Installation of CCTV Camera System at Horizon Lanka Computer Lab

Installation of CCTV Camera System at Horizon Lanka Computer Lab

After installation of the CCTV camera system

We installed a CCTV camera system at Horizon Lanka computer lab today. We got the service from Wartech Neat Solutions in Anuradhapura. It cost us 55,020 LKR (371.46 USD.) This is very necessary for the protection of the equipment, the computer lab and the students. 10 years ago none of these was needed but with the changes in society even at village level, we had to install the camera system to be in the safe side. We did this on credit due to its urgent necessity. It would be great if you can help us pay the company who installed this. If you or your company can help us here, please contact us through info@horizonlanka.org and we will give you the necessary banking information.

Wartech vehicle
Wartech vehicle
Wartech Neat vehicle
Wartech vehicle
Wartech Neat Solutions team fixing the CCTV cameras.
Wartech Neat Solutions team fixing the CCTV cameras.
Wartech Neat Solutions team fixing the CCTV cameras.
Wartech Neat Solutions team fixing the CCTV cameras.
Aruna Shantha of Wartech Neat Solutions
Aruna Shantha of Wartech Neat Solutions

Zachary Grenzowski, the New Year Prince

Zach interviewing Horizon Lanka students
Zach interviewing Horizon Lanka students
Zach interviewing students at Horizon Lanka for his thesis.

Zachary Grenzowski, a young man from Canada, arrived at the Horizon Lanka Foundation with the dawn of the New Year. He arrived on January 7, 2016 and spent six weeks at Horizon Lanka teaching English and computers to the students here. He is a graduate of University of Ottawa and is finishing a Master of Arts in Intercultural and International Communication at Royal Roads University.

Zach has been actively following Horizon Lanka online since 2008. When he finally could free himself from his obligations in Canada, he jumped on a plane to join the adventure. He was very committed to work and did a yeoman service to the organization by teaching, writing project proposals and revamping our website.

Zach’s approach to teaching was different. Not only was Zach a wonderful teacher in the classrooms, he was also an outstanding educator outside the school. He was often found walking around the village, interacting with locals and playing sports with the kids – cricket, volleyball and American football most of the time. He also taught English at nearby public school, Thakshila School.

In his suitcase, Zach generously brought three American footballs from Canada and taught the game to a regular crowd of enthusiastic children. The kids love that game ever since they watched the movie Remember the Titans at the foundation. In exchange, the children taught Zach how to play cricket, which he quickly became very fond of, despite the fact it is one of the most complicated games in the world in terms of rules and techniques.

We held a mini concert mid-February and Zach turned out to be a great dancing teacher too!

More than anything else, Zach is the perfect perfectionist I ever saw. I feel like he is another Steve Jobs when it comes to being perfect barring the former’s tyrannical leadership. He does not leave any need for anyone else to be doing “dotting i’s and crossing t’s” in his writing and his work in general.

Finally, Zach set up a fundraising page for a local girl whose life-threatening illness she could not afford to cure. The campaign is still running and over 2,000,000 LKR (13683.52 USD) have already been reaped from Zach’s efforts.

We miss Zach a lot. We hope he will visit us again.

Zachary-Grenzowski-13

horizon-lanka-students1

dhamma-school-students-tant
Dhamma School students of Tantirimale temple
A thatched wattle house in Ambagahawewa
A thatched wattle house in Ambagahawewa
The stupa in Tantirimale, Mahawilachchiya
The stupa in Tantirimale, Mahawilachchiya
Zach with Tanuri
Zach with Tanuri
Zach teaching at Horizon Lanka
Zach teaching at Horizon Lanka
Zach and the friends on the way to Tantirimale
Zach and the friends on the way to Tantirimale
Zach and the friends in Tantirimale
Zach and the friends in Tantirimale
Zach interviewing children with Nimanditha as an interpreter
Zach interviewing children with Nimanditha as an interpreter
Zach teaching computers
Zach teaching computers
Zack taking a stroll with the students.
Zack taking a stroll with the students.
Taking a stroll
Taking a stroll
Zach near Gini Petti Palama, a bridge in Mahawilachchiya
Zach near Gini Petti Palama, a bridge in Mahawilachchiya
Zachary Grenzowski getting ready to say goodbye to Horizon Lanka
Zachary Grenzowski getting ready to say goodbye to Horizon Lanka

Full STEAM Ahead – Best Practices in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths Workshop in NIE

Full STEAM Ahead – Best Practices in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths Workshop in NIE
Teachers at "Full STEAM Ahead" workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Teachers at “Full STEAM Ahead” workshop at NIE, Maharagama

Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation,

Thanks to my good friend Nalaka Gunawardene, the science writer and the former media spokesman for the late Sir Arthur C. Clarke, I was lucky enough to get an invitation extended by Angelo Fernando, a Sri Lankan American teacher at the Salt River Elementary School Arizona to attend a resourceful two-day workshop on the Best Practices in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths at the National Institute of Education (NIE) on the 15th and the 16th of last December, 2015. There were two hands-on workshops for Science and Technology teachers featuring STEM teachers, scientists, writers, researchers and technology practitioners from the U.S.A. and Sri Lanka. The workshop was conducted by Angelo Fernando and his students and staff of Salt River Elementary School Arizona, the USA.

