Patricia Bardin Dit Courageot - General Care Projects in Sri Lanka
Let me introduce myself. My name is Patricia and I'm a 45 year old chemist from France. This summer, I chose to spend my holidays with disadvantaged children in Sri Lanka. Projects abroad placed me at an orphanage, situated about 1 or 2 hours from Colombo, on the West coast near Kalutara. So on the 3rd July 2007 I discovered Don Bosco Boy's Home near Maggona, which was surrounded by coconut trees. I stayed there for one month and sharing in the daily lives of those children was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I could not have imagined beforehand the emotional attachment I would form in my relationships with them.
Quickly I realised that they needed a lot of affection and attention, so I spent as much time with them as possible. Early in the morning the children went to St Vincent's school. During this time I helped Rani the matron (known as aunty). She's often the only woman in the orphanage. She's patient and pays much attention to the boys. She washes their clothes and repairs their pillows, shirts, trousers, blankets etc. Rani aunty is a marvelous woman and takes on the role as the mother of the children.
With two other volunteers, Stephen and Furqan, we cleaned the floors of the bed rooms where approximately 100 boys slept, and also the kitchen and the class room. After lunch, many boys worked in the garden, taking care of the animals. In the hall we organised art and craft classes with the little boys. They really liked to experiment with drawings, paintings and collages. At the end of the month we had enough paintings for an exhibition on the orphanage’s walls. We also organised an art competition where we distributed prizes, cakes and fruit juices. I was so glad to see the happiness in their eyes.
Usually after tea time we played cricket, volley ball and soccer with the boys in the playground. At the end of the day we helped them to do homework in the class room. We tried to teach them some basic English by using drawings and singing songs. We repeated the alphabet, numbers and vocabulary. Sometimes I ate dinner with them in their dining room before praying and sleeping. All day long they need attention and affection. Often I took on the role of a nurse to take care of their health. I've taken care of their eyes during conjunctivitis epidemics and I've dressed cuts on their knees with bandages etc. They offer me smiles and show me much affection and love.
The children have very different backgrounds. Some of them had a very hard life living on the streets before coming to the orphanage. But with love, attention and affection, and some good life rules we can help them to progress in a good way.
Thank you to Projects abroad for their help and their presence all through my placement. Together we worked for the well being of the children.
With the other Volunteers we organised different activities during the weekends, such as a dental awareness exhibition in a primary school in the rainforest area. Furqan who is a dentist, explained the basic hygiene dental rules to the children. And together we organised an art competition. From this example, you can appreciate the real action happening on the ground, in the heart of the communities because of Projects Abroad.
The other weekends I spent time on the southern beaches and visited the cultural areas around Kandy. Sri Lanka is such a beautiful island! But most importantly for me it was a really fantastic human experience, full of love and emotion. I now have so many friends in Sri Lanka and so many little boys who will stay in my heart for the rest of my life. We continue to exchange letters and drawings. I hope for the best for them before I see them again, maybe next year!
I have no hesitations in saying that if you want to do something useful and rewarding during your holiday, you should choose such an experience. It's so rich for the spirit and has given me a whole new outlook on life and on the world.
Patricia Bardin Dit Courageot
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.