Nikola Tillova from the Czech Republic volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation during the months of July and August, 2017.
Volunteering at Horizon Lanka
It was interesting experience. I taught at Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya in the afternoon after teaching at public school in the morning. We taught English, played some games and danced. Also we did some presentations about countries and we worked with them. Children are full of joy and happiness. They all the time wanted to dance.
“Volunteering at a public school
Volunteering at a public school in Mahawilachchiya was the best experience that I ever had. It was totally different from Czech system. The main difference is that these children want to learn and they want to spend their time in school. They are smiling all the time. We played some games and we learned English every school day. I was in classes from age 6 to 10. Children here are really amazing.
Life with hosts
I spent 2 weeks in a local family with three children. I had my own room and I had everything what I needed. Family was really kind and nice. They tried to do their best. We were in a local temple for a few times. There were lot of ceremonies and it was really interesting, something that I will probably never take a part in. Also, we visited a local market with vegetables and clothes in city nearby. I learned how to cook roti with pumpkin curry and one evening we did our typical Czech food.
It was the best experience ever. Their life is so different. Everyone is smiling and they are so kind to others. I felt like I am at home.
Life in Mahawilachchiya
Life in Mahawilachchiya is so different from other cities or countries. People know each other. They are smiling all the time and they were so kind to me. Everyone tried to help me all the time. We also were in Wilpattu National Park for all day trip. We saw a lot of animals and also, we were on the beach. It was really amazing day. Also, we were in a catchment area of a reservoir in Mahawilachchiya to watch wild elephants. We saw almost 60 wild elephants in one place! And the last trip was to Tantirimale temple, we were kayaking and then we went to the tree house and had a dinner there and also we spent night there. It was the first time that I slept in a truck under the star. It was the best night ever.
Life in Sri Lanka
After my volunteering I travelled around Sri Lanka for 2 weeks. I visited many famous places. I said to everyone who asked that I am here in Horizon Lanka Organization. Every single place that I visited was really wonderful. People are kind all around Sri Lanka and they try to help everyone. After all I can say that this experience change my view of the world and also my life. It was the best choice to spend my summer in Sri Lanka.” – Nikola Tillova – the Czech Republic
Miss Wong Yuen Sam Diana and Mr. Man Ho Tin Eagle from Hong Kong who volunteered at Horizon Lanka in July and August, 2017 wants us to publish this request on behalf of the students at Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya and Gamini Public School.
“We are two volunteers from Horizon Lanka Foundation, an educational organization which cares child development in Sri Lankan villages. We would like to bring to your attention about a lack of dictionaries and learning books for students in both public schools and Horizon Academies.
We taught students for 3 weeks. In our observation, we discovered that students do not understand a lot of English words, even they do not know how to pronounce the vocabulary. It is regretful to figure out this result, which will hinder students’ language development and will limit their international horizons in the future.
Sri Lankan students are eager to learn a lot. When we come to the public school and Horizon Lanka every day, students attempt to learn English and some skills, such as playing an electric organ. After learning English and music, they continue to practice the things they have learnt.
In order to enhance students’ learning abilities in an all-rounded way, different types of books are needed for students. Some books, especially English-Sinhala dictionaries, simple English storybooks with many pictures and music scores are suggested for donation. As the English level of students in public schools and Horizon Lanka is not too high, English books with simple contents are advanced.
We are looking forward to your reply and hope to hear the good news about the donations of various types of books. Thank you so much.
Horizon Lanka Foundation is going to start its third branch, this time in Anuradhapura City on September 01, 2017. At Horizon Academy we teach English, ICT and Robotics as our main subjects. In addition to these subjects, we also teach Fine Arts and Sports to break the monotony of the students.
We have both local and foreign teachers to teach these subjects at the Academy. Students will be rewarded with stationary, school supplies, computer related equipment, etc. after evaluating their performances.
The parents of the students will be given free English and ICT training on Sundays from 8.00 am to 12.00 noon.
We have the basic infrastructure at the beginning and will add more with the progress of the institute.
Mr. Chula Bandara, a Sri Lankan American from Aurora, Chicago, Illinois in the United States of America had helped Horizon Lanka long time ago. He donated 10,000 LKR (110.74 USD at the time of exchange rate – 2001) to one of the most talented students at Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya, Isuru Senevirathna as a financial scholarship. Today he is a system administrator at prestigious conglomerate Hayleys Group Ltd. in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Bandara’s wife Ms. Champika Sumithraarachchi and their son Thimira Bandara from the United States of America visited Horizon Academy – Tantirimale in July, 2017 and volunteered to teach English and computers. They also donated 20,000 LKR (130.71 USD) to the Academy. Not only that, they also donated school supplies, stationery, USB pen drives, etc. to be distributed among the students. We thank the Bandara family for this kind gesture.
They also promised us that they will introduce our children to the Sri Lankan community in their town so that the children from both the countries can communicate with each other electronically to improve our children’s English.
