Petr Till from the Czech Republic worked at Horizon Lanka Foundation in August and September in 2017.
Sylva Tillova from the Czech Republic volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in July and August, 2017.
In August 2017 my daughter Nikol and I went to Sri Lanka as volunteers to help the Horizon Lanka Foundation in Mahawilachchiya. Already on arrival, the head of the Foundation Nanda Wanninayaka welcomed us on the bus. We stayed with a family and met great people.
In the morning, we attended a public school, and we had fun with the younger pupils together with English. Through a variety of games, songs, movement activities and drawing pupils slowly learned and improved their English. They have improved in all aspects of the English language such as grammar, speaking, reading and writing. Pupils were very active and curious. These children are merry, modest, but also bold and brave. In return, we met the teachers and the director, who welcomed us very warmly at their school. Together with some pupils, teachers and parents, I went for a trip to the rain forest – Sinharaja Rain Forest, where, no wonder, it rained. We visited some wonderful places and temples, the ride was one great experience, I experienced the beautiful atmosphere of local songs and dances on the bus, I experienced how these people can have fun and enjoy themselves.
Horizon Academy work took place in the Horizon Lanka building in the afternoon, where we talked with older students not only about English, about our families and life, what they wanted to be, but we also danced, sang and painted. Students are very actionable, inquisitive and diligent, constantly learning something. The Foundation also organized a trip to the temple in Tantirimale and the Wilpattu National Park, where we and other volunteers enjoyed a beautiful day of bathing in the sea. We saw many interesting animals, such as eagles, crocodiles, turtles, deer, elephants and, of course, monkeys. Including a leopard posing in front of our cameras. The whole spectacular day ended with a dinner in nature and sleeping on a tree house or on a truck.
Hosting family was great. They immediately treated me as if I was a member of their family and provided me with all possible comfort. They showed me their life including the kitchen, they taught me how to cook some meals. They took me wherever they went or went by themselves.
Thank you for this experience and the wonderful experiences, Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka.
Thank you for all the care … to the family Yamuna and her sister and her child, Upul, Pramodhya, Kaushal, their grandmother Chandra and the people around them.
I thank you to the teachers, the director, and especially all the junior and senior children I met in the public school.
Miss Sona Forstlova from The Czech Republic volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in July, 2017.
Volunteering at Horizon Lanka
I dreamed to visit Sri Lanka and spend there some time to do voluntary work and because I work as a primary school teacher, it was clear that I would like to do voluntary work in this field.
I had really good review from my friends who worked in Horizon Academy in last years, so I asked my friend Monika and we contacted the founder of Horizon Lanka – Nanda. The communication with him was really nice, he was able to answer all our questions.
After some problems with drought in Mahawilachchiya we had to spend some time in other organization on Sri Lanka. It was little bit unpleasant to solve three days before your arrival to Sri Lanka that you should go to other organization, but Nanda arranged it and after one week, we spend in Kekirawa Learning Centre, we moved to Mahawilachchiya.
We spent one week in Mahawilachchiya. In the morning, we taught at Gamini Public School and in the afternoon, we provided program for about 30 children about 6 years old. We taught them English through games, songs and chants and we also did some exercise and dance.
The last night before our departure, there was a nice ceremony with dance. This night after the program, Nanda told us, that Horizon Lanka doesn’t have money to pay our host family. It was a little bit awkward. It is not a problem to pay for food and accommodation to your family, for us. But the way we find it out was unfair. The conditions were arranged before and it was not kept.
Volunteering at a public school
Every morning, we went to school at 8 o´clock. The lessons started at 8,30 o´clock and we usually taught for 4 lessons, so we finished about 11,30 o´clock.
It was a new cultural experience to wear the sari to school. It looked very nice but I have to say it was pretty uncomfortable! J It was too hot at in and you couldn´t move as you need.
Children at school were really happy to spend time with us as the teachers. It was really good experience to teach there because it is completely different from the Czech Republic. Children were all the time very active. We did activities like games and songs in English, in higher grades we discuss about differences between Sri Lanka and the Czech Republic.
Life with our hosts
We spent one week in family of Tharani. It was the best experience and through this, I would like to thank the family again, because they took care about us as our real family. I felt there like at home.
