Daniel Burger Moya and Paula Sánchez González – Spain

Daniel Burger Moya and Paula Sánchez González – Spain
Daniel and Paula with the host family

Mr. Daniel Burger Moya and Ms. Paula Sánchez González from Spain volunteered at Horizon Academy – Werapitiya, Kandy operated by Horizon Lanka Foundation in August 2019

Our experiences in Sri Lanka

We volunteered about 2 weeks, from 16th August 2019 till the 2nd of September 2019, in a town near Kandy with an amazing host family teaching the kids near the town some English and some other practical skills.

About the town, it is near Werapitiya, Kandy. It’s an amazing place, so much nature and so much to visit there. The host family took us with their tuk tuk to waterfalls, rivers, mountains and everything surrounded by tea plantations. It’s a truly magical place.

Paula Sánchez González teaching the class

The host family was also incredible; their warm welcome was really something. They cooked for us very different and delicious food, I think we gained 10 kilos in our 2 weeks there. They gave us a really nice room, always were on handy to make a trip with us, talk, play some card games at night, explain to us their culture, etc. It was wonderful.

The Horizon Academy was sadly closed, and nobody warned us about this, I think this was the main problem. Vajira organized our host family and our stay. He is a tour guide and knew a lot about Sri Lanka, spoke also Spanish, however, we just saw him once in 2 weeks. Sadly, the local school was closed at the time we arrived. Actually, Vajira knew very little about the school and the town, so the organization could be done better.

With this problem, the family (and not Vajira) organized some teaching in their home or in the Buddhist temple with the kids, from 5 to 22 years old, from the town, but some days we didn’t know what to do. Because of the age difference and without any guidelines, it wasn’t quite easy to teach them. Despite this inconvenience, the kids really want to learn anything and are very curious about different cultures, so it was fun and enjoyable to teach/play with them.

After this time together, we had to say goodbye to all these great people, we traveled for two weeks in Sri Lanka. This was an amazing 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, like mountains with tea plantations with nice landscapes and good hiking, as beautiful beaches to relax and swim!

To conclude, we would like to say we really recommend this experience, the people of Sri Lanka are really kind and the country has so much different nature and culture. Our volunteering experience was great, despite the school problem, the experience was fantastic and we are really thankful.

Answer from Nanda Wanninayaka, the Chairman of Horizon Lanka Foundation

Dear Dan and Paula,

I read your very interesting report and I am glad that you had mentioned both positive and negative remarks. Also, I apologize for the negative aspects. In fact, it was my fault than Vajira’s. I was expected to visit the village and make the right connections with the public schools, Sunday schools in temples, etc. But I fell ill a couple of times last year and this prevented me from doing so. I have not visited this village at least once as of yet. So, I will visit this village next week with Vajira and then meet the students, school principals, teachers, villagers, etc. and then explain what we do through Horizon Academy.

Yes, it was the public school vacation while you were in Werapitiya but usually, in other Horizon Academies, more students come to us during vacations. If I visited the village earlier, I could have easily arranged that.

Nanda Wanninayaka

Vanessa Goncalves and Ana Rita Silva- Portugal

Vanessa Goncalves and Ana Rita Silva- Portugal
Vanessa Goncalves and Ana Rita Silva interacting with the kids

Miss Vanessa Goncalves and Miss Ana Rita Silva from Portugal volunteered at Horizon Academy – Ukkulankulama operated by the Horizon Lanka Foundation in December 2019.

Our experiences in Sri Lanka

First of all, we would like to thank you for the opportunity to be part of the Horizon Lanka Foundation. It was a real pleasure to be with Namal for these two weeks and we really enjoyed staying with the kids!

In these two weeks, we were in different classes taught by Namal and we met kids of different ages and levels of English. Yesterday we got the chance to be part of the Horizon Academy in Ukkulankulama, Mihintale. We spoke with the teenagers and provided them our email IDs and Facebook pages so that they can contact us to practice their English – we would be glad to help!

Kids learning in their class room

Namal gave us some directions on what to teach the kids, usually for 2 hours, but he also gave us space for creativity and was always there to support us.

While at home, the host family (Namal’s) was very welcoming, the food was very good and they were always concerned so that we would have the best possible experience while giving us privacy – we almost felt at home.

So we really want to say thank you 🙂

Ana Rita Silva and Vanessa Goncalves

Tatiana Agorasti – Greece

Tatiana Agorasti – Greece

Miss Tatiana Agorasti from Greecevolunteered at Horizon Academy – Tantirimale operated by the Horizon Lanka Foundation in April 2019.