Horizon Lanka Foundation started its second branch of Horizon Academy in Tantirimale, a village in Mahawilachchiya Divisional Secretariat Division in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka on May 01, 2017 (3 ½ months ago.) We started it with the minimum facilities. We rented the building space for 10,000 LKR (6 USD) per month and moved 5 PCs and the furniture from the Horizon Academy, Mahawilachchiya as a short-term loan facility. (Now Horizon Academy in Mahawilachchiya has only 5 PCs as a result of this loan a number which is not sufficient at all for its 50 students.)
The next challenge was to get internet access to the Horizon Academy, Tantirimale. We did not have the funds necessary. But then, Joe and Sarah Campbell, two British volunteers who volunteered at Horizon Academy, Tantirimale from July to August, 2017 donated 6,000 LKR (40 USD) for the cause of getting internet connectivity to the Academy. With that money, we could buy the equipment needed for ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) internet connection. We could also network the 5 computers within that budget. Now the children can use internet with all 5 PCs we have here. We thank Joe and Sarah Campbell for this generous donation.
Now that we have internet access, we will line up a range of activities to utilize the facility for the students’ and the villagers’ benefits. Every student will have an email ID, a webpage, a blog, a Skype account, a Twitter and a Facebook account. We will adhere to the global standards of age limits for each of these tools and monitor the way the students use them and guide them properly.
The total monthly cost of the internet bill is around 2,000 LKR (13 USD) and we hope someone who reads this post would help us with the cost. Once we attain full financial sustainability, we hope that the expenses for internet can be paid with the students’ course fees. But it is too early to reach that goal. If you are ready to donate for the monthly internet bill, please contact us through firstname.lastname@example.org. or call us through the telephone numbers in Contact Us page.
Sarah Campbell from the United Kingdom volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in July, August 2017. See her tour report below..
My husband, Joe Campbell and I were travelling around Asia when we decided we wanted to volunteer at Horizon Lanka Foundation, we were slightly nervous having not done any teaching in the past, however it turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made!
On our first day we were welcomed by Nanda and Sunanda (who runs the Horizon Academy – Tantirimale) and they took us on the back of their motorbikes to our Sri Lankan family who would be hosting us for the month. They were so welcoming and made us feel part of the family from the very first day. We had a small room that was slightly separate from the rest of the house (with a fan and a mosquito net, although luckily during July there didn’t seem to be too many mosquitoes!) We spent a lot of time with our host family when we weren’t teaching, one of our favourite evening activities was a card game called Uno (which often resulted in big competitive family games in the evenings including all the cousins, aunts and uncles as well!) There was such a lovely community feel in the village, with friends and family popping in all the time to either play cricket, a game of carrom (a really fun Sri Lankan disc flicking game!) or just to drink tea, chat and play with Lassy (their adorable 2 month old puppy!)
For our meals, we generally had biscuits and a cup of tea for breakfast and delicious rice and curry for lunch and dinner (these ranged from pumpkin curry to iguana lizard curry which was hunted by the 18-year-old boy in the family!) We were always given new food to try, such as berries, corn (a delicious fruit that the children would get from the trees most days and give to you) and tamarind (another delicious fruit that you suck on)!
Now to the teaching… teaching the children in Tantirimale was one of the most exciting, challenging and rewarding things I have ever done. My husband and I had never taught before and so were slightly terrified before we turned up. On our first day we were faced with a room of 15/20 students and although we didn’t really know where to start we slowly got into it. Their English was relatively limited so we started with basic vocabulary such as colours, animals, clothing etc. and built up to adjectives and basic sentences towards the end of the month. The children were very patient with us (especially at the beginning when we were still working out what to do!) They were such kind, caring, fun, smiley children who listened intently to every word we said and wanted to learn as much as they could. We couldn’t have asked for better students!
For the first couple of weeks we taught in the public school in the mornings and then at Horizon Lanka in the afternoons (however because they were in the exam period it meant we didn’t necessarily know what times we’d be teaching until the day before/ on the day, but that was fine we just got used to being flexible!) After two weeks, the school broke up for summer holidays and we were only teaching at Horizon Academy – Tantirimale. Some days we would teach all day at Horizon Academy, but often we would do 9.00 am-2.00 pm because it was due to rain in the afternoon (and they didn’t want the children to have to walk long journeys back to their houses in the rain.)
Teaching in the public school was an amazing experience; we played lots of games and got them to draw and label scenarios, as well as doing a lot of call and repeat. It was also handy that they had desks so we would occasionally write out a worksheet and photocopy them at Horizon Academy and get them to fill them in during the lessons (there was a printer at the academy so this method seemed to work for us and it mixed up the lessons a bit!) After school we would then teach at Horizon Academy which has an outdoors area so you can do more creative things (such as sports, teaching them to dance, playing guitar, keyboard etc.) Teaching the children to swing dance was a particular highlight for me – especially when the boys were paired up and did some amazing twists and turns!
