This volunteer feedback was sent to us by Jenny Chalmers, Sri Lanka Volunteer 2005.
One of our 4 to 6 week projects is within a beautiful village situated about an hour away from Kandy in Central Sri Lanka. Volunteers worked during weekdays as teachers at the village primary and secondary schools. They also ran an after school English club for the local children. The aim of this club was to develop spoken English through games, music and other fun activities outside of the classroom environment. This, as most of our projects are, was a homestay placement and volunteers lived with one of the primary school English teachers in the village.
“For the four weeks the programme ran for, Charli (my VESL partner) and I were living with a local family. Our host Mother looked after our every need and found any of our actions from attempts to speak Singhalese to eating with our hands to washing our clothes hilarious. I wasn’t aware I was such a comic! She force-fed us vast quantities of her delicious curries three times a day and we were to “take a tea” (tea, fried spicy snacks and numerous cakes laden with sugar) twice a day. For her to allow us to leave the table, we had to have sampled (and gone back for seconds of) everything she had prepared. Let me tell you, it was torture! If we hadn’t learned the term ‘badaa pireelah’ or ‘stomach full’ on the first day, our host could have been lethal!
“We were subject to a barrage of ‘tea dates’ from the other villagers, each one of them knowing whose house we had eaten at the day before, asking what we had had and how much we had eaten and comparing it to what we had managed to eat that day. Our actions were closely followed by those in the village – I now know what it feels like to be a celebrity!
“We worked every day at the local Primary school which had over 600 students between Grades 1-5 (ages 5-11). During the day, we helped the two permanent English teachers in their normal classes, supplementing the textbook lessons with our own games in a bid to make English seem more fun. We also ran an after-school club where we taught the students songs and games and tried to put English into a functional form, so it wasn’t just something that you read in the textbooks. The end of the four week programme culminated in a concert with Grades 3-5 performing a selection of the songs, dances and dramas they had learnt from us for their parents. We were a bit worried about this, but the concert went without a hitch as the Grade 4’s danced perfectly, Grade 3 were quiet for once and everyone remembered their lines. The sense of pride and achievement I had was phenomenal. We were flooded with praise from everyone in the village, pleased that all students were given a chance to perform.
“I must take this chance to thank you [VESL] for your support in enabling me to spend a magical summer in Sri Lanka. Although small, I do feel as though the work I did was rewarding and worthwhile. Both the friends I have made with the other volunteers and those in Sri Lanka with the memories of teaching and living in such a beautiful rural village, shall stay with me for a long time.”
– Jenny Chalmers, Sri Lanka Volunteer 2005