We visited the local Buddhist temple or the local market together. We also tried to discuss about the life in Mahawilachchiya and in our town in the Czech Republic and all the differences (and there are many!). J
Life in Sri Lanka
After one week in Sri Lanka we spent next two weeks on journey around Sri Lanka. We visited many famous places as Sigiriya, Adam´s Peak, Kandy, Ravana Falls, Udawalawe National Park, Mirrisa Beach, Galle Fort etc. But the best experience for me – tea plantations around Haputale. – Sona Forstlova
Tomas Nebaznivy from the Czech Republic volunteered at Horizon Academy, Tantirimale for 27 days from 2017-05-24 to 2017-06-20.
Tomáš Nebáznivý’s Tour Report
I am probably one of the slowest reporters at Horizon Lanka since my report comes almost half a year later. Anyway, I got my memories recovered and I would like to share them with you. My aim was to put myself into a different mode and leave my comfort zone having in Prague, the Czech Republic. I found an article in the traveler´s group on Facebook two months before I came to Sri Lanka. It was from one of many Czech volunteers providing their services in Sri Lanka. To be honest, it was “love at first sight.” It was just a step to contact the founder of Horizon Lanka – Nanda. Here is the place where the story begins.
We exchanged a couple of e-mails between each other and everything was confirmed except my flight tickets. It came soon, and I knew I was able to begin my journey in May 2017. I had been volunteering in Tantirimale almost a month and this was one of the best experience in my life so far (I traveled many places in India and Asia, but nothing that breathtaking like here.)
I experienced a lot of funny moments when coming there. After the almost never-ending flight and crazy bus trip from Prague to Anuradhapura over Colombo (almost 24 hrs of nonstop traveling.) When I came to Anuradhapura and met Nanda, I was told that I am not going to Mahawilachchiya, but to Tantirimale where they recently established a new branch. It was funny because all the information handled between us before ware about the Mahawilachchiya only and no mention of the other place. Se I jumped to his Bajaj bike and we were heading to Tantirimale through heavy rain. We came totally wet there.
Before we came to my new home, we had a short stop at Horizon Lanka´s new branch in Tantirimale where I met my future friend – Sunanda. I also met Lucy from France, who was volunteering the same time, but she was in Mahawilachchiya. We met several times together to travel Anuradhapura city and couple of last days before I left Sri Lanka. It was also very nice experience. Anyway, back to the topic. After introducing each other, we finished our way at my new home, where I met my new family. They are very friendly and optimistic guys. It is a 6-member family living in one house almost at the end of a village. It was a bit tricky to deal with them, as only Nangee is speaking fluent English and the rest of the family could speak some words only. But, since you are able to use your hands to make the gestures, everything is easier.
Considering a fact that they are whatever but not rich, their hospitality was simply the greatest I could experience. They prepared amazing food all the time I was there using only fire to prepare the meals. I was teaching her daughter Sandalee, who was a bit shy when I asked her to speak English, but she loved to play games after school. Sanju and his brother were also good guys and it was kind of funny to introduce them workout with the TRX on their garden. Their father is running a small shop in the village and he was coming home late almost every day due to lack of free time. I was slightly confused seeing Nangee all the time as the housekeeper. She was very smart, her English was at very high level, but due to the local mentality (nothing against them, it´s the way of living,) she was told to stop studies and become the housekeeper. My new mother was a housekeeper too and she was also helping her husband at their school shop. I would wish all the family to have a chance to travel more in the future. I was happy that I could take at least Sandalee and her father along with us the nearby Wilpattu National Park. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any animals that time because of the hot season.
I was supposed to teach IT at the public school and IT and English at Horizon branch in Tantirimale. As this was something totally new to the locals (not like in Mahawilachchiya where they are used to foreigners/volunteers.) I was facing interesting situations. I have never been teaching children and my first English class took place when the school teacher left the class and left me there with the children alone. It was very funny to experience myself how to improvise within a couple of seconds:) Unfortunately, I was not able to take more classes in that public schools. I took about 3 classes of English. I had some ideas how to make it work for next foreigners. (I was the first one at school there), but I was unable to meet the school´s principal. I do not know the reason for that even couple months ago. I requested Sunanda (the boss of Tantirimale branch) to establish the meeting several times, but it never happened during that time. I also met their IT teacher and I very quickly understood that teaching IT there is something nearly impossible. Not only because of the English gap (teaching IT in English is much more difficult for the listeners,) but also because their hardware is soooo obsolete. It would be nice if the local government would invest more money into the IT for children because this is the way how to educate yourself quickly and to gain ideas about the rest of the world. Lot of children I spoke with want to study and work abroad to gain the life experience and to improve the Sri Lanka´s economy. The government should listen to this.
