Estefania Roig from Spain volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in July, 2017.
Miss Sona Forstlova from The Czech Republic volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in July, 2017.
Volunteering at Horizon Lanka
I dreamed to visit Sri Lanka and spend there some time to do voluntary work and because I work as a primary school teacher, it was clear that I would like to do voluntary work in this field.
I had really good review from my friends who worked in Horizon Academy in last years, so I asked my friend Monika and we contacted the founder of Horizon Lanka – Nanda. The communication with him was really nice, he was able to answer all our questions.
After some problems with drought in Mahawilachchiya we had to spend some time in other organization on Sri Lanka. It was little bit unpleasant to solve three days before your arrival to Sri Lanka that you should go to other organization, but Nanda arranged it and after one week, we spend in Kekirawa Learning Centre, we moved to Mahawilachchiya.
We spent one week in Mahawilachchiya. In the morning, we taught at Gamini Public School and in the afternoon, we provided program for about 30 children about 6 years old. We taught them English through games, songs and chants and we also did some exercise and dance.
The last night before our departure, there was a nice ceremony with dance. This night after the program, Nanda told us, that Horizon Lanka doesn’t have money to pay our host family. It was a little bit awkward. It is not a problem to pay for food and accommodation to your family, for us. But the way we find it out was unfair. The conditions were arranged before and it was not kept.
Volunteering at a public school
Every morning, we went to school at 8 o´clock. The lessons started at 8,30 o´clock and we usually taught for 4 lessons, so we finished about 11,30 o´clock.
It was a new cultural experience to wear the sari to school. It looked very nice but I have to say it was pretty uncomfortable! J It was too hot at in and you couldn´t move as you need.
Children at school were really happy to spend time with us as the teachers. It was really good experience to teach there because it is completely different from the Czech Republic. Children were all the time very active. We did activities like games and songs in English, in higher grades we discuss about differences between Sri Lanka and the Czech Republic.
Life with our hosts
We spent one week in family of Tharani. It was the best experience and through this, I would like to thank the family again, because they took care about us as our real family. I felt there like at home.
We visited the local Buddhist temple or the local market together. We also tried to discuss about the life in Mahawilachchiya and in our town in the Czech Republic and all the differences (and there are many!). J
Life in Sri Lanka
After one week in Sri Lanka we spent next two weeks on journey around Sri Lanka. We visited many famous places as Sigiriya, Adam´s Peak, Kandy, Ravana Falls, Udawalawe National Park, Mirrisa Beach, Galle Fort etc. But the best experience for me – tea plantations around Haputale. – Sona Forstlova
Miss Diana Wong Yuen Sam from Hong Kong volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation from June to July 2017.
I am very pleased as a volunteer at Horizon Lanka. This is my first time to plan the itinerary and to go with a friend, Eagle. After this meaningful trip, my expression for Sri Lankan is that they are very gentle and friendly! During the whole trip, the thing I do a lot is smiling. Every time when I walked through the village, people smiled with me and I smiled with them too. In contrast, it is not easy to find this manner in Hong Kong. Our relationship contains “respects.” In addition, I am thankful that Horizon Lanka gave me more opportunities to show my care to my friends in Sri Lanka. Horizon Lanka does not only let students meet foreign volunteers, but we can broaden our horizons through Sri Lankan cultures, traditions, and even students’ learning attitudes, which are very admirable.
Horizon Lanka acts as a platform to empower the students. In fact, every student has their potential to show their talents, especially they like dancing and sports. I like Horizon Lanka as an academy but it is like a social youth center that provides manpower, platforms, and equipment for students to perform their talents. One of the impressive experiences is that the small kids danced together at the night farewell party. I did not believe that little babies could perform well with limited practices. This was also a precious experience for little kids and parents to participate in the performance. Another unforgettable experience is that senior students teach parents to use their laptops. I appreciate that students can share their skills with other people. This can also harmonize the relationship between the villagers. However, I observed that the lack of laptops, computers, or technological advances (Wi-Fi) is found that people in the village disconnect from the world. If donors can provide some extra resources (computers, stationery, sports equipment, instruments, dictionaries, etc.) to Horizon Lanka, I think this academy must become another space for people to stay in. Villagers (not only the students) can watch English movies; play football, basketball, volleyball, badminton outside Horizon Lanka; or even organize a handicraft workshop by both talented students and women. Therefore, I really want more friends can utilize this platform to build up their abilities and confidence.
