Julie Desperiez from France volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in January and February, 2018.
Tali Motzkin from Israel volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in January, 2018.
“My Volunteering at Horizon Academy – Anuradhapura
I would like to tell you about my volunteering experience. I arrived at the Horizon Academy at Thursday evening, straight to Ramanee and Udaya’s school, close to the Anuradhapura city. When I was at the bus station I called Ramanee and she sent her husband, Udaya to pick me with a tuk-tuk driver so I didn’t have any problems to find the place. At this day the students had a goodbye party for the formal volunteer (Susannah Horowitz) so it was very nice to see how they danced, laughed and shared respect for her and also for welcoming me. They prepared us a “queens feast” with a lot of fresh fruits and showed us a dance concert. Then, after this great welcome, my host family came to take me. There, I met my new sister: Hashini, her brother: Gihan, and my new parents: Anura and Kumari. At first it was so strange to walk into other people’s house but they made me feel like I am at my own house. They cook amazing food for me every day and treat me so nicely. During my stay, every day I have learned something new about them and about their traditions, they also took me to some really cool places like the washing reservoir, temple and the local market. Now, after one week with them I really feel like home and they are my new family.
In the matter of the Horizon Academy, I didn’t have much time with them because I arrived to the weekend and only for a one week, but with the time I had it was nice to see how Ramanee and Udaya teach the students with a lot of passion in all kinds of ways like through books, notebooks, movies, games, dance, etc. I was joining to Ramanee’s teaching class. At the class I was talking with the students, check their homework, teach them computer work and at breaks, I was playing and teaching them field games. At the beginning it was hard for me to let them know what I mean in my explanation (I don’t speak Sinhala), but then I found some ways to explain like with signs and drawings. Also, it takes time to get to know the students and how to approach them, but when I did and felt like I did teach them something new, it was a really good feeling. I also translated Horizon Lanka website into Hebrew as requested by Nanda, but I wished to contribute more with the kids like maybe teach them new dance moves and art, things which require a longer stay. Therefore, I think if someone want to volunteer here and really make some difference, at least stay one week and even more here as it is necessary for getting know the program, students and family.
For conclusion, I had a great time (my best Sri Lankan experience so far!!) and I want to thank to all people who welcomed me, I hope I will see you again soon.
Tali Motzkin, Israel”
Dialog Axiata provided 4G coverage to Mahawilachchiya in December 2017 on our request. They further strengthened the 4G coverage to Horizon Lanka on December 30, 2017 by installing a special device – CenRF 2G dual band repeater with FDD – : GSM Dual Band Pico Repeater -15dBm (without remote monitoring) – to help livestream the Horizon Lanka’s annual concert, “A Rainbow of Cultures” – Horizon Lanka Mega Concert – 2017. The concert was held at Thakshila Public School. After the concert was over, Dialog Axiata fixed the special device inside Horizon Lanka’s computer lab. Now we have very fast and reliable internet connection inside the computer lab through this device.
Horizon Lanka thanks Dialog Axiata for all the assistance it has been extending us since 2002. Dialog Axiata PLC has assisted Horizon Lanka Foundation over the years whenever we requested their assistance. Read more about how they assisted us in the past at http://www.horizonlanka.org/en/?s=Dialog+telekom&submit=Search
When it rains, they say, it pours. That is what happened to Mahawilachchiya because of Horizon Lanka Foundation. Mahawilachchiya is (was) a backward village situated bordering the sprawling Wilpattu National Park. If the name of the village was mentioned anywhere else other than in Mahawilachchiya, it was because of it being constantly targeted by the Tamil Tigers terrorists from 1985 to 2009 till the permanent peace was achieved by defeating the entire terrorist outfit thanks to the political leadership of the former president Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa. During the wartime, a numerous terrorist attacks were inflicted and the police, army and the civil security guards were injured, maimed or paid the ultimate price for the nation as a reason. A number of terrorists also were killed by the security forces. A considerable number of villagers also were either killed in cold blood and some were kidnapped and only a few could return by deceiving the terrorists. A several parents of our students also were either killed or kidnapped.