Anyway, the situation with IT infrastructure is much better in Horizon Academy so I could focus myself to teach the kids the computer basics and the older ones with the basics of the graphic design. It was difficult in the beginning because children don’t have any experience with the computers and you had to teach them from the basics. It was nice to see that even girls were happy to learn. I spent almost 6 days a week at Horizon from morning to the late afternoon. It was difficult to me from time to time, but seeing the smiles of my students was a great feeling and reward. I was not only teaching all the time. We were also playing some Europeans physical games and the children thought me their local games. I experienced many nice moments with them. I was also pleased when Sunanda told me about new IT teacher coming from Mahawilachchiya couple days in week – Jaliya. We took some classes together and I could handle the language gap much easier with his help. We could also split the classes and do more things at once.
I am so satisfied with the activities that Nanda and Sunanda are doing at both branches for the kids. Both are doing this free of charge and in their free time. They have my sincere respect for this.
I could write much more, but I don’t want to exhaust you. All I can say is, that this month was the best month in this year for me. I wish all the best to my Sri Lanka´s family and to Nanda, Sunanda, Jaliya or any other who helps them to keep Horizon Lanka growing and expanding.
I arrived in the village Mahawilachchiya in the hottest and driest time, exhausted from previous travelling. After our introduction interview Nanda arranged my accommodation in a family I lived with for the next month. A family with two boys and a one teen girl. The father is an owner of a little shop and his wife helps him with the shop every day. They have got a large house and I had a small room just for myself. Tharushika, the oldest one from the children is a shy nature and it took a longer time to get closer to each other. Her two brothers are very friendly and we had a lot of fun with the youngest nine-year-old Dasun. It is amazing how local children are enthusiastic for a good thing, how they can laugh from the hearts and nothing is a problem for them.
I enjoyed the most nonverbal communication in everyday situations. Boys learn English in school but they are at the very beginning. I taught them with the use of English games and improved their vocabulary. They turned me Singhalese words in return. Their parents are very kind people, the father is an important member of the family and the children accept him without any doubts and questions. This attitude is very unusual in my country.
The mother took care of me as if I were a princess, she helped me with wearing a sari, served me tea and forced me to eat three times a day. I must confess myself that not even my own mother has taken care of me like this.
I was very much looking forward to the local school since I work in education. Sri Lankan elementary school is so different compared to the Czech schools. Children look much happier, friendlier, more vivid and still smiling although they must wear a hot uncomfortable uniform.
Pupils have no break between the classes, just the lunch break, which I find very tiring. And they are tired sometimes. I was teaching different age categories from the first to the eleventh class. It is known that games and education through movement are very important for children. We started every morning English lesson with a poem, then continued with an English exercise from the books and then discussed on a variety of topics or just played games, ran with practicing English words. I was very sad when I was leaving the children and judging from their reactions it was difficult for them too.
Horizon Academy, Mahawilachchiya is a pleasant place for meeting children. Children about 14 and more years visit this club the most often. I haven’t had previous experience with adolescents so I had to find some different ways how to capture their attention then by teaching English. Motivation of teen children to whatever activities is very low (what is nature in this age) so that they were tired and did not want to do anything but talking sometimes.
I learned that several of them enjoyed drawing, mostly girls, so I taught them how to paint. After the students got several tablets we could use them to different activities and competitions like taking pictures and consequent editing of the pictures.
Sri Lanka is not huge by its area but is very diverse on the other hand. If I travelled whatever direction I got to another world, everything changed from environment, climate, people and their faith. I enjoyed the delicious food, exotic fruit (jackfruit), and plethora of birds, sounds and scents. For my next life, I ensured to myself that the world is full of openhearted and generous people who take care of me as I am not able to do myself in case of need. This all belong to Sri Lanka and its original philosophy.
Thanks to all who accompanied me on this way. My decision has changed my point of view to the world and life and made me surer that hidden within us and waiting for its revelation is kindness.
