5th January 15
Following the Tsunami on 26th December 2004, Sri Lanka was devastated around most of its coastline. Throughout the world, support and fundraising ensued to help the victims. Many thousands died, whole towns and villages were ruined and so many children became orphans. The King Alfred School wanted to do something significant. Julian Cottenden contacted a friend in Sri Lanka, a student called Sameera Jayasinghe, who Julian met in Moscow at a youth U.N. summit. To cut a long story short, we became involved in setting up a pre-school in the North East of Sri Lanka, close to the town of Trincomalee. Sri Lanka lost over 450 schools so wedecided to provide one!
After a brief period working from a lean-to next to someone’s house, the school relocated to The Blue House in December 2005. The house had been badly damaged in the Tsunami and the owner no longer wished to live in it. A group of students from The King Alfred School went out to Kinniya in October 2005 to start a massive clear –up and also to work with the small number of children who had started at the school. Since then, there have been further visits from staff and students.
When the school was set up, they wanted to take the name of The King Alfred School, coincidentally fulfilling for the first time in the 109 year history of the school, an initial aim of establishing KAS schools with a similar ethos. So where are we now? In December 2005 there were around 8 children in the school. Now there are more than 40 annually! They all wear neat little uniforms (designed by a former KAS pupil who was a volunteer in the early days), and are given special school bags when they leave to join their local primary schools. There are now two full time teachers and a classroom assistant. There are a number of volunteers and helpers who maintain the building and grounds.
The Blue House, which we purchased and gave to the Kinniya community, has had considerable repairs and repainting work done and a lot of cleaning out. In 2009 the two end rooms which had been washed away by the wave were restored. The acre of grounds have now been fenced in and cleared of debris. There are new impressive wrought iron gates bearing the school’s name and plenty of swings and play equipment, much of it handmade. The parents have gained trust in the school and have become more involved in helping to look after it.
Sadly in 2010, Julian passed away but in his memory we have created The Julian Cottenden Computer Centre as well as a language centre. Both of these facilities have been created to provide opportunities for the adults in Kinniya. They pay for courses which help them gain qualifications that boost their chances for employment. We have created a small governing body and a school constitution. Annual meetings are held. The King Alfred School has funded this small school in Sri Lanka since 2005 following the initial massive fundraising push immediately after the Tsunami which raised over £40 000!
Incredibly, it is fast approaching the 10th anniversary of the school. In December, volunteers, families and children, will hold a special ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the Tsunami and will plant ten trees in the grounds of the school. 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of being in the Blue House. The school is almost financially independent now with the money from the adult students helping to sustain the pre-school.
This is an incredible success story and one that signifies what can be done with persistence and human endeavour. We set up a school in a war torn part of Sri Lanka in the heart of the Tamil community and it is supported by Catholic volunteers and friends here in the UK. It is indeed a monument to peace and harmony.
Kinniya King Alfred Pre-School Project Coordinator
PS: As one final gesture of support for the school, I would like to try to raise as much money as possible with our Christmas Appeal and send it to the school. Your help is and has always been greatly appreciated.