Benjamin Pages from France volunteered at Horizon Lanka during April, May, 2016. Read his tour report below.
“I step off the airplane. My heart is pounding. What did I get myself into? Here I am, standing exhausted after 20 hours of travel from Houston, TX in the arrival hall of Bandaranaike International Airport, 20kg of luggage strapped onto my back. Each additional step I make towards the sliding exit doors of the terminal fills me up with more excitement, as I am getting ready to enter a brand new world.
One more step and here I am… Sri Lanka! The marvellous State of Ceylon! The sun is warmer than anything I’ve felt before. Rickshaws, motorbikes and cars are swarming in all directions and blasting their horns at each other. It’s loud, it’s hot and it’s grandiose. Just like I imagined it the past several months.
A few hours later, after a bumpy and jam-packed bus ride, I reach Mahawilachchiya and embark on one of the memorable experiences I’ve been blessed to live to this day.
I am not a teacher, neither am I an educator. I emphasise this point for all of you reading this article thinking you may not have what it takes to stand in front these children and contribute to their development.
A few hours per day, I was entrusted with running English lessons in one of the four public schools in the area. Now, imagine yourself standing in front thirty restless children who don’t understand a thing you say, and having to teach them the English alphabet.. or colours.. or the weather. Since again, I had no pedagogic training, every day was a new challenge.
But, I’ll tell you what. When you witness from your own eyes the enthusiasm and whole-heartedness of these children, you only want one thing and that is to share with them everything you have. You want to show up and give 100% of yourself every day you spend with them.
What I have seen during my time at Horizon Lanka is brilliant children who just happen to lack the resources to express their full potential. And this is where we, volunteers, come in to provide them with the tools that will enable them to design a life beyond the limitations their environment might have imposed on them.
I always tell my friends that I thought I was going to Sri Lanka on a heroic mission to contribute to people’s lives, and that in fact, I ended up receiving a lot more than I could ever give. People in Mahawilachchiya do not have much, but they share it all! Their generosity and selflessness is nothing like anything I had witnessed before…
I could go and on about Horizon Lanka, the children, the incredible wildlife, the local traditions, the food, and much more that could possibly be encompassed in this essay…
I encourage anybody looking to rediscover themselves, revive their sense of appreciation for the little things in life and experience an authentic culture preserved from the misdeeds of tourism to take the leap.
Whoever you are, there are things you know the children of Sri Lanka are eager to learn and grow from – so take action.” – Benjamin Pages
Ben Pages signing a Sri Lankan song.