American and Sri Lankan students at "Full STEAM Ahead" workshop at NIE, Maharagama
American and Sri Lankan students at “Full STEAM Ahead” workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Angelo Fernando at "Full STEAM Ahead" workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Angelo Fernando at “Full STEAM Ahead” workshop at NIE, Maharagama

Dr. Ajith Madurapperuma, a consultant to the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) was the keynote speaker. These were the experts who contributed as resource persons of the workshop. Dr. Paul Funk, Scott Logan, Ruben Gameros, Angelo Fernando, Dr. Nalin Samarasinha, Nalaka Gunawardene, Lal Medawattegama and Nazly Ahmed. Some of them spoke at the event and a few delivered their speeches through Skype from the USA.

Nalaka Gunawardene at "Full STEAM Ahead" workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Nalaka Gunawardene at “Full STEAM Ahead” workshop at NIE, Maharagama

These were the topics that the speakers spoke on. Engineering Design, Electricity & Magnetism, Robotics & Coding, Podcasting, Web 2.0, Scientific Writing, Creative Writing, Photography.

Nazly Ahmed at "Full STEAM Ahead" workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Nazly Ahmed at “Full STEAM Ahead” workshop at NIE, Maharagama

After the second day of the workshop, Prasad Perera of the American Center, Colombo invited us to enter the iBus, a bus with laptops and tabs with internet access. You can get the services of this iBus totally free of charge by contacting the American Center. This will be a great asset to the places in Sri Lanka where there is no internet access.

The iBus of the American Center
The iBus of the American Center

This two-day workshop helped me a lot as we are going to teach Robotics as a new subject at Horizon Lanka Foundation from this year and we also plan to start teaching Science and Mathematics using multimedia technology. Since the students learn the syllabi of those subjects in the public schools and in then at private tuition classes, we do not hope to repeat the same at Horizon Lanka. Instead, we will use more technology to teach these subjects. If you have new ideas to share on this, please send your comments in.

Angelo, Wanni and Nalaka at "Full STEAM Ahead" workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Angelo, Wanni and Nalaka at “Full STEAM Ahead” workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Teachers at "Full STEAM Ahead" workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Teachers at “Full STEAM Ahead” workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Teachers at "Full STEAM Ahead" workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Teachers at “Full STEAM Ahead” workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Prasad Perera of the American Center inside iBus at "Full STEAM Ahead" workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Prasad Perera of the American Center inside iBus at “Full STEAM Ahead” workshop at NIE, Maharagama
iBus logo
iBus logo
Teachers getting on to the iBus
Teachers getting on to the iBus
Teachers inside the iBus at "Full STEAM Ahead" workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Teachers inside the iBus at “Full STEAM Ahead” workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Attendees of "Full STEAM Ahead" workshop at NIE, Maharagama
Attendees of “Full STEAM Ahead” workshop at NIE, Maharagama

Who is Malala?

Horizon Lanka students with Malala's picture as the walpapetr in their PCs.
Horizon Lanka’s Malalas with Malala’s picture as the wallpaper in their PCs.

Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation

Despite all the conspiracy theories against her, I am a great admirer of Malala Yousafzai, world’s youngest ever Nobel laureate from one of our neighboring countries, Pakistan. Like most of the other non-Pakistanis, I too heard about her after being shot by the Talibans on October 9, 2012. I followed news casts after that about her deteriorating health and near death experiences. Just like the rest of you, I too was shocked as to how on earth a man can shoot such an innocent and beautiful butterfly like Malala (or any other child for that matter.) I was relieved once I heard the news that she would survive.

Horizon Lanka students with Malala's picture as the wallpaper in their PCs.
Horizon Lanka students with Malala’s picture as the wallpaper in their PCs.

Ever since I followed news about her. After her book “I am Malala” was published, I immediately downloaded the audio version of the book and listened to it zillion times. I still do. I also downloaded the e-book version and read that too. As if it was not enough, I also bought the printed book and read that too. Read my blog post about Malala’s autobiography “I am Malala” in here.

Horizon Lanka's Malalas with Malala's picture as the wallpaper in their PCs.
Horizon Lanka’s Malalas with Malala’s picture as the wallpaper in their PCs.

I also recommended the book I am Malala to the university undergraduates who learned English and English literature from me and they enjoyed discussing and reading it a lot. I made it the compulsory book to read and discuss with the English and English literature class I am doing for English teachers and young graduates who learn from me at Horizon Lanka. She is a big inspiration to them as well.

