Ruth Malthouse - General Care Projects in Sri Lanka
I have been living and working in Sri Lanka for six weeks now and the whole Sri Lankan lifestyle is one I will never forget. I work at the Chandrasekara Home in Moratuwa, a 30 minute bus journey from Panadura. Each day at work brings new challenges - and rewards - experiences and adventures I will never forget.
I work with some 20 young Sri Lankans - both boys and girls - usually each afternoon. Each child and young adult is different. Some are completely deaf, and some are able to speak but with very limited English. Their ages range between 5 - 20 years and I have to be able to adapt my activities accordingly. It is very hard work, both physically and mentally, but I am working with some of the kindest, most special children not just in Sri Lanka, but anywhere.
I was working at the orphanage for 2 ½ weeks before Alex - a fellow Projects Abroad volunteer from England joined me. Her arrival was great - it meant that we could be more adventurous and invent new games. It also meant that we could split the group into two. Alex would take one group of children and I would take the other. It made the afternoons much better as it had been very stressful trying to cope with 20 young and lively persons.
Alex was with me for two weeks - she has since moved South to Hikkaduwa to help with the construction work. I miss her company and the extra pair of hands! Each child greets me with a warm and welcoming smile when I arrive at the orphanage and I don't feel like a teacher, more like a friend. A usual afternoon's activity, depending on the weather, would comprise of arts and crafts and then games. The Hokey Kokey was always a favourite!
The older girls really enjoy looking at the English gossip magazines that I bought over for myself. I cut some of the pictures up for the younger girls to put back together. Some of the children need extra attention which can take a lot of my time, so I usually set the rest of the class off to work and then help this group by taking more time to demonstrate and explain.
Another favourite activity for the children is for them to teach me sign language. I really enjoy this, but it can be very difficult. Earlier this year I was in Ghana with Projects Abroad, where I learned some sign language, but the children here have created their own special Sri Lankan style of signing. However, I am now able to sign the alphabet, the days of the week, colours, some animals and basic communications.
I only have one week left at my placement and I'm not too sure how I'm going to manage to leave them. Some days have been really hard and stressful - especially in the heat. All the children are amazing and extraordinary. They have so many special talents and I feel very close to them.
At the end of my work the journey back home is 'interesting'! The buses are packed with people returning from Colombo. I often find myself hanging out of the buses or being completely squashed into sweating bodies! These are memories that will never leave me.
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.