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andrew-richards

         

ANDREW RICHARDS
British

Teaching Children in Wasgamuwa on a voluntary placement in Sri Lanka
         

I arrived at Colombo airport and Harsha was waiting to meet me. The heat hit me straight away and I knew that I would not need the jeans and jumper that I was wearing!

The journey down to Wasgamuwa took us through a number of small towns with shops at the front of the houses. The roads are fairly bumpy but we were too busy looking at all the new sights to notice too much. We were coming up to the turning leading towards our house and we had to go through the electric safety fence (to keep elephants out of the village). 

We then started to go up this really bumpy mud track and came to the top of a hill and were told that this was the house. It was very dark and about 1:00am in the morning! We walked down a small track and saw what looked like a mud hut, our house!

When we woke up in the morning you could see the whole view around the house - it was impressive looking over the lake and seeing the mountains in the distance. After a short time we became very accustomed to the house and really enjoyed the different surroundings.

In the National Park we managed to see a herd of about 100 elephants that were pretty close to the vehicle - a great experience! We also had the opportunity to visit the local safety fence and the tree house that the conservation unit uses. All of the local villagers were very happy to meet us and always smiled and waved. At times it can seem a little intimidating because everyone stops to stare at you and call their friends over to have a look, but a wave and a smile back is normally well accepted.

The teaching can be hard work but was very rewarding. It can take a lot of repetition for the children to fully take in information, but you can see that they are keen to learn and will keep trying. The abilities range from some children who have no experience of English at all to some of the children in the higher grades who were very competent. We had two very helpful male field scouts who would attend classes with us to help explain tasks to the children and translate some information for them in their own language.

The nearest town to the project house is Hettipola and this can take about 40 minutes in one of the local buses, but don’t expect the buses to run on time they seem to just turn up when they feel like it. The town will have most things that you will want at very cheap prices. The cold drink at some of the local stores was always appreciated.

The evenings are very dark from around 7:30pm. You will have time to read a book, play cards or one of the games in the house. You will also have the opportunity to relax and just listen to the sounds around you.

Overall this was an excellent experience that I will always remember. The children were amazing and great to work with and the location of the house really helped us become involved with the whole village. Also seeing and speaking to the locals was an important part of the whole experience. Most of the locals don't speak English so be prepared to be very patient and have good sign language. The Sinhala phrase book can be very helpful to pick up some of the simple phrases. The Sri Lanka Lonely Planet book is also very helpful if you are travelling around Sri Lanka.

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andy-richards
Andrew Teaching at Wasgamuwa School

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Andrew with Dogs