Horizon Lanka students with Malala's picture as the wallpaper in their PCs.
Horizon Lanka students with Malala’s picture as the wallpaper in their PCs.

Recently, I found a good picture of Malala with her famous slogan “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world” in the background. I set the image as the wallpaper of my laptop. Not only that, I set it as the wallpaper in my mobile phone also. So, the Horizon Lanka students asked who that cute girl was. I said she is Malala. Then my students asked the same question the Taliban terrorist asked Malala seconds before shooting her, “Who is Malala?”

Malala's picture as my laptop's wallpaper
Malala’s picture as my laptop’s wallpaper
Malala's picture as my mobile phone's wallpaper
Malala’s picture as my mobile phone’s wallpaper

Then I opened up the Wikipedia page about her and some of the images taken while she was wounded and her speeches, interviews, etc. in YouTube and briefed about her life and the great risks she took in fighting for the right for girls’ education. My students were greatly inspired and wanted to set the same image of Malala I used as my wallpaper in the other 10 PCs at Horizon Lanka too. This is how their PCs look like now. I don’t know when they will replace with someone/something else but definitely not any sooner according to their love towards Malala. Now all the girls here want to be Malalas.

malala-horizonlanka5
Horizon Lanka students with Malala’s picture as the wallpaper in their PCs.

Sri Lanka does not have a big issue when it comes to girls’ education. In most of the schools, colleges and universities girls constitute more than the boys even in challenging fields such as technical, engineering, medical, etc. fields. Even Muslim girls here excel in higher education and in professional careers. But we need more Malalas here to promote education among both girls and boys, especially in rural areas where there is less facilities and urge to go for higher education.

Horizon Lanka students with Malala's picture as the wallpaper in their PCs.
Horizon Lanka students with Malala’s picture as the wallpaper in their PCs.

An Arduino Electronic Development Kit from Mr. Chinthaka Porawagama from the USA

Arduino Electronic Development Kit
Arduino Electronic Development Kit
Chinthaka-Porawagama1
Mr. Chinthaka Porawagama

Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation

Mr. Chinthaka Porawagama, a past pupil of the Central College, Anuradhapura, the same school I studied for Advanced Level for a year in 1990, contacted me after reading one of my blog posts in my personal blog, https://wanni.wordpress.com. According to him, he had been searching for an old book of his childhood which was about Guglielmo Marconi in Google and had found this link in my blog., which had the exact same pictures that his book had and the original article!!!. He was so happy to see this and through my blog he had read about Horizon Lanka. Then he immediately contacted me and asked whether I was interested in receiving an Arduino Electronic Development Kit from him.

Mr. Porawagama now works as an engineer in the United States. He graduated from the University of Peradeniya and University of Moratuwa and then migrated to the United States. He had a passion for electronics since he was a kid, and that’s the reason he loved to do experiments with this type of gadgets.

The main components in the Arduino Electronic Development Kit he donated are these.

  • Arduino – Uno
  • Arduino Mega 2560
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Breadboards & connecting terminals
  • Power supply units for Arduino / Raspberry Pi projects
  • Servo motors (3)
  • Stepper motors (1)
  • Sensors (ultrasound/ proximity/ gyro/ etc.)
  • LCD screen
  • Programmable IR remote
  • Other related stuff

He bought all these components from LankaTronics. (Arduino boards he bought were original ones, since they have their own copies.)

Arduino and Raspberry Pi are fast growing and advancing electronic development trends used by professionals and enthusiasts, and the best thing is that there is a huge online information and knowledge base in the internet which are shared free by the Arduino and Raspberry Pi developer communities.

Chinthaka Porawagama's father donating the Arduino kit to Ramani (Left Chinthaka Porawagama)
Chinthaka Porawagama’s father donating the Arduino kit to Ramani (Left Chinthaka Porawagama)
Arduino Electronic Development Kit with a laptop
Arduino Electronic Development Kit with a laptop

Mr. Porawagama’s parents who live in Sri Lanka brought the kit to Anuradhapura and handed over to a member of Horizon Lanka. We thank Mr. Porawagama and his parents for this kind gesture displayed towards Horizon Lanka Foundation.

If you are new to Arduino and raspberry pi, visit these YouTube links.

Road to Buruthagas Handiya, Mahawilachchiya Temporary Repaired

Road after the temprary repairs
Road after the temporary repairs

After the protest march by the villagers in Mahawilachchiya followed by a hunger strike by Mr. Anura Bandara, a farmer, the government agreed to repair the road from Tract 4 Junction to Buruthagas Handiya, Tract 3. They sent excavators and temporary repaired by just flattening the road. This is not a lasting solution as the condition of the road can deteriorate due to the rain. The government has promised Mr. Bandara that they will completely repair the road within 3 months.

