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Volunteers' Stories


Rachel Jackson

 Emma Stack          


Teaching Children in Wasgamuwa on a voluntary placement in Sri Lanka

Well!! We couldn’t have asked for a more eventful stay!!! Where on earth do we start?! The whole trip has been so much more than we could have hoped for; from the amazing house to the crazy experiences! Its all been a dream come true! The wildlife is a joy to behold, a surprise around every corner! We scoop frogs out of the sink every morning, check for Cobra around corners, step over the house dogs to reach breakfast, dodge tortoises on the way to school, share a swim in the lake with water buffalo and of course there are the elephants!! But I’ll get to them a little later!

The kids are a handful to say the least! Very energetic and boisterous, but above all eager to learn, like absolutely no children we know back home!! This makes every lesson rewarding, even if it can also be quite trying at times! We’ve taught classes with a massive range of ability ~ it can be quite frustrating teaching one child to spell CAT over and over, while another is ready to learn grammar! We had to re-learn all our nouns and adjectives etc! In retrospect we loved every class, although we have to admit we often dreaded teaching Grade 1 who can’t even write in Sinhala yet, let alone in English!!

The weekends are always fun! You soon learn that a five hour bus ride is the norm, 2 hours is nothing!! Kandy is beautiful, a welcome break into near-civilization with internet and cold drinks!! Oh the novelty!! Go to “The Pub” on a Friday night especially if the cricket is on, its brill! The Koffeepot next door has the best internet and heavenly fruit juices!! Adams Peak is a must!! Do not be put off!! It is a big slog, bloody freezing at the top and leaves you limping for a week, but it’s all worth it!!

The views are amazing!! Climb at night for the most perfect sunset and a good run down in the dawn! Nuwara Eliya is a stunning English-style town in the middle of the hill country. Make sure you visit a tea factory and you get to wear a sexy green uniform complete with hat – so exciting!! 

The cultural triangle is a must – Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla and Sigirya. Sigiriya has fantastic views and Dambulla has extremely impressive caves filled with beautiful statues of the Buddha. White water rafting at Kitulgula, all over body massage in Kandy (next to Hotel Suisse), shopping (Majestic City and Odels) and even clubbing (H2O and Zanziba) in Colombo!!

Willies is a short bike ride away, turn right at the road! The pool is an oasis after a chaotic class but the food is questionable – do not try the mixed veg salad!!! But enjoy an amazing papaya juice and cold sprite!!

The National Park… what can we say? Don’t get too close to the elephants!! Our Manager (Chinthaka!!!) really made us feel like a part of the herd, we watched about ten elephants tucking into grass and looking after their babies. It was amazing, so close… a little too close!! Next thing we knew we were surrounded by aggressive elephant females, growling and inches away from the jeep! We piled into the middle, trunk dodging, the field scouts no help whatsoever (Thushara and Mahesh!!)!! It didn’t take long for the jeep to be perched on two wheels as one elephant head butted the passenger side door and the others moved ominously into attack positions!! Thank god the clutch held out this time!! We managed to speed away after several terrifying minutes, only to be chased by the entire herd in full charge mode! Chinthaka has never driven so fast!! We made it through alive though (just!) and it’ll be a good story to tell to our grandchildren.

Everything has been unforgettable!! We’d recommend this placement to anyone willing to enjoy their world and bike ride a lot! Do not be tempted to spend too much time in the comfy chairs! Get out there!! Talk to the kids (sign language is always good!), jump off bridges into lakes, celebrate the many festivals and generally enjoy Pusselayaya and the surrounding area (esp. willies!). It is possible to completely immerse yourself in the culture of Sri Lanka in this peaceful village, but only if you go for it!!

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