Olivia Dudley - General Care Projects in Sri Lanka
Hello hello! Or should I say ayubowan? I’m Liv and I was part of a two week special volunteer trip to Sri Lanka in December 2014. The trip was absolutely amazing in every way. The placement, my host family, the friendships made, the religion, the scenery and the food! Oh the glorious food! Every day I learned something new about the culture, the people and myself. Trips like these are often once in a lifetime, so I recommend you jump in, head first and seize every opportunity possible.
1. The Placement
Whilst in Sri Lanka, I worked at two different placements. The first was the Sandamini Montessori in Wadduwa. In the mornings, we would alternate between the kindergarten and the community centre. The kindergarten was a bright, happy, and might I say loud room filled with around 40 students aged from three to six. Our job was to create a fun and engaging learning environment, to teach them numbers, colours and other basic English words through arts and crafts, to emphasise the importance of hygiene, to encourage sharing and outside play, and last but probably one of the most important – to connect with the children, show them you care about their wellbeing and to show them they are loved.
The other morning activity was teaching the children’s mothers to speak English. Their abilities and knowledge blew us away, yet they lacked the confidence which comes from the encouragement and practice, both of which we were able to give. As the weeks passed, we were able to show them correct sentence structure, explore what adjectives, nouns and verbs were, and to expand and enhance their vocabularies. They loved engaging in basic conversations, as this is something they are unable to teach themselves.
In the afternoons, we rotated between painting a mural on the building and teaching some local, older children English. These lessons were similar to those conducted in the mornings, and their willingness to learn was a pleasant surprise to us all and a credit to them! The mural we painted was a jungle scene, with elephants, sloths, lions, ants, butterflies, coconut and banana trees and much, much more. We filled the end of the wall with a peacock, its feathers comprised from the hands and finger prints of all the volunteers. The many hands coming together to create something beautiful and memorable.
My second placement was at Prem Nivasa (where I spent the third and final week of my trip), an orphanage for those physically or mentally disabled. Here, I worked with local volunteers to provide much needed care and love to the infants and toddlers. I helped bathe and dress them, feed them, hold and play with them, administer medicine and helped keep them stimulated and happy. Whilst I didn’t make the same kinds of bonds here as I did with the children at the Montessori, I found the overall experience to be just as rewarding. The big smiles and laughs you receive after an hour or so of trying to engage and play with them, made it all worthwhile. What beautiful children.
2. The Host Family
Throughout my stay, my host family’s home became my home. The welcoming and nurturing nature of my host parents made my stay one thousand times easier. My host mother fed and cared for us, and our host father shared his wisdom with me on many Buddhist principles and teachings, furthering my knowledge of their religion and ways of life. I’ll never forget them and how generous they were, an incredible family.
3. The Culture
The culture in Sri Lanka was filled with traditions, religions and food, yet was simple and serene, connecting and accepting everyone in their communities. Whilst there are adjustments and considerations needing to be made whilst adapting to the culture on arrival, the people are accepting and appreciate any efforts made to learn their language and engage with them. They were very willing to immerse you and accept you, especially if you were respectful towards their beliefs and traditions. The food was delicious, consisting mostly of curries, lentils, rice, roti and string hoppers. There were many many delicious tropical fruits on offer, but my favourite was the spicy food. It was the people who made the culture so special; they were so respectful and welcoming.
4. The Volunteers
Throughout my three weeks in Sri Lanka I made many new friends, both fellow volunteers, supervisors and the locals. The bonds I made overseas were something special, as I found most of the volunteers had similar values and attributes to me. The regulars were very welcoming, including me in their activities and sharing stories and past experiences with me. These connections taught me about the kind of person I am and the kind of people who I like to be around. I will be seeking to live my truth and immerse myself in many more placements in the future. I would highly recommend this experience and I’m already saving for my next volunteer trip, I can’t wait!.
A big thank you to Projects Abroad, the staff, organisers and the amazing Lucy and Aruni for making this opportunity possible and oh so enjoyable for me… I’ll be back!
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.