Kindness rules the world if you turn to it and go in its traces. If you reveal it, it’s your duty to follow and spread it.
Přijela jsem do vesnice ve dnech největšího horka a sucha velmi unavená z předchozí cesty. Nanda po našem poznávacím rozhovoru domluvil rodinu, se kterou jsem žila jeden měsíc. Rodina se dvěmi chlapci a jednou náctiletou dívkou. Otec je vlastníkem malého obchodu a jeho žena mu v něm pomáhá každý den. Mají velký dům a já měla svůj malý pokoj jen pro sebe. Nejstarší dcera Tharushika je uzavřenější povahy a trvalo nám delší čas, než jsme se více sblížily. Její dva bratři jsou velmi přátelští a nejvíce legrace jsem si užila s tím nejmladším devítiletým Dásunem. Je úžasné, jak se místní děti umí nadchnout pro drobnou věc, jak se umí ze srdce smát a jak pro ně není nic vůbec žádný problém. Nejvíce jsem si s nimi užívala neverbální komunikace v každodeních situacích. Chlapci se anglicky ve škole učí, ale jsou teprve v začátcích. Měla jsem tu možnost zlepšovat jejich slovní zásobu a učit je pomocí her, oni mne naopak učili sinhálsky. Jejich rodiče jsou velmi milí lidé, otec je důležitou součástí rodiny a děti ho bez námitek poslouchají. V mé zemi je toto neobvyklé. Matka se o mne starala jako o princeznu, každý všední den mi pomáhala s oblékáním sárí, vařila čaj a nutila mne jíst 3 krát denně 🙂 Musím přiznat, že takto se o mne moje vlastní maminka nestarala nikdy.
Vzhledem k tomu, že pracuji v Čechách ve školství, velice jsem se těšila na místní státní školu. Základní škola na Srí lance je tak jiná než v Čechách. Děti vypadají daleko šťastnější, jsou přátelštější a stále se usmívají. I když musí nosit školní uniformu, která je velmi nepohodlná a velmi teplá v horkých dnech. Žáci nemají žádnou přestávku mezi hodinami, jen na oběd, což mi přijde velmi unávné a oni také unavení mnohdy jsou. Moje dny ve škole probíhaly tak, že jsem učila různé věkové kategorie, od 1. ročníku, až po ten poslední 11. Vím, že jsou pro děti důležité hry a výuka skrze pohyb, tak že jsme každou hodinu angličtiny začali ranní básní, pokračovali výukou angličtiny v učebnici, povídali si na různá témata, zahráli si hru nebo jsme se prostě proběhli a procvičovali při tom anglická slovíčka. Když jsem se se žáky loučila, bylo mi z toho opravdu smutno, bylo to pro mne těžké a podle reakcí dětí, bylo težké loučení i pro ně.
Horizon Lanka je příjemné místo k setkávání dětí. Do tohoto klubu chodí nejčastěji ve věku 14. let a více. Neměla jsem zkušenosti s prací dospívajích, tak že jsem hledala cesty, jak je zaujmout i jinak, než jen výukou angličtiny. Motivace pubertálních dětí k aktivitám je náročná, občas jsou unavení ze školy a chtěji si mezi s sebou jen povídat, což je přirozené pro tento věk. Nicméně jsem zjistila, že některé baví kreslení, a tak jsem několik dívek učila kreslit. Poté, co studenti dostali několik tabletů, mohli jsme je využít k různým aktivitám a soutěžím, jako je například focení nebo úprava fotografií.
Srí Lanka není rozlohou velká, ale neuvěřitelně rozmanitá. Stačí jet několik hodin jakýmkoli směrem a vše se změní, krajina, teplota, lidé a jejich víra. Velmi jsem si užila výborného jídla, exotického ovoce, nespočet druhů ptáků, zvuků a vůní. Co je důležité pro můj další život je, že jsem se ujistila, že je spousta vstřícných, otevřených lidí, kteří se o tebe v případě potřeby postarají a skoro nikdy nejsi sám. Toto vše patří Srí Lance a její původní filosofii.