Road after the temprary repairs
Road after the temporary repairs
Road after the temporary repairs
Road after the temporary repairs
Road after the temporary repairs
Road after the temporary repairs
Road after the temporary repairs
Road after the temporary repairs
Road after the temporary repairs
Road after the temporary repairs
Road after the temporary repairs
Road after the temporary repairs

Two Laptops from Rehan Allahwala, Karachi, Pakistan

Nuwan Sampath Dissanayaka, with one of the laptops from Rehan
Nuwan Sampath Dissanayaka, with one of the laptops from Rehan

Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation

I met Mr. Rehan Allahwala from Karachi, Pakistan while I was at Lanka Hospitals, Colombo, Sri Lanka to get my annual medical checkup done in December, 2013. Rehan’s face was so serene and inviting so that I could not help initiating an informal chat with him even though I hardly talk to strangers. We talked about each other’s work and we both had the interest in using ICT-related technology for social good. So we met several times in Colombo and talked at length on using technology at various fronts to make a positive difference in the society. He gifted me what came to be my first Android phone, a 3G-enabled Samsung Galaxy S Duos 2 S7562, a hot release by then.  Rehan calls such phones “smart phones” as the others do and the non-smart phones, “stupid phones.” That smart phone changed my life with mobile based Internet and the fate of Horizon Lanka Foundation. Horizon Lanka was closed for almost 3 ½ years from February, 2011 to June, 2013 as we faced a financial crisis. Also the repercussions Horizon Lanka faced due to me leaving the village in January, 2006 with my marriage.

Even though I had opened a Facebook account when it was opened for this part of the world, I did not use it much as I thought it was a time wasting tool. But Rehan explained me how one can change the way people think to positive with Facebook. First I thought Rehan was crazy, to be honest. But his crazy ideas just worked. I started getting a lot of Facebook friend requests from Pakistan. Now I have more than 2,500 contacts and around 1,500 of them are Pakistanis. Pakistan is a good friend of Sri Lanka politically and culturally. In addition to that, we are more or less equals in the game of cricket now and enjoy Pakistani team’s tours to Sri Lanka a lot.

Rehan Allahwala
Rehan Allahwala

I had read about Rehan’s scheme in rewarding with a laptop to the Facebook users who befriend 500 of Rehan’s mutual friends and never knew that I will be eligible for it since I am from Sri Lanka. But Rehan had sent me two laptops instead of one, even without me being eligible for the rewarding as I still haven’t befriended at least 500 of Rehan’s mutual Facebook friends. But I get the idea that he sent me the two laptops upfront because he admires my work at Horizon Lanka Foundation which I founded myself some 17 years ago to enhance village children’s English and ICT knowledge.  As a result of the education given by Horizon Lanka, a large number of ICT, English and other professionals emerged from the rural village of Mahawilachchiya. Didn’t they reward Barack Obama with Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 even before he didn’t do much to deserve it? But I will not disappoint Rehan like Obama did. 🙂

“The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to United States President Barack Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people.” The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced the award on October 9, 2009, citing Obama’s promotion of nuclear nonproliferation and a “new climate” in international relations fostered by Obama, especially in reaching out to the Muslim world.” – Wikipedia

I gave one of the laptops to a former Horizon Lanka student who is running his own photography and graphic designing enterprise and the other one to a volunteer who helps Horizon Lanka from time to time whenever the need arises.

I will befriend more than 1000 of Rehan’s mutual friends and also will work in a Pakistani rural village as a volunteer in time to come to justify Rehan’s generosity. I am also encouraging our students and the youth in the village to befriend Rehan’s mutual friends because it helps a lot to gain more knowledge and experiences.

Two laptops from Rehan
Two laptops from Rehan
Nuwan's Studio
Nuwan’s Studio
One of the laptops with the package
One of the laptops with the package

ChildsPlay International – Horizon Lanka Event in Mahawilachchiya

Dancing girls of Horizon Lanka
Dancing girls of Horizon Lanka

Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation

I met Mr. Rehan Allahwala from Karachi, Pakistan while I was at Lanka Hospitals, Colombo, Sri Lanka to get my annual medical checkup done in December, 2013. Rehan’s face was so serene and inviting so that I could not help initiating an informal chat with him even though I hardly talk to strangers. We talked about each other’s work and we both had the interest in using ICT-related technology for social good. So we met several times in Colombo and talked at length on using technology at various fronts to make a positive difference in the society. He gifted me what came to be my first Android phone, a 3G-enabled Samsung Galaxy S Duos 2 S7562, a hot release by then.  Rehan calls such phones “smart phones” as the others do and the non-smart phones, “stupid phones.” That smart phone changed my life with mobile based Internet and the fate of Horizon Lanka Foundation. Horizon Lanka was closed for almost 3 ½ years from February, 2011 to June, 2013 as we faced a financial crisis. Also the repercussions Horizon Lanka faced due to me leaving the village in January, 2006 with my marriage.