Miss Tatiana Agorasti with some students at Horizon Academy – Tantirimale.

Katia Ben Yaacov – Israel

Katia Ben Yaacov – Israel

Ms. Katia Ben Yaacov from Israel volunteered at Horizon Academy – Panama operated by the Horizon Lanka Foundation in August 2019.

Wow! How to describe this experience? 6 days we lived the life of the village Panama, a backwater village that time stopped in many years ago…. and all these days we volunteered with the children of the area and passed them fun activities with experience to teach also a little basic. We lived in one of the residents, we ate rice with curry morning afternoon and evening (it was tough spicy and tasty! ) courtesy of the grandmother, the conditions were very basic and were not always easy (there is no hot water, full of bugs) but… the children… wow!!! so sweet and happy to take part in every activity, cooperate, try to understand the laws of the games, to hear a word there and always, always, smiling! Volunteering abroad is the thing!

These past few days were so intense and memorable. The time we spent volunteering at Horizon Academy – Panama village in Sri Lanka was a unique experience for us as a family. The kids we have met were so kind and always with a smile on their faces. Every day we planned for them a different activity and had a lot of fun. Was not always easy but these were definitely rewarding and incredible moments!

Thanks a lot, Nanda Wanninayaka from Horizon Lanka Foundation – you are doing a unique job and making an impact on this kids – and especially many, many thanks to Priyantha Pushpakumara and his family who hosted us at his home and took care of us during our stay! Say hello to our mother who cooked for us delicious (and spicy!) curry and to your cute son Nadila whom we miss already!

With the students from Horizon Academy – Panama, Sri Lanka

וואו איך לתאר את החוויה הזאת ? 6 ימים חיינו את חיי הכפר Panama, כפר נידח שהזמן עצר בו לפני הרבה מאוד שנים …. וכל הימים האלה התנדבנו עם ילדי האיזור והעברנו להם פעילויות כייפיות עם נסיון ללמד גם קצת אנגלית בסיסית מאוד. גרנו בבית אחד התושבים, אכלנו אורז עם קארי בוקר צהריים וערב (היה קשוח חריף וטעים !) באדיבות הסבתא, התנאים היו מאוד בסיסים ולא היה תמיד קל (אין מים חמים , מלא מלא חרקים) אבל … הילדים … וואו כל כך מתוקים ושמחים לקחת חלק בכל פעילות , משתפים פעולה , משתדלים להבין את חוקי המשחקים , לקלוט מילה פה מילה שם ותמיד תמיד מחייכים ! 
התנדבות בחו”ל זה ה-דבר ! 

With my daughter, Eden and son Yoav and the kids from Panama, Sri Lanka
With my daughter son Yoav and the kids from Panama, Sri Lanka
With my daughter, Eden and son Yoav and the kids from Panama, Sri Lanka
With my daughter, Eden and son Yoav and the kids from Panama, Sri Lanka

Anna Müller – Germany

Anna Müller – Germany

Miss Anna Müller from Germany volunteered at Horizon Academy – Ukkulankulama operated by the Horizon Lanka Foundation in August 2019.

Miss Anna Müller with the students of Horizon Academy – Ukkulankulama

Volunteering at Horizon Academy

The Horizon Academy made it possible for me to get an insight into the Sri Lankan teaching culture.

As I just finished my Master’s Degree in Teaching in Germany, I decided to volunteer at a school in Sri Lanka for a couple of weeks before I actually start traveling. I was really looking forward to it but did not really know what to expect. Nanda, who organizes everything regarding the volunteers, always answered my questions via email. However, I could not really imagine what kind of classes there will be, what the students’ English knowledge would be like and whether I will be teaching completely alone or co-teaching with somebody else. But I was okay with just going with the flow.

When I finally got to Sri Lanka, I had to realize, though, that all students are on holiday and that I will not be able to teach at a public school where I’d meet the students over and over again every week to actually connect to them and work with them. I was a little disappointed at first.

Instead, I was taken to different private English classes by one of the teachers in all the villages around Mihintale. They take place after school, also during the holidays, but only once a week. This means that I only saw some of the classes once or twice which made it difficult for the kids to open up to me, but they were still happy to show me their homework, to ask me different questions about my background and to play little games with me.

