Preparing Your Trip

Mr. Chandler Meeks-Owens from the United States dancing with the students of Horizon Academy – Mahawilachchiya at its Annual Concert in 20166

Preparing for Your Trip

Horizon Lanka Foundation www.horizonlanka.org is a registered not-for-profit organization in Sri Lanka. It operates educational institutes called Horizon Academies in 10 different rural villages in Sri Lanka in a way its services go to Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim children and the youth equally.

  1. Food and Lodging 
  2. Air Ticket
  3. Banking
  4. Communication (Voice and Data)
  5. Driving in Sri Lanka
  6. Getting Ready
  7. Health
  8. Living Conditions
  9. Locations
  10. Managing Volunteers
  11. Process
  12. Transportation – Reaching Horizon Academies from the airport
  13. Visa
  14. Volunteer Certificate

1. FOOD AND LODGING 

You are expected to pay some amount of money for the expenses of your food and lodging to your host family (homestay.) Once you inquire about the amount, we will inform you. The minimum duration we expect you to volunteer with us is at least 1 week but if you want to volunteer less than that, still you will have to pay the amount of money for a week to your hosts as it is the minimum amount of hosting fee. You are expected to pay the hosting fee to the Horizon Lanka Foundation in USD, EUR or GBP or the equivalent in LKR, the local currency on the day you arrive at them.  You will be issued a receipt from Horizon Lanka for your payment. (This fee cannot be returned if you decide to leave the village earlier than you mentioned us.) Sometimes, volunteering could be tough for some of you but the whole point of volunteering is for you to get used to the local conditions, explore the culture and help them through your volunteering. You would learn how to adapt to different conditions than in your home country. Sri Lankans are a very hospitable nation and you will have a pleasant time with your host family.

The host family will provide you morning tea, three meals, two snacks with tea, coffee or fresh fruit juice between the main meals per day.  A clean separate room with a lockable door would be provided with your own bed covered with a mosquito net in case there are mosquitos during your stay. You would be given a pedestal or a table fan too. We encourage the host families to build a western standard bathroom. Failing that, the existing common toilet should be maintained clean by the hosts.

A regular bicycle will be provided to the volunteer from each host family for the traveling during your entire stay.

2. AIR TICKET

The Horizon Lanka Foundation has no capacity to buy or reimburse the volunteer’s flight tickets. This part is solely on your account.

3. BANKING

Visa and MasterCard can be used in Sri Lanka to withdraw money. This said, only certain banks will accept international cards but most of the banks accept them except a few rural and regional banks. Branches of most of the leading banks are there in every district, sometimes villages too.

ATMs are available in the close vicinity of all villages, so you don’t have to worry. Someone in your host family or the local coordinator will help you find one. Yet, we strongly recommend you to withdraw some cash prior to arriving in the village you are assigned to volunteer at.

4. COMMUNICATION

Dialog, Mobitel, Hutch, and Airtel are the four mobile networks operating in Sri Lanka. All these companies provide both voice and data solutions.  They provide 2G, 3G, 4G (and 5G coverage in some selected parts in Colombo) and the reception of the signals varies from place to place. Yet, we would recommend you to stick to Dialog as it is the best solution provider out of all and provides the widest coverage, the latest technology, and the best customer care support. We advise our volunteers to pick up a prepaid 4G Dialog SIM card for both voice and data at the airport itself at the arrival lounge. All you need is to show them your passport. (If you fail to get this from the airport, in every district capital there are Dialog Arcades to buy their services.)

Horizon Lanka Foundation does NOT provide Wi-Fi facilities at any of the Horizon Academies at the moment. So, please use your own internet connection for your personal needs through a smartphone. There is 2G, 3G or 4G coverage in almost every village. Voice, data and international call charges are very cheap in Sri Lanka.

5. DRIVING

You can hire bicycles, motorbikes or cars in Sri Lanka. Whether you own a motorcycle or car license from your country, you still need to obtain a temporary Sri Lankan driving permit before you can use a vehicle to move around in Sri Lanka. The procedure is very simple but will consume a little of your time, as it requires you to go to Colombo. So, it is advisable for you to stay a working day in Colombo, present yourself at the Department of Motor Traffic in Boralesgamuwa, known as RMV by the locals. (Be aware that there is an RMV in the center of Colombo on Elvitigala Mawatha road which does not deal with foreign licenses.)

Buses in route number 120 will take you straight to the driving license office from Colombo Fort. To obtain a Sri Lankan temporary driving permit, you will need to present your original driving license (international permit not necessary,) passport, and one photocopy of both the picture page and visa page of your passport.