Even though I had opened a Facebook account when it was opened for this part of the world, I did not use it much as I thought it was a time wasting tool. But Rehan explained me how one can change the way people think to positive with Facebook. First I thought Rehan was crazy, to be honest. But his crazy ideas just worked. I started adding Rehan’s mutual friends to my FB account and in turn, I started getting a lot of Facebook friend requests from Pakistan. Now I have more than 2,500 contacts and around 1,500 of them are Pakistanis. Pakistan is a good friend of Sri Lanka politically and culturally and they helped Sri Lankan government (along with China and Russia) a lot to win the war against the Tamil Tiger terrorists who wrecked the island of Sri Lanka into pieces for almost 30 years. In addition to that, we are more or less equals in the game of cricket now and enjoy each other’s visits a lot.

In September, 2014 Rehan introduced me Mr. Sarwar Mushtaq, a documentary filmmaker, the CEO of Eckova Productions, Pakistan in turn who introduced me Dr. Steven Watson, a revered author from the USA. Dr. Watson pools the income he gets from the sales of his books to a non-profit organization called ChildsPlay International, which promotes outdoor activities like, folk games, folk songs, folk dances, storytelling, drawing and painting, mask making etc. to get the children actively involved in education. This went in par with my vision, though I hardly used folk stuff for it as I wanted to use contemporary forms of arts, sports and new technology to get the students engaged in outdoor activities which paid rich dividends. But now I understand that preserving the folk forms of arts and sports also can be used and both students and the parents love it. They do not forget their history that fast. Who am I to deny that right for them?

I had a chat with both Dr. Watson and Ms. Denise Davies from Canada who had spent some time in Sri Lanka and was convinced that this is a chance not to be missed. So, Dr. Watson sent Mr. Sarwar Mushtaq, the Pakistani American photographer and videographer on a fact-finding mission to Horizon Lanka, Mahawilachchiya, Sri Lanka in November, 2014. We had enough time to talk and see places in and around Mahawilachchiya and our chemistries matched most of the time if not all the time.

Sarwar Mushtaq in Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka in November, 2014.
Sarwar Mushtaq in Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka in November, 2014.

Then we planned to hold the ChildsPlay International – Horizon Lanka Foundation (CPI-HLF) event in December, 2014 but with the torrential rains and subsequent floods that hampered any transport between the Left Bank (where Horizon Lanka is) and the Right Bank of the village, we had to postpone it to January, 2016. But the floods did not recede even by January. So, the next option was to have the event in April 2016 which was not practical due to Sri Lankan New Year celebrations in April short public school vacation.

So, the most practical and logical choice was August, 2016 the driest and the most rainless month of the year. Alas! It rained virtual cats and dogs in August too and it stopped few days into the event making the village of Mahawilachchiya all green, as green as during Sarwar’s first visit. So, everything around Horizon Lanka was giving us a photogenic atmosphere.

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Children gathered at Sri Sudarshanaramaya, the village temple for the first meeting with CPI.
Children gathered at Sri Sudarshanaramaya, the village temple for the first meeting with CPI.

We started the CPI-HLF event on August 24, 2016, first with giving an overview to the children, youth and the parents at the Sri Sudarshanarama Buddhist Temple, the temple we work closely as the chief monk is a friendly, helpful and intelligent person. Next day, all the students visited Horizon Lanka and there were around 130-140 students there. Sarwar Mushtaq, the CEO of Eckova Productions, Pakistan and his team members, Nadeem Ahmed, Ejaz Bhatti and Nayab Rehman did a splendid job throughout the event. They became very friendly with the children and the villagers and the children and the villagers in turn, returned the favor and the warmth.

Ejaz, Nadeem and Sarwar of CPI/Eckova
Ejaz, Nadeem and Sarwar of CPI/Eckova

We worked on indigenous art, crafts etc. and indigenous performing arts (music, song, dance, etc.) We also had activities such as masks making and costumes, etc. which the kids fell in love with and everyone needed a mask which was Nayab’s pet area. For local storytelling traditions, we got both the kids’ and adults’ contribution actively and did the recordings at the Buddhist temple which was mentioned above.