People of Mahawilachchiya was not connected to the outside world through a communication network and only the Police Station and the Post Office had limited telephone access using radio link technology. One had to wait a several hours to talk to someone at a very high price from the village post office.
When I started Horizon Lanka under a huge mango tree in my ancestral garden in 1998, there was no telephone coverage. I had to go to Colombo by spending almost a whole day to Colombo to just check emails and update our website. The distance from Mahawilachchiya to Colombo is 240 km but the bus ride on dilapidated road network in the country those days wore me out wasting the whole day on the road.
I had the luck of meeting Mr. Supun Weerasinghe from Dialog Axiata in 2002. He was then a young executive and now the CEO of Dialog Axiata, Sri Lanka’s leading telecommunication provider. Dialog sent a team of engineers and fixed a special unit to provide mobile coverage within a 50-meter radius around Horizon Lanka’s small computer lab. That was the only place people could use their Dialog mobile phones. Then Dialog provided 2G mobile coverage to Mahawilachchiya in November, 2006. Then came the 3G. The latest addition to the line up was comprehensive 4G coverage to Mahawilachchiya from Dialog Axiata. The specialty of this is that Mahawilachchiya hamlet got all these technologies long before even bigger towns in Sri Lanka got them. The main reason to get all these new technologies to Mahawilachchiya is the existence of the Horizon Lanka Foundation and my strong links with Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya – the regional CEO for the South Asian Region of the Axiata Group Bhd., Asia’s second largest telecommunications company and Mr. Supun Weerasinghe, the young CEO of Dialog Axiata. Dialog has been a very big pillar of our success since 2002 and I hope the relationship would be even stronger in time to come as we are an organization which depends on new technology since the inception of the small English class under a tree in 1998. Dialog Axiata PLC has assisted Horizon Lanka Foundation over the years whenever we requested their assistance. Read more about it at http://www.horizonlanka.org/en/?s=Dialog+telekom&submit=Search
I thank Mr. Nuwan Samaranayake, a Sri Lankan American living in Houston, Texas, the United States for assisting me in this quest of wider mobile coverage and stronger data speed with Dialog. I also thank the whole Dialog Axiata team for being such a friendly and effective company. Extending 4G coverage to Mahawilachchiya was not in the immediate pipelines of the company priority list but the need to livestream Horizon Lanka’s annual concert, “A Rainbow of Cultures – Horizon Lanka Mega Concert – 2017” on December 31, 2017 and the planned launch of Horizon Academy website on January 01, 2018 and most importantly, the scheduled launch of Horizon Virtual Academy project that would allow anyone from anywhere in the world access both the recorded and the live ICT and language lessons from its website free of charge (only for the year 2018 – the users will have to pay an affordable subscription fee from January 2019.)
What will be in store for Mahawilachchiya next from Dialog? Maybe 5G … … … 😊
Nanda Wanninayaka – Chairman & the CEO of Horizon Lanka Foundation
Alex Gray from Australia taught English, ICT and sports at Horizon Lanka Foundation as a volunteer in May, 2017.
I had a great experience volunteering with the Horizon Lanka Foundation. Unfortunately it was not as long as I had hoped as I had a leg injury I had to go back to Colombo for. But I still took a lot away from it. I met Nanda as I hopped off the bus and he showed me around and explained everything to me. I stayed the night and then the next day we got on his bike and drove to the next town over. He was starting up a new program in a new village called Tantirimale.
The students were a bit shy at first but once we got into it they were happy to get involved with games and we had some fun. Their level of English was very basic so had to start very slow but the kids were very eager to learn and we learnt about body parts, the students started taking down notes without even being told to. I was very impressed. All these kids need is an opportunity so this program is so important for them.
After class I was taken to my host family, who didn’t speak to much English but were some of the nicest and most welcoming people I have ever met. I was given my own room and every day breakfast lunch and dinner was made for me. I had a lot of fun with these guys even though we couldn’t really speak much to each other. I taught them some new English words and they taught me some new Sri Lankan words.
A very rewarding experience thank you Nanda.
Alex Gray – Australia