The processing fee is 1000 LKR (6 USD) and the whole process takes about an hour (permit delivered immediately.)

6. GETTING READY

i. Climate

Sri Lanka climate is tropical and consists of distinct wet and dry seasons. Temperatures can drop in the hill country, places such as Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, as the region rests higher in altitude. More info on climate is provided on Sri Lanka’s Department of Meteorology http://www.meteo.gov.lk website.

ii. Clothing

During their time at Horizon Lanka, volunteers are free to dress to their liking, except when teaching in public schools at Horizon Academies where male volunteers are required to cover shoulders and legs (t-shirts, shirts, jeans, and pants are appropriate,) while female volunteers will be expected to wear a traditional sari and jacket when teaching at public schools which you can buy for less than $20 USD from the village clothes stores. At Horizon Academies you can wear long pants, jeans, three quarters, skirts, blouses or T-shirts. However, when you do sports with the students in the evening, both male and female volunteers can wear shorts and T-shirts. When bathing in canals, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, female volunteers are expected to wear a bathing cloth cheeththa which is very colorful and cheap too. We have no problem with you wearing shorts during sports or bathing. Also, note both men and women have to cover shoulders and legs (3/4 length) when visiting Buddhist and Hindu temples.

iii. Power Outlets

In Sri Lanka, the standard voltage is 230V and both D and G (UK) plug types are in use. Most places will have adapters (including Horizon Academies) but you may choose to bring a universal adapter for your own comfort.

iv. Lesson Planning

Horizon Academies use a similar syllabus for your working area(s) and we will send you them once you register with us by sending your Volunteer Application (VA.) At Horizon Academies, we encourage more outdoor activities than classroom-based traditional teaching. So, you can prepare your own lesson planning to support the syllabuses.

But this doesn’t mean you have to stick to the syllabuses firmly. Besides, all our students go to public schools and learn the lessons in traditional classroom-based structure. There is no point in doing the same at Horizon Academies. You are free to introduce your own teaching methods deviating from the main syllabuses where necessary and experiment with your creative teaching methods. There will be a local assistant to help your teaching and interpret when necessary.

v. Donations to Support Educational Activities

Volunteers are welcome to submit donations to Horizon Lanka Foundation such as school supplies, educational publications, sports equipment, art tools, electronic and computer-related parts, and utensils or any other proper items the volunteer judges will benefit the children of the Academy or the Foundation.

7. HEALTH

No vaccination is required for tourists by the Sri Lankan government. However, we strongly recommend volunteers to seek advice from a health professional on this topic.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends travelers to be up-to-date on the following prior to their visit (click for further details):

  1. Routine vaccines: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio
  2. Hepatitis A and B
  3. Typhoid
  4. Japanese Encephalitis
  5. Rabies

Sri Lanka has been declared a malaria-free country by the World Health Organization.

There will be state-owned rural hospitals in the close vicinity of your host family and will provide medical care for both urgent and benign matters. The hospital will also supply medication free of charge based on the doctor’s diagnosis and the availability of medicine in the state hospital. State hospitals are open from 9 am to 4 pm but open 24hrs a day for any emergency needs. (There are a couple of private medical practitioners who run small dispensaries from 4.00 pm to 9.00 pm for a nominal fee.)

8. LIVING CONDITIONS

As a volunteer, you will stay in one of Horizon Academy student’s home and eat local food that they will prepare. They will provide you mainly fresh vegetables, rice and other grains, fresh fruits, freshwater fish, sea fish, and meat. However, beef will not be provided except for Muslim families. Diet restrictions (i.e. vegetarian, vegan, halal, etc.) and special living arrangements should be requested early in advance when needed. You will have your own room with a lockable door, a bed with a mosquito net a fan and a bicycle during your entire stay with us. You will have access to a common toilet or bathroom or an outdoor shower which is covered with planks. You will also have access to a canal, a river, a lake, a reservoir, a lagoon or the sea to bathe and swim depending on your location. There could be seasonal bugs and mosquitos and it would be better to bring your own mosquito/bug repellents too. Most Sri Lankans don’t use toilet tissues so you will have to buy them from the nearest shop.

9. LOCATIONS

The Horizon Lanka Foundation operates 10 Horizon Academies in the rural villages below. We believe that it is the rural communities that have less access to education and technology hence the priority. We might open Horizon Academies in semi-urban and urban areas later but for now, only focus on rural villages.