Miss Nayab Rehman of CPI/Eckova
Miss Nayab Rehman of CPI/Eckova
Girls are ready to dance in their traditional costumes
Girls are ready to dance in their traditional costumes
Miss Nayab help making masks for the children
Miss Nayab help making masks for the children
Girls practicing a dance item
Girls practicing a dance item
Children busy with drawing
Children busy with drawing
Children busy with drawing
Children busy with drawing
Boys supporting dancing girls
Boys supporting dancing girls
Learning photography/videoing from Ejaz of CPI/Eckova
Learning photography/videoing from Ejaz of CPI/Eckova
Children are doing folk games.
Children are doing folk games.
Horizon Lanka students
Horizon Lanka students
Ranjan, a volunteer working with the children
Ranjan, a volunteer working with the children
Children playing a folk game
Children playing a folk game
Horizon Lanka students
Horizon Lanka students
Horizon Lanka students
Horizon Lanka students
Horizon Lanka students DJing the mini concert
Horizon Lanka students DJing the mini concert
Children playing
Children playing
Children at Horizon Lanka
Children at Horizon Lanka
Children at Horizon Lanka
Children at Horizon Lanka
Children at Horizon Lanka
Children at Horizon Lanka
Nadeem from CPI/Eckova with children and junior students' drawings.
Nadeem from CPI/Eckova with children and junior students’ drawings.
Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka with the children and one of the volunteers.
Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka with the children and one of the volunteers.
CPI/Eckova team is talking to Mr. Sunimal Weerasooriya, one of the first generation benefactors of Horizon Lanka
CPI/Eckova team is talking to Mr. Sunimal Weerasooriya, one of the first generation benefactors of Horizon Lanka
Ejaz Bhatia of CPI/Eckova playing cricket with the children
Ejaz Bhatia of CPI/Eckova playing cricket with the children
Nadeem bawling to Ejaz at cricket field.
Nadeem bawling to Ejaz at cricket field.
Boys and girls playing soccer
Boys and girls playing soccer
A part of the audience at the mini concert on the final day
A part of the audience at the mini concert on the final day
A part of the audience at the mini concert on the final day
A part of the audience at the mini concert on the final day
Mr. Kularathna Rajapaksha, a director of Horizon Lanka handing over 10,000 LKR given by CPI to the village sports club
Mr. Kularathna Rajapaksha, a director of Horizon Lanka handing over 10,000 LKR given by CPI to the village sports club

After supervising all these activities what I felt was that there should be a better communication between the beneficiary organization and the benefactor so that many things go as planned if not all. Due to late night work (such as downloading the pictures and videos from their cameras and editing them) of the CPI team, some days students were idling without much activities to be done. On the other hand, the volunteers selected should have taken over during the absence of the CPI team but this did not happen. Next time we should employ volunteers who can be in the premises throughout the day.

Children became very active and lively with the activities. This is what they miss at their regular schools. In public schools in Sri Lanka, children get the first term totally dedicated to sports without giving a chance for significant amount of academic affairs and the next two terms are totally academic without providing a window for sports so much so that the school playgrounds grow into little jungles by the start of the next year. I wanted to see a change in this while I was a schoolboy. Once I was hired as a consultant to the Ministry of Education, I tried my best to convince the relevant officials who did not agree with what I said and all they said was what they have been doing is an age-old procedure and it is not advisable to change that tradition. I think it would be a good idea to introduce CPI model activity based education to the public schools as well, if there is an avenue for it. Children were very comfortable with CPI activities and they did not want the program to end. Even the most inactive or least talented student actively took part in the activities. This helped them to get rid of stage phobia and typical shyness the students in this part of the world have. In fact, children are not comfortable in questioning the teachers as the children think it is improper to question a teacher because of the great respect they are supposed to have towards the teachers. This is an adverse effect of too much respect. But with the CPI activities, both the teachers and the CPI team made a leveled field with the students and everybody reacted positively.

The teachers and parents were extremely happy with the way program was conducted and requested that similar events be held frequently at Horizon Lanka Foundation. Teachers/volunteers need more awareness about the goals of the work of CPI. They are not used to this type of activities as they are used to work according to a fixed timetable throughout the year. They find it difficult to introduce something new if and when the CPI team is not present at the premises. Parents want us to pay more attention to children’s aesthetic (painting, singing, dancing, etc.) talents as those talents are not used at public schools and only a few selected children get all the opportunities whereas with CPI, every child gets equal opportunities.

If we are to organize a similar event with the CPI in future, teachers, parents and mentors are very happy to contribute since they know what exactly to be done with their first hand experiences. At their request, we are planning to have a sports tournament and a 3-hour long concert at Horizon Lanka in early 2016. The practices have already begun and we will be able to fine tune the dancing items if there is a budget to hire the dancing teacher in the village.

We will organize an evening to show what the children did by putting up some photographs of the events, showing them some video, playing back some of the recorded stories. This will be very encouraging for children to see themselves and to know that what they have done is valued. We are waiting to see the videos done by CPI at the event so that we could show both children and parents of the activities done. What we have for the moment are amateur videos and it is worth waiting for CPI videos and photos taken by professionals.

I think this idea of CPI should be expanded to other schools in the area and Horizon Lanka can be used as the bridge to do so. We can convince the headmasters and teachers in the area and can do the communication and organizing part through Horizon Lanka so that the presence of the Horizon Lanka Foundation will be valued even more by the community.

