Before my sister Kamila and I came to the Horizon Lanka Foundation, we were traveling for 2 weeks through Sri Lanka and were very curious about the real life. If you have ever traveled in some exotic countries, you would know that you seem to the local people as somebody who has money, and for them, a lot of money. This doesn’t include everybody, but many people would like to get from you as much money as they could. Whenever you travel, and your role is a tourist of different skin and culture, it is quite difficult to be able to get in touch with the real life and culture of the people. For sure you can see it, feel it, try as hard as possible to assimilate with the locals, but until you live with a local family for a while, you can’ t live it. It was one of the reasons why I wanted to come to Mahawilachchiya. The second one was that as a future teacher in the Czech Republic, I was enthusiastic to see how different the schooling is in a completely different country.
Horizon Lanka is an organization which helps local children spend their time meaningfully. Many children here just sit and do nothing. Literally! They easily don’t know how to play. I expected that the children there are used to playing in nature, but they are not. Some of them visit dancing lessons or extra after school lessons, but the rest of the day they usually either sleep, tidy or sit and chat with family or friends.
Horizon Lanka Foundation provides the local children different kinds of activities. They enable them to learn how to work with a computer, learn English, practice dancing or singing, play sports, visit places in Sri Lanka, etc. The only two problems there are not having a proper schedule for teaching and the lack of funding to run the institute. As a volunteer from Europe or other developed countries you are used to have planned schedule with given tasks. Here everything is ad hoc. You have to decide what you do with the children so that the lessons are effective. But also the children are free so it can happen that sometimes there are 20, and sometimes only 5. Just to be prepared for that, you do not get any exact tasks.
Living with the families in Mahawilachchiya is a great experience for people from developed countries. The time stopped here so when the toilets came indoor in Europe, they stayed outdoor in Sri Lanka (as a small outhouse outside the house.) Getting a proper outside shower, bucket or lake for bathing depends on your family. Also, the housing there is completely different. The same with food. Loads of rice and curry, homegrown fruits and vegetables, coconut rotti… everything is very delicious. But to experience all these you must come and try!
The people all over Sri Lanka are very kind, cheerful and helpful; much more so in the village because here you are not a tourist, but a teacher; a white skinned person attracting the attention of all locals wherever you are. You will always get your smile and wave back.
We were struggling a bit with teaching at the local school Thakshila. It was probably mainly caused by the period of final exams and then the last week of the school year. But the number of shouting students in the classrooms is also quite high (30-40 pupils). I am glad that I could get the experience to be able to compare our school system with this exotic school system. For sure it is a very challenging task to teach at any of the local schools. Do not let yourself get completely tired, and try to organize your time so that you do not go to school every day if you do not wish to.
I would like to thank Nanda for his continued work with Horizon Lanka and providing local children a place to come and meet friends and enjoy their everyday lives in different ways. I also appreciate the work of Wasantha, who was helping us with the organization of different events and activities for us and the children. My big thanks go to Tharuka’s family, who was looking after me like I was their own child.