19th September 16
Over the Summer, Jeanette S and Nuray took a small group of students from Year 10 and 12 to Sri Lanka.
The purpose of our trip was to visit, teach and build a playground in our school in the North East of the country. Kinniya King Alfred Pre-School was established over 10 years ago following the tsunami that devastated the part of the world, with funds kindly raised by KAS parents. Julian Cottenden met Sameera Jayasinghe at a conference in Sweden, and they developed the idea of forming a partnership with KAS.
The rest is history. We have been supporting the school ever since. I have done a lot of fundraising with students over the years to augment what has been happening on the ground in Kinniya. Over the past few years, with the turbulent events of the civil war, we had been unable to visit, so it was quite momentous to be given the green light to arrange the trip. It was a year in the planning and we raised over £2,500 to take equipment, tools and books.
It is very hard to sum up the trip in a short piece, but the experience was, at the very least, enlightening, exhausting, fascinating, humbling, amazing and took us all out of our comfort zones! The NGO was keen for us to do some outreach work in the local community, so we visited five other schools as well as our sister one in Kinniya.
In addition, we visited students in their homes, were visited by other children in Talawa, and spent time in a local fishing community. We taught classes of sometimes more than 50 primary age students, many of whom had only a few words of English. It tested our drama and singing skills to the max! Parents and staff kindly donated books for us to take with us, and these were gratefully received by all of the local teachers.
The work wasn’t all educational though; one of our primary tasks was to build a playground. First we had to move several piles of heavy bricks, learn to mix cement, build a wall, erect a perimeter fence, as well as plant shrubs and put in a whole irrigation system. It took a while to buy all of the necessary equipment, including wood from a local timber yard, and we were still waiting for some of the tools to arrive from England, even up to the final days in Kinniya! At times it was frustrating having to wait, but when everything was finally in place we had produced a fabulous playground with balance beams, monkey bars, a climbing wall with wall fixings supplied by the Castle Climbing Centre in Finsbury Park. All of the students worked incredibly hard every day; they were either in the garden, teaching at school or working as a kitchen hand learning to make Sri Lankan favourites like hoppers or sambol with Sidney and Auntie.
In between the fun and hard work, we were incredibly lucky to visit Buddhist temples in Anuradhapura and Kandy, get so close to elephants we could almost touch them at Minneriya National Park and climb to the top of Sigirya Rock for the most incredible views. We offered lotus flowers in temples, sweltered in the heat, swam at Marble Beach, bumped into lower school teacher Ilona and collected three former KAS students (Jess, Nathalie and Ali) from the train station at 5.30am who decided to stay for a few days and help with the physical labour; they were also fabulous teachers!
It was the most incredible trip made even more special by our own enthusiastic, positive students and the hospitality and generosity of the Sri Lankan people. A special mention also to ‘Our Man in Sri Lanka’ Sameera who made the whole trip possible. We are planning a Sri Lanka evening with food, drink, music and will let you know the date for this. We also hope to show a film and the photographs at this event, and this will make up for what our words cannot do justice to here. Hopefully this will become a feature in the school trip calendar, possibly to be offered every two years.
Many thanks for all your donations and support; all were so gratefully received, especially the cameras which we have left behind for Christy, the school Principal to use to continue to record KAS Kinniya’s progress in the future.
Jeanette, S Art
Thanks to Nuray for sharing her beautiful photographs! You can see more of them in the Sri Lanka Gallery.