 

A Protest March and a Hunger Strike in Mahawilachchiya to Force the Government to Repair a Road in Mahawilachchiya

Anura Bandara in hunger strike
Anura Bandara in hunger strike

Nanda Wanninayaka, the Founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation, Mahawilachchiya.

The road from Anuradhapura to Mahawilachchiya was repaired well during the rule of the previous government. According to the sources from the Mahawilachchiya Divisional Secretariat, the previous government also had allocated money to extend the road repairs from Mahawilachchiya Tract 4 Junction up to Helambewa through Sooriyadamana. But after the change of the government in January this year the new government canceled the repairing of this very important road.

The road from Tract 4 junction to Buruthagas Handiya was not repaired well for a very long time. What they did was just flattening the road with an excavator from time to time. It wasn’t a lasting solution to the problem. The soil became a muddy road during the monsoon rains and most of the flattened soil was washed away with the rain and traveling became a nightmare. This part of the road wasn’t repaired after it was built before 1957. Mahawilachchiya settlement was handed over to the people in 1957.

Today, (November 10, 2015) there was a protest march led by Mr. Anura Bandara, a farmer in the village to force the government to repair this road from Tract 4 junction to Buruthagas Handiya (only 5 kilometers.) Mr. Bandara started a hunger strike after the protest march till the government promises to repair the road. A few years ago, he led another protest with a large number of villagers to force the then government to repair the road from Anuradhapura to Mahawilachchiya. He was even put in the remand prison for seven days as he defied the court order given to him ordering him not to block the road. However, after some time, the road was repaired and now it is in a good condition to travel. The road from Pemaduwa (the small town in Mahawilachchiya village) to Mannar junction was repaired and carpeted after former president Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa experienced how bad the road was when he travelled to Mannar Junction in a car to declare open cooperative rice storage. So he ordered the officials to repair and carpet that distance. Now that road is well repaired and carpeted. But there is nobody to repair this last 5 kilometers in the Left Bank of Mahawilachchiya. Hope Mr.  Bandara’s hunger strike ends with a positive response from the government. He represents everyone in the village.

Villagers led by Anura Bandara at the protest march
Villagers led by Anura Bandara at the protest march

 

Villagers led by Anura Bandara at the protest march
Villagers led by Anura Bandara at the protest march
Villagers led by Anura Bandara at the protest march
Villagers led by Anura Bandara at the protest march
Villagers led by Anura Bandara at the protest
Villagers led by Anura Bandara at the protest
A vociferous village woman talking to a TV camera
A vociferous village woman talking to a TV camera

 

A van finding it difficult to travel in the damaged road
A van finding it difficult to travel in the damaged road
A part of the damaged road
A part of the damaged road
A part of the damaged road
A part of the damaged road

Lubomír Jiřišta

Lubomír Jiřišta
Lubomír Jiřišta and Klára Gebhartová
Lubomír Jiřišta and Klára Gebhartová

My Sri Lankan Journey – Lubomír Jiřišta 

My first day in Sri Lanka started at Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake (aka Colombo Airport) after eleven hours of flight from the Czech Republic. After a short time I was sitting in a Tuk Tuk (three-wheeler) to Colombo Fort Railway Station. That was the place, where I met my girlfriend Klara, who was teaching English as a volunteer in Mahawilachchiya village for Horizon Lanka Foundation. Our journey started there and it was big! 🙂

We came back to Negombo for a one night stay near the beach. There were very nice and huge waves, but there were also plastic bags everywhere in the sea. In the morning we rented a motorbike (Yamaha FZ 150) for one week and started our sightseeing tour to Mahawilachchiya, where we should meet all Klara’s friends and host family. Our day was sometimes filled with rain, but we were lucky to meet so many good people. One family invited us to their house and made us a cup of hot tea during our stay under the palm tree no rain spot. We ended in Ridi Vihara Temple, which is carved into the rock with lying Buddha statue. We met the Buddhist monk of Ridigama, who offered us food and place where we could sleep. He showed us their second temple in the forests, which they usually use for meditation and a biggest sitting Buddha statue in Sri Lanka. Thank you very much, Ridigama!

Near Ridi Vihara Temple
Near Ridi Vihara Temple

After this we moved slowly to Dambulla. This city was a bit dirty and very crowded. The GoldenTemple on the top of the hill, which is also carved in the caves, was full of tourists and entrance fee for foreigners was so big, that I can’t recommend it.

The Golden Temple, Dambulla
The Golden Temple, Dambulla

Next day was awesome. We started early in the morning and headed to Sigiriya Rock. If you don’t like crowded places like us, go about five more kilometers to Pidurangala Ancient Forest Monastery and climb the hill. It has same height as Sigiriya rock, but there was no one in the morning. There is an amazing view to Sigiriya with crowded upstairs and whole landscape.