Děkuji všem, kteří mne na této cestě provázeli. Moje rozhodnutí mi pozměnilo pohled na svět a utvrdilo v tom, co je skrýté uvnitř každého z nás a u některých čeká na objevení a to je DOBRO. Dobro, které také vládne ve světě, pokud se k němu obrátíš a jdeš v jeho stopách. Když ho objevíš je tvou povinností jej následovat a šířit ho dál.
Pavlina Drabkova from the Czech Republic volunteered at Horizon Lanka in April/May, 2017.
At first I didn’t know what to expect from staying in Mahawilachchiya even though I had a lot of information from Nanda (the founder of Horizon Lanka Foundation] and Kristina who was there at the beginning of this year. It’s still totally different culture so I was very curious about everything. I was glad that I could see the life of Sri Lankan during traveling before staying in Horizon Lanka so I could see how nice Sri Lankan people are and I learned a lot about Sri Lankan daily routines.
I am very pleased that I could stay with a Sri Lankan family and experience their common lifestyle. They accepted me like a new member of their family. They were so helpful all the time and I liked their smiles. My family was very poor but I didn’t miss anything. They can´t speak English at all (only the youngest daughter Aruni could speak a little English from the school) but even though we spent a lot of time talking about differences between the Czech Republic and Sri Lanka. They taught me Sinhala and I could at least help their daughter Aruni with improving her English.
But I came to Mahawilachchiya mainly because of volunteering in Horizon Lanka Foundation. Horizon Lanka is a very good idea because I am afraid that the children would do almost nothing in their free time after school. I was shocked that common hobby is sleeping here or the children just sit at home, don’t play any games or help parents. In the organization they can evolve their English, IT knowledge to do different other activities (dancing, singing, etc.) and spend meaningfully their free time with others. I had also a chance to teach English at a public school and I think that children from Horizon Lanka were always better in comparison to other pupils.
The only thing which I couldn’t get used to was no ordering of time and planning in Sri Lanka. But after a few days we didn’t get worried because we knew that it´s normal to wait. The time goes here differently than in Europe.
In conclusion I have to say that I am very happy that I decided to go to Mahawilachchiya. It was very interesting experience. I believe that many children could succeed and live their dreams in the future thanks to Horizon Lanka. I hope that a lot of other volunteers will come to Horizon Lanka to support the children and Nanda in his great idea.
Kamila Krunčíková – The Czech Republic
Before my sister Kamila and I came to the Horizon Lanka Foundation, we were traveling for 2 weeks through Sri Lanka and were very curious about the real life. If you have ever traveled in some exotic countries, you would know that you seem to the local people as somebody who has money, and for them, a lot of money. This doesn’t include everybody, but many people would like to get from you as much money as they could. Whenever you travel, and your role is a tourist of different skin and culture, it is quite difficult to be able to get in touch with the real life and culture of the people. For sure you can see it, feel it, try as hard as possible to assimilate with the locals, but until you live with a local family for a while, you can’ t live it. It was one of the reasons why I wanted to come to Mahawilachchiya. The second one was that as a future teacher in the Czech Republic, I was enthusiastic to see how different the schooling is in a completely different country.
Horizon Lanka is an organization which helps local children spend their time meaningfully. Many children here just sit and do nothing. Literally! They easily don’t know how to play. I expected that the children there are used to playing in nature, but they are not. Some of them visit dancing lessons or extra after school lessons, but the rest of the day they usually either sleep, tidy or sit and chat with family or friends.
Horizon Lanka Foundation provides the local children different kinds of activities. They enable them to learn how to work with a computer, learn English, practice dancing or singing, play sports, visit places in Sri Lanka, etc. The only two problems there are not having a proper schedule for teaching and the lack of funding to run the institute. As a volunteer from Europe or other developed countries you are used to have planned schedule with given tasks. Here everything is ad hoc. You have to decide what you do with the children so that the lessons are effective. But also the children are free so it can happen that sometimes there are 20, and sometimes only 5. Just to be prepared for that, you do not get any exact tasks.
Living with the families in Mahawilachchiya is a great experience for people from developed countries. The time stopped here so when the toilets came indoor in Europe, they stayed outdoor in Sri Lanka (as a small outhouse outside the house.) Getting a proper outside shower, bucket or lake for bathing depends on your family. Also, the housing there is completely different. The same with food. Loads of rice and curry, homegrown fruits and vegetables, coconut rotti… everything is very delicious. But to experience all these you must come and try!
