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Group Trips, Culture & Community in Sri Lanka by Lauren Timmington

Volunteering in Sri Lanka

Through Girl Guiding, a group of us found out that we would be travelling to Sri Lanka from 21st July 2014 until 3rd August 2014 for two weeks to volunteer at an orphanage. This was such exciting news and immediately we had thrown together ideas in order to fundraise for this amazing opportunity. The ideas ranged from cake sales, friendship bracelets as well as getting our Rainbows, Brownies and Guides involved in helping fundraise. Everyone involved was really supportive!

Our host family

When we first arrived we met our Projects Abroad co-ordinator at the airport. She was absolutely lovely and helped us with exchanging money and getting water before travelling with us to meet our host family. Travelling in a mini bus and seeing some of the sights of Sri Lanka were beautiful, there was so much greenery although the roads didn’t seem to have the same rules as in the UK.

We reached the beautiful house that we would be staying in and met the lovely Auntie who would take care of us for the two weeks. Even though she spoke very few words in English, we could still have conversations with her about Sri Lanka. She cooked lovely food that wasn’t too spicy, and eating without cutlery was a little strange at first, but eventually it did feel pretty normal.

Our placement in Sri Lanka

Community project Sri Lanka

After all the travelling and visiting the beach on the first day, we then arrived at Mith Sevana - the orphanage that we were working at throughout the two weeks. We met all the girls, who were absolutely lovely, and it was a real joy to see them every day and work with them.

We made crafts with the girls every day and then for the other half of the day we helped by painting colourful murals on the wall to brighten up their rooms and also give them something to remind them of us.

The theme for the activities was ‘aquariums’ so we made fish, octopus, crabs, jelly fish and any other under-water creatures. Nearing the end of the two weeks we took the girls on a little trip to the aquarium, which was an absolute wonderful experience. All the girls did exactly as they were told and seemed to really enjoy looking at all the fish within the aquarium! We learnt a few words while we were in Sri Lanka; lassania (meaning beautiful) was something we were saying a lot.

Weekend activities and trips

We visited the city, Kandy during the weekend, where we saw some beautiful views. We visited Peradeniya which was such a beautiful place with plenty of bamboo, bright flowers and beautiful lakes to look at, as well as wild monkeys that were actually close enough to take photos of.

Volunteering overseas

While we were out, we visited a local hotel for lunch, which was delicious although I did eat what I thought was a green bean which turned out to be a chilli and so was the spiciest thing I had ever eaten - my eyes were tearing!

We also visited the Temple of the Tooth Relic which was such a good experience, the temple was really magnificent. This then led to us visiting a dance show; Rangahala Cultural Dance which featured fire eating and fire walking which was very entertaining! I also bought a souvenir of a little elephant necklace.

We stayed over in a hotel before the next day’s activities and in true girls guiding fashion, they had set up about four or five camp fires for us to sit around and sing camp fire songs. The next day was particularly exciting as we were getting in a Jeep on the way to our safari at Minneriya National Park.

Later on in the week, we went souvenir shopping; buying lovely little presents for all our family and friends that we had missed as well as the people that had helped us fundraise for such an amazing opportunity. As a treat to ourselves, saris were bought. They were really beautiful and we couldn’t wait to wear them.

We also met some Sri Lankan Girl Guides which was amazing as we were also guides to compare experiences, and see how guides was similar yet different in other countries.

Saying goodbye to Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan sun set

The day of leaving was very sad. We spent the day with the girls; they all painted their hands and helped us with our last wall making the leaves of the tree. The staff at the centre helped all of us get into our saris so that we could fit in with the culture of Sri Lanka. The girls were really shocked to see us dressed like that and I definitely teared up saying goodbye and many of the girls did too.

I felt like we had made a real connection with the girls, we loved spending so much time with them, helping them with crafts and taking them on a trip. We all took plenty of photos to have many memories of our time with them.

I would definitely love to travel back to Sri Lanka and experience it all over again.

Lauren Timmington

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