakfast and dinner with us - all the way from Galle which is about 2 hours away from where we were staying. The children were very sweet and taught me a fair bit of their language Singhalese.
In the afternoon I travelled in a tuk tuk (which is great fun – I wish they had them in the UK!) to a community centre where the children would come to in the afternoon after school. The children at the community centre were a bit older, from about 4 to 13 years of age. There were four of us volunteers and together we would teach them some English, play sport with them outside, teach them dances and play games like ‘duck, duck, goose’. We had great fun with the children there; they were very sweet and kind. On the last day it was incredibly sad to say goodbye to them, together we all had a goodbye party with tea and biscuits and played their favourite songs and games.
On the weekend in between our two week placement we went on a fantastic trip further into Sri Lanka. We left around lunch time and made for Kandy. We were there in late August so were in time to see the Buddhist Perahera festival which was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. There were several different families with their own dances and costumes accompanied by elephants dressed in different colours and lit up by lights all outside the Temple of the Tooth. Afterwards we had a cosy dinner with the rest of the volunteers and stayed in a hotel high up so we got a good view of Kandy which was gorgeous.
In the morning we travelled to Sigiria, which is a giant rock fortress in which one of the Sri Lankan kings built his kingdom. We had a fantastic guide who spoke great English who made the experience even better! After Sigiria we went to ride an elephant in the Sigiria Village. The elephant managed to sit about eight of us; it was amazing such an experience!
Sri Lanka was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to in my life. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming of me into their country and by the time I left I really felt part of the local community - it was heart breaking to say goodbye. I learnt a lot from my time in Sri Lanka, I have a deep appreciation of everything I have back at home and managed to meet a lot of good friends who I still keep in touch with. I look back on my time in Sri Lanka with extremely fond memories and hope greatly to return one day and visit Kumudu and the rest of her family.
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.