Katie Finlay - General Care Projects in Sri Lanka
When I arrived in Wadduwa I had no idea what was in store for me or what to expect, but the whole experience blew me away. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, from the Projects Abroad staff to my host family and room mate.
The culture was the biggest thing to get used to and the simplistic way of life there, we were constantly being stared at for being white, more from curiosity than hostility, but the attention we received was incredible. Transport had to be the most memorable experience; being quite a conscientious driver myself I couldn't believe the speed of lack of rules as cars and buses constantly overtook each other and beeped their horns. However, I've since found peaceful English driving quite tame and boring now I'm home!
My first few days were obviously a bit strange, but once I started working in the school and visiting the tsunami camp I soon settled in and felt quite at home.
The school children were wonderful and so loving. Their cheeky smiles and constant gifts of flowers made it a pleasure to work there as well as the welcoming staff and appreciation we received. The camp was a bit tougher, we didn't receive such a warm welcome there, but the children that were willing to participate turned out to be inspirational in their attitude towards life and, despite the language barrier, we were able to learn just as much, if not more, from them as they did from us.
Weekends were a great opportunity to meet up with other volunteers and travel round Sri Lanka. My favourite trip by far had to be a trip to the Uda Walwe Safari where I saw elephants in their natural habitat which was so peaceful and relaxing, a far cry from the hustle and bustle in the streets. The beaches were also amazing, it was like a real paradise, but then in other areas the devastating effects of the Tsunami were painfully obvious.
Even though I was only there one month, I felt the whole experience amazed and astounded me. The people I met, both locals and volunteers, were all so friendly and helpful which made my stay even better and contributed to the brilliant experience I had. My last day at school was very emotional, the children and teachers were so appreciative and the masses of card and flowers I received will be very special keepsakes, from such a very special trip. I really hope I get the chance to return there and I'm extremely grateful to everyone for their hospitality and help during my stay. I would recommend it to anyone.
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.