81. Thimira Bandara – The United States of America

Thimira Bandara – The United States of America

Thimira Bandara – The United States of America

Thimira Bandara from The United States of America volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in July, 2017.

“Being born in Sri Lanka but getting an education in America, I consider myself lucky because due to some sort of miracle I was given a good education with endless opportunities, but I believe there is no point of having the knowledge I gained from my studies if I wasn’t able to share it. When I was notified that I would be able to go to Sri Lanka for a research, I made it a priority that someway somehow I would be able to share my knowledge with those who do not have the same opportunities as me.

My experience with the Horizon Lanka Foundation was a wonderful one as I got to spend time teaching children some of the basics of Microsoft Office. I only stayed for two days, but in those two days I believe the kids at the Horizon Academy, Tantirimale enjoyed our stay and learned a lot. I strongly believe in giving back to one’s community and I am appreciative that Horizon Lanka made that possible.

For the most part, communicating with the students wasn’t too bad because I was able to speak a decent amount of Sinhalese, enough to keep a basic conversation going, but sometimes I did find myself having a hard time explaining certain things. Thankfully my cousin, who lives in Sri Lanka, had joined us and was able to translate the things I wasn’t able to communicate.

I wished I had planned a more constructive lesson plan because at times I noticed the kids were feeling a little bored. Part of this was because I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t know what the knowledge level the students have. For future references, maybe the classes can be organized better with a set schedule. Not only will this make it easier for volunteers but it will also teach the children about organization and time management. This is often implemented in western schools because it provides necessary skills needed in the workplace. However next time we come I will be sure to come more prepared and create a more impactful lesson plan that I believe will give the students maximum benefit.

Currently, I am planning on organizing a pen pal event with the kids at our local temple. They will be able to email the students at Tantirimale in English back and forth and create relationships with the students. Hopefully, I can get more Sri Lankan kids here in the US involved to help their fellow brothers and sisters.

Overall, our stay was wonderful; there were a plenty of activities to do in Tantirimale. My cousin especially liked bathing in the river while I thought the view from the top of the rock was breathtaking. Tantirimale is a very beautiful location and everyone there was very nice. This experience has been an eye-opener for me as it has taught me not to take what I have for granted and to always do what I can do for others. The goal is to get more of my Sri Lankan peers here in the United States to also get involved and also make a difference in these kids’ lives.”

Thimira Bandara – The United States of America

70. Anne Marie Connolly – The United States of America

Anne Marie Connolly - The United States of America

Anne Marie Connolly - The United States of AmericaVolunteering with Horizon Academy, Tantirimale was such a unique experience and I’m so glad that I did it. We spent time at the public schools as well as the Academy and found the students so engaging and sweet. They were quick to laugh and smile, and generally lovely students that wanted to learn. Upon meeting us they would be shy, but this lasted only a few minutes until they broke into big smiles and started talking or playing with us. At the public school, there were often large classes with a range of abilities, so it was important to be creative and fun to keep the children’s attentions. There was only one English teacher for the whole school, so doing a few lessons here and there helped him, and helped the students practice their speech with a native speaker.

The Horizon Academy – Tantirimale was more structured with smaller classes. The students would come about once a week for around 2 hours. Each class was divided into Computer Class and English Class. Children in the surrounding villages have limited access to computers, so Computer Class is an important part of the program. Some students were quick to learn or already had some knowledge, while others were still learning how to use the mouse properly and select colors. Once again, they were eager to learn though and worked together in pairs or group to complete tasks set by myself or my husband. After Computer Class, we would do different English activities depending on the age and ability of the class. Once they got past their shyness, they got really involved in the games and spoke with us as much as they could. Supplies are minimal at the moment, so again it’s imperative that you are creative and fun to keep them interested and excited. Saying that, the students are so sweet it’s easy just to hang out with them and have fun.

Living with a local family is another aspect of the experience that makes it so unique. The family we stayed with were wonderful and truly made us part of their family. Even with little language between us, we were able to form a bond with them and get to understand their village and lifestyle. They were eager to learn from us but also show us about their culture which made it feel like I genuine exchange of ideas. In the village we stayed, there had not been foreigners before, so there was a lot of interest from neighbors. Often you’d find yourself sitting in a chair reading or eating being watched by a few people. It may sound uncomfortable, but they are just excited and curious. Over time they get used to you, but they’ll still give you big smile and possibly offer you food or drink. Village life is very quiet and can be far from other shops so it’s good to be aware of this beforehand. I really loved my family and it was really sad to leave them but I know I’ll always have a Sri Lankan family now.

Anne Marie Connolly – The United States of America (Volunteered in May 2017)

Anne Marie Connolly with public school students
Anne Marie Connolly with public school students
Anne Marie Connolly with the host family
Anne Marie Connolly with the host family
Anne Marie Connolly with the host family
Anne Marie Connolly with the host family
Anne Marie Connolly with the host family
Anne Marie Connolly with the host family
Anne Marie Connolly with the host family
Anne Marie Connolly with the host family
Anne Marie Connolly with the host family
Anne Marie Connolly with the host family
Anne Marie Connolly with public school students
Anne Marie Connolly with public school students
Anne Marie Connolly with public school students
Anne Marie Connolly with public school students
With Sandali
With Sandali
With Horizon Academy students
With Horizon Academy students
Anne Marie Connolly and her husband John Connolly
Anne Marie Connolly and her husband John Connolly
Anne Marie Connolly and her husband John Connolly with Sandali
Anne Marie Connolly and her husband John Connolly with Sandali
Snacks
Host house
Snacks
Kurakkan roti
Kurakkan roti

50. Chandler Meek-Owens – The United States of America

50. Chandler Meek-Owens – The United States of America

Mr. Chandler Meek-Owens from the United States of America volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in October and November in 2016. See his tour report below.

Never having left the U.S. one would think I would have a small culture shock, going to a third world  country, but it was just the opposite. I felt as if I had been there before, like returning to a place I hadn’t been in years. I don’t know if it was the unbelievably kind people who would give their shoes to a stranger, or the organic food that cured me of IBS, but I felt at home; like my mother was just around the corner. When going to Mahawilachchiya in Anuradhapura, where it was much more rural, it became clear as to why I was needed out there. Not just to teach English but to exchange culture and art.

No matter where humans dwell, curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge is a part of the human spirit. I realized I’ve been taking my life for granted, because the children that I met truly wanted for what I thought was my right to receive. English is the world’s trade language. I was born with privilege that I can take anywhere. I was not only able to teach, but I learned more about the infinite potential we westerners forgot. For example when it was time for a snack, one of the boys would just walk outside, climb a tree and pick a fruit. No money involved. And like the tree, speaking English is nothing to me, so to teach it, in exchange to experience an organic lifestyle, is a cycle that should be standard in the current human condition.

I believe that Horizon Lanka is the type of program that will lead the globalized world into a new era of education. Mainly because using creative arts, culture, sports (unique to the volunteer) to communicate that infinite potential sparks original ideas and interests that keeps our world engaged in each other. Yes, science and math are important but to independently think for oneself requires the creative mind. As they say, “give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

Chandler Meek-Owens – The United States of America

The dance items Chandler Meek-Owens choreographed and take part in at the Rainbow of Cultures” – Horizon Lanka Mega Concert – 2016.