In daily time, I worked at a public school. I was delighted to teach students from Grade 1 to Grade 11. Although it was tough for me to teach students every lesson without rests, it was a very great experience that I could communicate with students of different ages. I found students have the similarity—their learning passion is appreciable! Even their English level is limited. They can still put more effort into learning English. My strategy for teaching them was to read aloud the articles/words more times and to check the dictionaries together so that students can really understand the meaning of the words. Next time, I hope I can give an English notebook for students and invite them to write dairy/ words/ anything in their notebooks so that they can try to use more English. To a certain extent, I think the English level of the textbook is too high for students. In Hong Kong, the English level is lower than the teacher can teach English by a chapter. Indeed, the lack of equipment is the main reason that leads to slow learning progress. I really hope that more dictionaries and teaching materials can be given to students. Schools can also make some posters that let students learn English. Overall, I like the teaching environment so much. I feel thankful that the principal and teachers gave me an opportunity to meet with the lovely students. Moreover, I feel regretful that some students did not have clean and comfortable uniforms, especially their shoes. They wore broken shoes. I hope more people can donate money to help those students.
It is glad for me to meet a friendly family and cheerful friends. I like them so much. My host family always brought us to different places: Thursday market, friends’ party, “safari”, reservoir, temples, farms and the treehouse, etc. In those weeks, my host family and friends invite me to explore the daily life of Sri Lankan. I am interested in understanding the religion (Buddhism is also major religion in Hong Kong) and find out the difference between Chinese Buddhism and Sri Lankan Buddhism. Meanwhile, one of my habits is changed that I go to the toilet without tissues when I am at home! As a student studying education for sustainability, I really admire Sri Lankan practices. If there are more chances, I will invite more Sri Lankans to share environmental experiences and make handcraft using unvalued materials (My host mother is keen on tailoring!)
To be frank, Eagle and I planned to stay at Mahawilachchiya in 3 weeks. Finally, we really missed that place. Our final decision was to stay for more days with my family and friends! I love this place so much! Confronting drought in June and July, Mahawilachchiya can practice organic farming to make a better harvest. Next time, I expect more good experiences can be brought from my town. It is because Mahawilachchiya is another home in my mind. All of my friends are my family and siblings. I will be back! Thank all the people I met in Sri Lanka! 😀
Lucie Barbier from France volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in May, June, 2017.
I’ve been volunteering for 3 weeks in Horizon Lanka at Mahawilachchiya. I’ve been very well welcomed. I was volunteering at the Gamini Public School in the morning and at Horizon Academy, Mahawilachchiya in the afternoon. Students at Horizon Academy were welcoming but I found it hard to teach them English. Even if you have a grammar book to help you, the English level of each student is very different. Moreover, you never know who will come and at what time so it’s difficult to follow a kind of guideline for your whole stay. The best way I found was to try to make them speak English was to play some games or sports with them, which was nice time! But I feel I didn’t really fulfill my mission, or at least what Horizon Lanka was expecting from me.
My teaching experience at the public school was quite different. It was in fact, easier to teach them as you always have the same children and you know that all of them are present for the last lesson so you can keep going, everybody is at the same level of learning. Students from all grades (from 4 to 11) were welling to learn and very happy when I was coming in their class.
In the whole it was a good experience teaching in Mahawilachchiya and I thank the founder, Nanda who has made this experience possible for me.
During the stay I was staying with a Sri Lankan family. Being with them was just amazing, they were very nice to me, from the beginning, very welcoming and they were taking care of me very well. We could have several discussions concerning their culture, religion and they were curious concerning mine also. We all really get on well and I felt like a member of the family. I’m very thankful for all they did for me. Sri Lankan people are very nice, helpful and I enjoyed sharing a little bit a part of their life.
After my stay as a volunteer, I traveled for two weeks in Sri Lanka. This was a very good experience. Sri Lanka is a very beautiful country and, as said before, people are very kind and helpful. We can enjoy cultural and historical places, as mountains with tea plantations with nice landscapes and good hiking, as beautiful beaches to relax and swim!
Lucie Barbier – France
Tomas Nebaznivy from the Czech Republic volunteered at Horizon Academy, Tantirimale for 27 days from 2017-05-24 to 2017-06-20.
Tomáš Nebáznivý’s Tour Report
I am probably one of the slowest reporters at Horizon Lanka since my report comes almost half a year later. Anyway, I got my memories recovered and I would like to share them with you. My aim was to put myself into a different mode and leave my comfort zone having in Prague, the Czech Republic. I found an article in the traveler´s group on Facebook two months before I came to Sri Lanka. It was from one of many Czech volunteers providing their services in Sri Lanka. To be honest, it was “love at first sight.” It was just a step to contact the founder of Horizon Lanka – Nanda. Here is the place where the story begins.
