Mr. Mark McDougall from the United Kingdom volunteered two weeks in March 2017 at Horizon Lanka. Though his stay was comparatively shorter, he did a lot for the organization especially with his great writing skills.
Volunteering at Horizon Lanka – Mark McDougall
My time spent volunteering at Horizon Lanka and living in Mahawilachchiya has been one of the most unique and rewarding experiences that I have been part of, throughout my entire journey around Asia. I have found Horizon Lanka to be a key aspect in the lives of many of the children in Mahawilachchiya. It gives the children a platform to learn, that is completely different from the environment in which they learn in their public schools, with a real focus put upon computer skills, improving their English and expressing themselves through singing and dancing. The children seem to really enjoy having Horizon Lanka as a place where they can socialize with both their friends and volunteers from around the world, as well as improving their IT and English skills which will hopefully help to further their prospects in both the job market and in society after they finish their education. Nanda works incredibly hard to create an environment where the children and volunteers are comfortable. I have particularly enjoyed helping the children with their spoken English, mainly through simply having conversations with them and discovering what their interests are as people. The children are energetic, warm and friendly people who engage fully in all that they do; be it learning new things, playing sports like cricket and volleyball or expressing themselves through music and dance (which many of the children are extremely passionate about).
The people of Mahawilachchiya are some of the most caring and generous people that I have ever met! While cycling or walking around the village and surrounding areas I have been constantly acknowledged by a waving hand or smiling face and have really felt welcomed into this rural community. Wasantha has been like a guide to me, introducing me to so many lovely people throughout the village. I have been invited into countless houses for tea or food and to chat, a show of generosity that has really touched me as I don’t believe there are many places in the world where a stranger will be treated as warmly and to be made to feel as at home, as I have in Mahawilachchiya. The community here is truly one built around a philosophy of ‘sharing is caring’, as everyone so readily shares whatever they have and no one goes without. This includes animals as well as people, as any ‘waste’ food is dispersed to the various birds and animals that inhabit the area. The concept of greed doesn’t appear to have been introduced to Mahawilachchiya, as people only take what they need, nothing more. Coming from a country where it is much more uncommon for someone to show an act of kindness to a complete stranger, it has been very beautiful for me to witness and be a part of.
As well as introducing me to multiple friends and families around the area, Wasantha has shown me various areas of natural beauty that I never would have discovered myself. This part of Sri Lanka has so much to offer to a nature lover. Some of my favorite places that I have been in Mahawilachchiya are; the lake (which is a great spot to swim and cool off) and the river side (where I was again made to feel completely welcome by the local women that stayed there) which is one of the most peaceful and serene spots I have ever been to just to relax with a book or watch the various birdlife or try to catch fish in the teeming river.
While volunteering with Horizon Lanka, I have been lucky enough to be hosted by Surendra and his family. They have strived at all times to make me feel like part of the family and to ensure that I am happy and well-fed! Surendra’s mother has provided me with some of the best food I have ever eaten; from delicious curries and rice to rotis and salads, all of the food has been delicious. It has been very interesting for me to see and eat food that is completely organic and natural, and to be able to see exactly where the food has come from. This family have completely opened their home to me and I can’t express enough how grateful I am for that. It has been really interesting and enjoyable for me to get to know all of the family (including Bruno the dog!) and to witness Sri Lankan family life.
Unfortunately, as I have visited Mahawilachchiya during the very busy exam period I have been unable to volunteer at a public school. However, this just gives me an even greater incentive to return to Mahawilachchiya and to combine volunteering at Horizon Lanka with volunteering at a local school.
After escaping the chaotic melting pot that is Colombo, the steady and tranquil pace of village life in Mahawilachchiya is a breath of fresh air. I wish that I had time to stay here for a longer period of time, unfortunately that isn’t possible for me right now. However, I definitely intend to return to this area and to volunteer with Horizon Lanka again and to see how everyone in the village is getting on. I think there are lots of people who would benefit from a similar experience as the one I have had in Mahawilachchiya and I know that future volunteers will have as great a time as I have.
Mark McDougall – The United Kingdom March 29, 2017