The people all over Sri Lanka are very kind, cheerful and helpful; much more so in the village because here you are not a tourist, but a teacher; a white skinned person attracting the attention of all locals wherever you are. You will always get your smile and wave back.
We were struggling a bit with teaching at the local school Thakshila. It was probably mainly caused by the period of final exams and then the last week of the school year. But the number of shouting students in the classrooms is also quite high (30-40 pupils). I am glad that I could get the experience to be able to compare our school system with this exotic school system. For sure it is a very challenging task to teach at any of the local schools. Do not let yourself get completely tired, and try to organize your time so that you do not go to school every day if you do not wish to.
I would like to thank Nanda for his continued work with Horizon Lanka and providing local children a place to come and meet friends and enjoy their everyday lives in different ways. I also appreciate the work of Wasantha, who was helping us with the organization of different events and activities for us and the children. My big thanks go to Tharuka’s family, who was looking after me like I was their own child.
Honza Jan Kučera volunteered at Horizon Lanka during the months of March and April, 2015.
I remember first thing which came to my mind when Kristyna asked me if I want to go to Sri Lanka as a volunteer and I said yes, I pictured houses in the middle of the jungle or some kind of savannah which I’ve seen in some TV program about Africa. It was funny cause I knew it may be different but I wanted to picture it in some kind of romantic way. I was wondering, how is life over there and how are the people and now I can say that even though I had some ideas the things which I have seen and experienced in real life for that 2 months in Mahawilachchiya were life-changing for me. First encounter with the kids and people living in the village were already filled with smiles and that was one of the things which left major impact on me.
Teaching in Horizon Lanka combined with teaching in Saliymala Public School was perfect. As Pedagogy graduate I had the chance to experience teaching in a public school for the first time for a longer period than just university training and expand the English classes with the same students, who were going for the extra classes to the Horizon Lanka was really good. It was a great balance with a classic school teaching and modern “game and fun” approach to the English from both of us with Kristyna. Loads of trips to the different places around the village and our favorite “going to swim” trips with kids, dancing around the HL building and never-ending laugh that was Horizon Lanka for me. I had the chance to compare Czech and Sri Lankan children approach and behavior in school which was astonishing. Their respect for the teachers and for learning itself is really amazing. Another great thing which I think I was blessed with there was the help from my amazing colleagues at school and people from the village in general and of course the founder of Horizon Lanka Nanda Wanninayaka who helped us, guided us and also listened to us throughout the whole stay.
Huge impact on our stay and on our lives was the fact that we were staying in the family of a Horizon Lanka student. I personally think that this is the greatest asset of becoming volunteer in Horizon Lanka and I don’t mean just for me but for everybody involved. I can’t even list every story or thing which happened during those two months because there was so many of them and I am gratefully happy that I could’ve become a part of Sri Lankan family and that they showed me completely different life which I would not be able to experience otherwise. Their love and laugh are the things which I will never forget and I hope they will never forget me because I feel that we found some special bond. As I was saying this was not benefit just for me but also for the whole family and especially the kids. Their English got so much better because they just had to speak with me and Kristyna which is the best way how to learn it quick and good.
Life in Mahawilachchiya showed me how important is to smile to people you are meeting every day or just once a month, it showed me what things are really worth living for and what things are not. I made amazing number of new friends which I will never forget and will visit in the future for sure as I will also come back to Horizon Lanka. Sri Lanka in general was just something which left us speechless and amazed several times during our traveling, which we planned for our last two weeks there. We encounter situations and people which we never would have hoped for. Once again it showed us what is the most amazing in Sri Lanka and that’s its people. People who will always help you and will do the extra step to make you feel like you belong there especially when you show them that you can speak Sinhala and your answer to the question: “where are you from?” is no more Czech Republic but Mahawilachchiya and that’s exactly how we felt – like we belong there.
The most important thing which this amazing experience in Horizon Lanka and Sri Lanka gave and taught me is that I know this is exactly what I want to do in my future life. It showed me that I love teaching, I love English and I love working with bright, happy and hardworking kids. This combined is what I think I can do all my life in different forms and countries. This is what I am most grateful to Horizon Lanka, Kristyna, Radhika, Nanda, my Sri Lankan family and everybody who I met throughout these two amazing and life-changing months.
“I’ll be back!” – Honza.