For me, the teaching here is completely different than at home (which was to expect) and since I have been teaching for 1, 5 years in Germany as well, it wasn’t always easy to understand. The first couple of days were long and without knowing what the students already know, I was supposed to do something with them. Something of my choice, which seemed kind of random to me at first, but it didn’t take me long to open up and to see this as a chance to interact with the students and to get them to speak to me since they were all willing to learn, motivated and interested, but also very shy. So I used the opportunity to teach some vocabulary, play some English games, sometimes even teach a grammar lesson and to just generally speak to all of the kids who are very sweet. Most important is that they start speaking and interacting with foreigners. I had the impression that they learn a lot of grammar but do not really know how to use it in free speech so I tried to just get them to form sentences and speak, either to me or to one another.

So, I definitely don’t want to deter anybody. It was definitely a good experience and so interesting to see how English classes work here. For next time, though, I’d prefer to go to both public school and private classes to actually be able to work more intensively with the students.

This was possible at the 10-day English camp that I was able to partly conduct. I was lucky that it took place during my time there.

So if you’re planning on volunteering, ask all the questions you have before. But be open-minded and try to improvise, maybe keep some games or songs in mind for the kids. It’s not about teaching them every grammar rule but to actually get them to open up and communicate in the foreign language.

10-day English camp at the Academy

During my stay in Mihintale, I was able to teach some lessons during the 10-day English camp, the students signed up for during their holidays. It took place every morning from 8:30-1:15 for two weeks. I was only there for the second week, if I had known about it before, I would have loved to teach the whole 10 days, but unfortunately, I didn’t. I really enjoyed my time at the camp because I could see the same kids every day, really work with them in a way I would at home, introduce a sports game to them during lunch break and chat with them during breakfast. The kids were lovely, they all opened up to me, were so proud and happy to meet a foreigner and also so thankful which is a great feeling.

Every morning they came running towards me to welcome me and spoiled me with treats from home or from the shop (which I wasn’t always comfortable with but they wouldn’t let me refuse it.) I had a good time and I felt like the kids actually made a little progress.

The camp ended with a class trip to Kandy which I was able to join. It was a crazy experience. Lots of suddenly hyperactive kids, who bought vuvuzelas the moment we stopped for breakfast (which was really tiring at some point.) But like every other kid, they used the fact that they were away from home and their parents.

We visited a temple along the way and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya in Kandy which was nice. However, a long journey for just a day. We left Mihintale at 4:30 am and left Kandy around 6 pm for another 4-hour drive back.

The parents and kids made the best out of it, singing and dancing on the bus. It was great to see them like that.

Although it was a very long and exhausting day, it was a lot of fun and a great experience. Everybody treated me very well and wanted to take care of me, especially treating me with food and candy.

Miss Anna Müller with her host family in Ukkulankulama

Life with my hosts and in the village

I really enjoyed staying in a host family because you actually get a chance to get to know the life and culture here. The family was really kind, always tried to help, made way too much food for me (but that seems to be a typical Sri Lankan thing in general).

Some aspects I really had to get used to was not to be able to wear shorts in the heat (which I wasn’t really prepared for) and to always cover especially when going outside, eating with my hands (which was actually fun) and the living standards here. However, since I’ve seen other Asian countries before, it was easy to adapt to it. I had my own room and everybody accepted when I needed some alone time. But I still had to (and wanted to) play at least 5 games of yatzy every day, a game I taught them because the only thing I had with me was some dice. I loved it though to see the kids happy and it was actually quite sad to leave after all.

I lived with 3 girls, their mother and their grandmother. Their father works for the army and is usually away working and only comes home for a few days every 4 weeks which means that I didn’t get to meet him. The girls were fun and very sweet, it was sometimes quite boring in the village because there was actually nothing to do. I took a day trip to Mihintale and Anuradhapura and used the rest of the time to prepare for classes, read or learn some Spanish. It was okay for two weeks but I don’t think I could imagine living here for longer than maybe a month. Maybe if there were public school at that time as well, it would have been even better because I could have spent more time at school.

Generally, I can say that people in Sri Lanka are very friendly, welcoming and always ready to help. They love to spoil you with food and to ask you where you’re from. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to get to know so many children and families and to really dive into the culture. I’m really looking forward to my travels now and to see more of the island.

It is definitely an experience I will never forget and I’m happy to have been able to teach the kids something new and get them to open up when speaking to foreigners.

Anna Müller, 25, Germany

Miss Anna Müller with a student