VILLAGEDISTRICTPROVINCEDESCRIPTION
1. MahawilachchiyaAnuradhapuraNorth CentralDry Zone
2. TantirimaleAnuradhapura North Central Dry Zone
3. RalapanawaAnuradhapura North Central Dry Zone
4. UkkulankulamaAnuradhapura North Central Dry Zone
5. KirimetiyaNuwara EliyaCentral Mountains
6. ManiyanthoddamJaffnaNorthern Seaside
7. WerapitiyaKandyCentral Mountains
8. PanamaAmparaEasternSeaside
9. To be decided
10. To be decided

10. MANAGING VOLUNTEERS

There will be a Secretary/Volunteer Coordinator from the Horizon Lanka Foundation to coordinate all our volunteers in person, over the phone or electronically. From the moment you send us the first email, she will communicate with you till you leave the Horizon Academy. She will be available on mobile phone and through Instant Messenger apps Skype, WhatsApp, FB Messenger and Wire from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm and through email. Emails will be answered within a minimum 24 hours. She will support you whenever you need. It is her duty to assign you the proper Horizon Academy branch and related assignments.

Volunteers will mostly teach English at public schools in villages where we have Horizon Academies during the mornings (from 9.00 am to 12.00 noon) and then you can get a 3-hour break for lunch, a nap, and a shower. In the afternoons, (from 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm) you will teach at the Horizon Academy. If you like, you can take part in sports or other leisure activities from 5.00 pm to 6.00 pm with the students, local staff and other volunteers. So, a volunteer would teach for 5 hours per day but this could be changed according to the volunteer’s needs. Some volunteers even overwork at their own initiative. And some volunteers who have to prepare themselves for exams or working on online assignments can discuss with us and have a flexible timetables and volunteering hours that suit you and us.

11. PROCESSING VOLUNTEERING PROGRAM

You are required to fill our Volunteer Application (VA) http://www.horizonlanka.org/en/volunteer/volunteer-application/ first. (If two or several volunteers expect to volunteer, each of them has to fill applications separately.) Once we receive your VA, we will go through it and will assign you the best suited Horizon Academy that goes with your qualifications, talents, and preferences. Then we will send you an email with the directions to the assigned host family or the Horizon Academy. You can keep communicating with our Secretary/Volunteer Coordinator throughout the process. She will talk to you through IM apps with text, audio or video as and when necessary so that you will feel comfortable. Once your volunteering decision is confirmed, send her your flight details too. If you need it, we can send you a taxi to the airport with a driver who can speak English if you can afford it and you can either come to the assigned village in it or take public transportation (bus/train) and reach the village on your own. It would be advisable for you to stay a day in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital for an overnight as you would be too tired to take another long journey to the assigned village. If you need it, we can recommend a cheap hostel in a cool, shady place in the heart of Colombo. (Please understand that the transport and hostel facilities are provided by third parties and you have to pay for them on your own. We only recommend them with our past experiences with them.)

12. TRANSPORTATION

Most of the transportation in Sri Lanka is done by bus, train or tuk-tuk (3-wheel taxi.)  Getting around by bus is extremely affordable (e.g. Anuradhapura – Colombo – 200 km is less than $5 USD.) If you can afford, taxi services are also available. Please ask the local coordinator to find you a taxi.

As per the directions to the relevant village from the airport, we will send you an email with the information needed.

13. VISA

Each tourist coming to Sri Lanka should obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) prior to their arrival. The visa fees are free of charge for some of the countries till the end of January 2020. The application processes vary according to the nationality of the applicant. Visit Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) to obtain more information and apply for your visa. The ETA is valid for 30 days. Each visitor has the possibility of prolonging their stay by 60 days up to a total of 90 days. The extension will have to be requested by the volunteer, in person, at the Department of Immigration and Emigration in Colombo before the ETA’s expiration date. An additional 90 days can be granted to visitors able to justify their prolonged stay.

Here is information to help you fill out the ETA paperwork:

Address in Sri Lanka: Horizon Lanka Foundation, No. 125, Left bank, Mahawilachchiya, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. 50022

Staying with: Mr. Nanda Wanninayaka

Reason for entry: Tourist.

14. VOLUNTEER CERTIFICATE

Each volunteer would be provided with a CERTIFICATE OF APPRECIATION for volunteering with us. We have a standard format and if you need a customized certificate, please let us know in advance. However, these certificates would be provided ONLY AFTER you submit your tour report to us.

Should you require any additional information, feel free to contact our secretary at info@horizonlanka.org. In case of any problem with our official email, you can use our organization’s optional email, horizonlanka@gmail.com.