Paola Venco from France volunteered at Horizon Lanka during January and February in 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”
Mr. Qurro Lopez from Spain volunteered at Horizon Lanka in October, 2017. He taught Spanish language to the students and the students were very fast in learning this totally new language. In addition to teaching, he brought a lot of gifts to the students at Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya. Tharushika Rathnayaka and Pramodhya Gunarathna received one tab each and the junior students got toys from him. Before he left Sri Lanka, he donated 90,000 LKR (500 EUR) raised by EK ONG KAR MALOGA Yoga School in Spain to be distributed among the students. This donation covers the academic and healthcare expenses of the students for the year 2017. (2017 was a bad year for the whole village as their parents’ farms did not yield any crops due to the drought. So, this financial assistance means a lot to them. It is the same for this year also since the village did not get sufficient rains for the third consecutive year.)
When asked to whom the credit should go for this generous donation, a delighted Mr. Lopez said, “Consider it came from God.”
The students, the parents and the Horizon Lanka Foundation appreciate Mr. Lopez and EK ONG KAR MALOGA Yoga School in Spain for assisting the students in a big way. Thank You.
Sarah Campbell from the United Kingdom volunteered at Horizon Lanka Foundation in July, August 2017. See her tour report below..
My husband, Joe Campbell and I were travelling around Asia when we decided we wanted to volunteer at Horizon Lanka Foundation, we were slightly nervous having not done any teaching in the past, however it turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made!
On our first day we were welcomed by Nanda and Sunanda (who runs the Horizon Academy – Tantirimale) and they took us on the back of their motorbikes to our Sri Lankan family who would be hosting us for the month. They were so welcoming and made us feel part of the family from the very first day. We had a small room that was slightly separate from the rest of the house (with a fan and a mosquito net, although luckily during July there didn’t seem to be too many mosquitoes!) We spent a lot of time with our host family when we weren’t teaching, one of our favourite evening activities was a card game called Uno (which often resulted in big competitive family games in the evenings including all the cousins, aunts and uncles as well!) There was such a lovely community feel in the village, with friends and family popping in all the time to either play cricket, a game of carrom (a really fun Sri Lankan disc flicking game!) or just to drink tea, chat and play with Lassy (their adorable 2 month old puppy!)
For our meals, we generally had biscuits and a cup of tea for breakfast and delicious rice and curry for lunch and dinner (these ranged from pumpkin curry to iguana lizard curry which was hunted by the 18-year-old boy in the family!) We were always given new food to try, such as berries, corn (a delicious fruit that the children would get from the trees most days and give to you) and tamarind (another delicious fruit that you suck on)!
Now to the teaching… teaching the children in Tantirimale was one of the most exciting, challenging and rewarding things I have ever done. My husband and I had never taught before and so were slightly terrified before we turned up. On our first day we were faced with a room of 15/20 students and although we didn’t really know where to start we slowly got into it. Their English was relatively limited so we started with basic vocabulary such as colours, animals, clothing etc. and built up to adjectives and basic sentences towards the end of the month. The children were very patient with us (especially at the beginning when we were still working out what to do!) They were such kind, caring, fun, smiley children who listened intently to every word we said and wanted to learn as much as they could. We couldn’t have asked for better students!
For the first couple of weeks we taught in the public school in the mornings and then at Horizon Lanka in the afternoons (however because they were in the exam period it meant we didn’t necessarily know what times we’d be teaching until the day before/ on the day, but that was fine we just got used to being flexible!) After two weeks, the school broke up for summer holidays and we were only teaching at Horizon Academy – Tantirimale. Some days we would teach all day at Horizon Academy, but often we would do 9.00 am-2.00 pm because it was due to rain in the afternoon (and they didn’t want the children to have to walk long journeys back to their houses in the rain.)
Teaching in the public school was an amazing experience; we played lots of games and got them to draw and label scenarios, as well as doing a lot of call and repeat. It was also handy that they had desks so we would occasionally write out a worksheet and photocopy them at Horizon Academy and get them to fill them in during the lessons (there was a printer at the academy so this method seemed to work for us and it mixed up the lessons a bit!) After school we would then teach at Horizon Academy which has an outdoors area so you can do more creative things (such as sports, teaching them to dance, playing guitar, keyboard etc.) Teaching the children to swing dance was a particular highlight for me – especially when the boys were paired up and did some amazing twists and turns!
On our days off we did some really fun activities including a safari (where we saw a leopard resting 5m from the jeep), canoeing, staying in a local farmer’s tree house, wild elephant spotting (we saw 20 wild elephants one afternoon!) and taking the family tractor to a local river to swim.
Overall it was such a great experience that I would recommend to everyone if you have the chance to do it. When I first arrived, I was completely out of my comfort zone (not knowing how to teach, living in a completely different culture and environment to the UK, even things like wearing a cheeththa when showering outside took a bit of getting used to) but because it was so different it meant I learnt so much both about myself and about the community we were living in, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. We have gained another family in Sri Lanka and I am so grateful to them and the wonderful children at Horizon Academy – Tantirimale for making it honestly one of the best experiences of my life!
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