We exchanged a couple of e-mails between each other and everything was confirmed except my flight tickets. It came soon, and I knew I was able to begin my journey in May 2017. I had been volunteering in Tantirimale almost a month and this was one of the best experience in my life so far (I traveled many places in India and Asia, but nothing that breathtaking like here.)
I experienced a lot of funny moments when coming there. After the almost never-ending flight and crazy bus trip from Prague to Anuradhapura over Colombo (almost 24 hrs of nonstop traveling.) When I came to Anuradhapura and met Nanda, I was told that I am not going to Mahawilachchiya, but to Tantirimale where they recently established a new branch. It was funny because all the information handled between us before ware about the Mahawilachchiya only and no mention of the other place. Se I jumped to his Bajaj bike and we were heading to Tantirimale through heavy rain. We came totally wet there.
Before we came to my new home, we had a short stop at Horizon Lanka´s new branch in Tantirimale where I met my future friend – Sunanda. I also met Lucy from France, who was volunteering the same time, but she was in Mahawilachchiya. We met several times together to travel Anuradhapura city and couple of last days before I left Sri Lanka. It was also very nice experience. Anyway, back to the topic. After introducing each other, we finished our way at my new home, where I met my new family. They are very friendly and optimistic guys. It is a 6-member family living in one house almost at the end of a village. It was a bit tricky to deal with them, as only Nangee is speaking fluent English and the rest of the family could speak some words only. But, since you are able to use your hands to make the gestures, everything is easier.
Considering a fact that they are whatever but not rich, their hospitality was simply the greatest I could experience. They prepared amazing food all the time I was there using only fire to prepare the meals. I was teaching her daughter Sandalee, who was a bit shy when I asked her to speak English, but she loved to play games after school. Sanju and his brother were also good guys and it was kind of funny to introduce them workout with the TRX on their garden. Their father is running a small shop in the village and he was coming home late almost every day due to lack of free time. I was slightly confused seeing Nangee all the time as the housekeeper. She was very smart, her English was at very high level, but due to the local mentality (nothing against them, it´s the way of living,) she was told to stop studies and become the housekeeper. My new mother was a housekeeper too and she was also helping her husband at their school shop. I would wish all the family to have a chance to travel more in the future. I was happy that I could take at least Sandalee and her father along with us the nearby Wilpattu National Park. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any animals that time because of the hot season.
I was supposed to teach IT at the public school and IT and English at Horizon branch in Tantirimale. As this was something totally new to the locals (not like in Mahawilachchiya where they are used to foreigners/volunteers.) I was facing interesting situations. I have never been teaching children and my first English class took place when the school teacher left the class and left me there with the children alone. It was very funny to experience myself how to improvise within a couple of seconds:) Unfortunately, I was not able to take more classes in that public schools. I took about 3 classes of English. I had some ideas how to make it work for next foreigners. (I was the first one at school there), but I was unable to meet the school´s principal. I do not know the reason for that even couple months ago. I requested Sunanda (the boss of Tantirimale branch) to establish the meeting several times, but it never happened during that time. I also met their IT teacher and I very quickly understood that teaching IT there is something nearly impossible. Not only because of the English gap (teaching IT in English is much more difficult for the listeners,) but also because their hardware is soooo obsolete. It would be nice if the local government would invest more money into the IT for children because this is the way how to educate yourself quickly and to gain ideas about the rest of the world. Lot of children I spoke with want to study and work abroad to gain the life experience and to improve the Sri Lanka´s economy. The government should listen to this.
Anyway, the situation with IT infrastructure is much better in Horizon Academy so I could focus myself to teach the kids the computer basics and the older ones with the basics of the graphic design. It was difficult in the beginning because children don’t have any experience with the computers and you had to teach them from the basics. It was nice to see that even girls were happy to learn. I spent almost 6 days a week at Horizon from morning to the late afternoon. It was difficult to me from time to time, but seeing the smiles of my students was a great feeling and reward. I was not only teaching all the time. We were also playing some Europeans physical games and the children thought me their local games. I experienced many nice moments with them. I was also pleased when Sunanda told me about new IT teacher coming from Mahawilachchiya couple days in week – Jaliya. We took some classes together and I could handle the language gap much easier with his help. We could also split the classes and do more things at once.
I am so satisfied with the activities that Nanda and Sunanda are doing at both branches for the kids. Both are doing this free of charge and in their free time. They have my sincere respect for this.
I could write much more, but I don’t want to exhaust you. All I can say is, that this month was the best month in this year for me. I wish all the best to my Sri Lanka´s family and to Nanda, Sunanda, Jaliya or any other who helps them to keep Horizon Lanka growing and expanding.