Pidurangala
Pidurangala

After Pidurangala we went straight to Trincomalee for some beach relax. 🙂 This part of Sri Lanka was hit by tsunami wave in 2004. It looked like we have no chance to stay here, because all accommodation places were totally full. We finally found a last free room in Nilaveli resort near the beach. The hotel was a few days before opening and we were so lucky to meet the owner here. Nilaveli beach was so clean and nice!

Lubomír Jiřišta and Klára Gebhartová in Nilaveli
Lubomír Jiřišta and Klára Gebhartová in Nilaveli

Our next point was a nice historic city called Anuradhapura. We met Klara’s friends Ramani with her husband Udaya first. They are a very nice couple. 🙂 We slept in Kalhari’s (student from Klara’s and Ramani’s English class) family house. I will always remember our night trip to Jethavanaramaya pagoda, Anuradhapura and a great talk with Kalhari’s father Susil, who is a psychologist, about differences between our countries. It was perfect, because it is nearly impossible to go to the city centre without buying a ticket for $25 per person and day only for entrance.

Near Jethawanaramaya Pagoda, Anuradhapura
Near Jethawanaramaya Pagoda, Anuradhapura

In the morning we started our trip to Ritigala (temple in woods) and it was full of new experiences. I met for the first time Bathiya, Sisira, Jeewan, Jeewani and Janaka. We drove through the forests with high risk of wild elephant appearance. Everything was fine and we had a tasty lunch from palm leaves. After this hot day we swam in a big reservoir called Nachchaduwa Wewa. It was very nice refreshment after the whole day. I was little bit scared from the elephant danger in the morning, so message about possibility of crocodiles didn’t please me much. 🙂

At Ritigala
At Ritigala

After our whole day motorbike trip we got at early night to Mahawilachchiya to house of Wanni’s family (Wanni is a teacher and founder of Horizon Lanka.) He and his family have a nice house with a beautiful garden. Classes where children can learn subjects from English to computers are very near. Our stay was full of discussions, meetings of new people from the village and delicious meals! Yeah Jeewani is a great cook. 🙂

Lubomir, Wanni and Klara
Lubomir, Wanni and Klara

If you are interested in volunteering, (teaching English or computers) I can totally recommend you Horizon Lanka Foundation. All the people here are very friendly, kind and bright.

It was very hard to leave, but we had to. We had two thirds of our trip in front us. We went back to Negombo to return the motorbike. We caught an early morning bus to Kandy (city in the mountains.) We got a tip from Wanni to meet his friend Mahesh, who offers accommodation. We stayed there two days and really enjoyed our time with Mahesh and his family. There is a very nice Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya and the Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa) in Kandy. We also saw Kandy Esala Perahera procession. It was so beautiful! We sat on the pavement with local people and there wasn’t any mistake, except our stone bottom 🙂

Kandy Esala Perahera procession
Kandy Esala Perahera procession

From Kandy we took a train to Hatton. After that we took a bus to Delhouse. The trip was full of views to valleys with tea plantations. That was our starting point to Adam’s Peak. It was 5500 steps to the top, where is a temple, but it is worth the effort. Even for reaching the top feeling. You can ring the big bell on the top. We weren’t allowed to see Adams foot in the rock, because it’s hidden.

Train to Hatton
Train to Hatton
Adam's Peak
Adam’s Peak

Back to Hatton, which is not so nice, but we visited two nearby waterfalls and a tea museum. I finally got a local Gun Powder tea. 🙂 From Hatton we moved to Haputale planning to visit the Lipton’s Seat the next day. It is a shade that it was cloudy everywhere.

Dambatenne Tea Factory
Dambatenne Tea Factory

Our last point on our train tour was Ella, a small town, which is full of bars and restaurants to satisfy all tourists’ needs. We climbed the Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock next morning. View to the city and down the valley was delightful. That was the end of our trip in the mountains.

Klara at Haputale
Klara at Haputale
Klara at Lipton’s Seat
Klara at Lipton’s Seat

We looked forward to our last days on the beach, so we moved from Ella to Arugam Bay.  We were lucky to catch a cheap Tuk Tuk, which traveled the same way and wanted someone to go with him. 🙂 On the other day we got a surf lesson from a local guy. That was my most successful day for sliding down the waves, because he pushed us in the right moment. Klara was better and slid few waves like a pro during next days. After our surf session we started to return to Colombo through the south coast (Tangalle, Galle and Kalutara). On our last day before the flight we met again Mahesh with his two boys. It was a perfect surprise!

I want to thank everyone for the hospitality and kindness. Wanni and Udaya for our talks. Jeewani and Ramani for tasteful meals. Thanks also to Bathiya, Sisira and Jeewan for our discussion. I think you won’t get lost in this world J I had luck to meet you and I wish you the best possible future.  I also want to thank to Mahesh and his family for a nice accommodation, tips and present we got!

I hope to see you all again. This holiday is on my personal top because of you.  – Lubomír Jiřišta