Ani King and Georgina Wood reflect on their two and a half weeks volunteering at Footprints in Sri Lanka, a children's home for underprivileged children and its sister school, in Colombo.
Considering the background of these children, in an environment and culture where they are prone to abuse and/or neglect, Ani and Georgina were amazed to see how full of smiles the children were, and how positive they were about their school work and towards each other.
When we first arrived at the home we were greeted by a multitude of happy children, who affectionately held our hands and clung to our arms, calling us “Akk”, the Singhalese word for sister. They showed us their beautifully decorated dormitories with pride, before teaching us some traditional Sri Lankan games such as Carrom. Some of the older girls were interested in art, singing and dancing and enjoyed showing us all the things they'd been working on.
Teaching the younger children Maths, English, Science, Computer Studies, Religion and Environmental Studies was a fantastic experience from which we've both gained a huge amount, even if, at times, it was challenging to keep some of the children in their seats. Now we find it much easier to sympathise with our teachers!
The resident staff, teachers, and children were all enormously helpful, and made us feel very welcome. We also had great fun painting the front wall of the school, and the children loved their new mural. Surprisingly, few of the children knew how to make paper aeroplanes, so we obviously had to make that part of their education, an enjoyable experience for all of us. We also had an art afternoon, where the children used the new watercolours we gave them to do some finger painting.
After each demanding week of teaching, it was a nice change to spend the weekends touring around the country, exploring all the amazing attractions Sri Lanka has to offer, such as an elephant orphanage, a turtle sanctuary, Buddhist temples, Sigiriya (a 5th Century rock fortress) and other impressive historical sites.
It was truly humbling for us to see how much the children valued the little they had and this made us really appreciate the things we take for granted. We got to know everyone at the home really well, and saying goodbye to the children was probably the hardest part of our trip. Our visit to Sri Lanka has changed our outlook on life, and we will always cherish our time with these children with whom we shared just two weeks of our lives.
By Ani King and Georgina Wood
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