On our days off we did some really fun activities including a safari (where we saw a leopard resting 5m from the jeep), canoeing, staying in a local farmer’s tree house, wild elephant spotting (we saw 20 wild elephants one afternoon!) and taking the family tractor to a local river to swim.
Overall it was such a great experience that I would recommend to everyone if you have the chance to do it. When I first arrived, I was completely out of my comfort zone (not knowing how to teach, living in a completely different culture and environment to the UK, even things like wearing a cheeththa when showering outside took a bit of getting used to) but because it was so different it meant I learnt so much both about myself and about the community we were living in, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. We have gained another family in Sri Lanka and I am so grateful to them and the wonderful children at Horizon Academy – Tantirimale for making it honestly one of the best experiences of my life!
8-year-old Himaya Anjali is a student in Grade 3 at Horizon Academy, Mahawilachchiya. She is a keen student of English and computers. She lives around 3 km away from the Academy at the edge of the Mahawilachchiya village bordering the Wilpattu National Wildlife Park. Her house is situated at a dangerous place where wild elephants are rampant at night. They come to her garden. Still her mother is keen on sending her to Horizon Academy without fail. Himaya has to go back to her house before darkness falls to the village.
The reason for Himaya’s mother for encouraging her to study hard against all odds is that the mother herself could only study up to Grade 6 as she had to work at a village shop with her mother (Himaya’s grandmother) to earn money to make a living. So, the mother now understands the importance of education and is encouraging her two children to study to better themselves in future. Himaya’s father is a laborer who sustains the family by doing odd jobs if and when they are found.
At Horizon Academy, we have 5 bicycles which we bought to be used by our volunteers and we allow the other students to use them when there are less or no volunteers. One day, little Himaya came to me and asked if she too could get a bicycle to ride to Horizon Academy. I said okay but she had a big question mark in her face. She could muster some courage and asked if she could get a smaller bicycle as she cannot ride a standard bicycle made for adults. I had no option but to share her request in our Facebook feed which was spotted by Tharaka Kahaduwa from Bahrain who was a former volunteer at Horizon Lanka. He wrote to me and said he would send the money for a bicycle. As a result, now little Himaya is a proud owner of the new bicycle that is shown in this page. She thanks Tharaka immensely for donating 15,000 LKR (98 USD) for her to buy the bicycle. Now she asks me to create her an email account so that she could write a thank you letter to Tharaka. A smart girl! Now she will learn both English and computers faster to communicate. This is what we at Horizon Lanka need.
Ms Champika Bandara from Aurora, Chicago, Illinois the United States of America volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in July, 2017.
“I have been living in the United States for 16 years and every other summer my family and I go back my birthplace of Sri Lanka to visit our family. However, this time, my son Thimira Bandara had the idea to help out and give back to the people of Sri Lanka. Since 2001 we had been helping the Horizon Lanka Foundation by giving donations but, we never had gone to their schools and helped out. So, this time, when we went to Sri Lanka, I thought it was a good idea to actually go to the schools and help out with my son.
Our plan was to leave Colombo on a Thursday night and reach Anuradhapura Friday morning. This gave us enough time to see all the Buddhist monuments, like the Ruwanweli Seya stupa and the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. After we had time to worship, the next day we were off to Tantirimale, a small farming village an hour from Anuradhapura. We arrived around 10:30 and as soon as we came, the children seemed to be ecstatic to see us. In fact, they had arrived at 7:30 out of sheer enthusiasm to learn. This isn’t seen much in the western world, as everything is handed and opportunities are can be found everywhere. Seeing the dedication in these kids made me feel very happy as it reminded to me of my teaching years when I used to run a Montessori from my house in Kadawatha. It has always been a goal of mine to educate Sri Lanka’s young people because in the future we will depend on them to keep our beautiful country running.
At first, we played fun games, sang songs and danced all to get to know the children and to make them feel comfortable with us. Then, later in the day and the next day, while my son taught computers to the older kids, I had an open discussion with the smaller children on what they wanted to be when they grow older. With this I gave them advice on how to be helpful individuals to their communities and their country. I taught them about the importance of keeping their environment clean and being kind to others. I believe it is important to emphasize this with children because they are our future.
Even though the conflict (Civil War) in the area has been over for a while and the town of Tantirimale seems to be more advanced than ever before, the people there still face many hardships. When talking to the locals many mentioned the water issue and the lack of resources needed to take care of their crops. Amazingly, the village is beautiful nonetheless, however with such hardships, it is only fair that the children receive the best education possible. Thanks to Mr. Wanninayaka and his volunteers, Tantirimale is becoming a wonderful institution for kids to learn computers and English, which is a necessary skill in the real life.
Overall my experience with the foundation and the children was wonderful. Not only was I able to teach the children but they were also able to teach my son and I a few things. I am hoping more Sri Lankans here in the United States and other countries will come together and help out the future of Sri Lanka. There are many more things these children could use, from books to laptops, and from what I have seen these children will put good use to them.”
Champika Sumithraarachchi – the United States of America