Blog by Wendy Van de Lande (volunteer)

It was not only awesome but also unforgettable!

Let’s start at the beginning. Sri Lanka was high on our wishlist, and this year, it finally happened. A fantastic 19-day tour of this beautiful country! But we wanted more, and by “we,” I mean three adults and three teenagers.

We all agreed that we wanted to give this trip more depth. We thought it would be good to get a different perspective on education (especially for the teenagers ๐Ÿ˜Š) and to remind ourselves how privileged we are in the Netherlands. But how do you do that, give it more meaning?

In the end, I just started emailing and calling various volunteer organizations, which ultimately resulted in a wonderful connection with Natasja. It’s truly amazing how she runs the ‘Srilankan Hope for Children’ foundation. What started with a simple question to Natasja… “Hey, we have extra space in our suitcases; can we bring something for you to Sri Lanka?” Eventually turned into Natasja’s question to us… “Are you open to painting a school and donating the paint to the school?”

Well, we were definitely open to that, but how were we going to do it?

So, we came up with the idea of an online fundraising campaign. It was astonishing to see how many websites there are where you can promote and share your campaign. The advantage of this was that we could make many people aware of our campaign in an accessible way. It was super to see that the first donations came from teachers. In the end, we raised over 1100 euros! All of it intended for an elementary school in the remote Kandy area, known as the Knuckles Hills. I still get emotional when I think about how many people want these children to have a beautiful future.

And that money was much needed; we only realized it when we flew there in August. We had already bought school supplies and pencil cases in the Netherlands; the rest, like paint and notebooks, we would buy in Sri Lanka. This was to support the local economy as much as possible. Once we arrived in Sri Lanka, we took two days to acclimatize and then continued our journey to Kandy, a major city in the center of the country, by train.

Here, we were warmly welcomed by Nishanta, an incredible Sri Lankan who tirelessly works for the community. It was a good thing we had those two days of rest because from that moment on, we embarked on an unforgettable rollercoaster ride lasting three days. In no time, we had dropped off our suitcases, bought more than 70 liters of paint, and stocked up on water for three days. Before we knew it, we were on our way to Knuckles Hills with Nishanta and an abundance of (paint) supplies, a journey that took several hours and involved tuk-tuks, buses, walks, and countless memorable moments.

Upon our arrival in Knuckles Hills, we were in for a surprise: the mud house. A simple accommodation made entirely of mud and wood, surrounded by nothing but beautiful nature and impressive rice fields. There was no electricity here, and our bathroom was simply the nearby waterfall. But the view? Incredible. The food? Sublime. And the people? Words cannot describe their hospitality. And the wine we had brought… was highly appreciated. Alcohol is unaffordable for the average person in Sri Lanka.

After a delicious meal (oh, how delicious those curries are), we prepared for the next day when we had to fill 65 pencil cases. The next morning arrived, and while the tuk-tuk delivered the school supplies to the school, Nishanta took us on a beautiful walk through the rice fields. What a perfect start to the day!

Upon arrival at the school, we were warmly welcomed by everyone. After a brief conversation in the principal’s office, we armed ourselves with rollers, brushes, and paint to tackle those walls. What we didn’t expect was the help of 30 children between the ages of 6-7. Managing that was impossible… so we had to let go and work together to create something beautiful, which was our purpose after all! Where those little children’s arms couldn’t reach, we took over. The height of our teenagers led to some amusing situations. Many parents were also actively helping, and the lessons continued in the meantime.

During the distribution of school supplies, we had another special surprise from the Netherlands: syrup waffles and licorice! Priceless were the faces of young and old when they tasted the licorice ๐Ÿ˜Š But it wasn’t just us giving; we received plenty in return. Some parents had prepared a delicious lunch (did I mention how delicious those curries are…), and we later received homemade treats. Moments of cultural exchange like these are priceless. These small gestures made our experience in Knuckles Hills even more special. And for us, it emphasizes the power of connection and kindness across borders. Wow, what a remarkable day!

Our teenagers also did a fantastic job and played actively with all the children, in addition to painting. The ball and frisbee we had brought were a big hit, and after some practice, the children were excellent at frisbee.

In the end, we learned from Nishanta that the school had been looking forward to this renovation for a long time, but they had no idea how to approach it. Money was an issue, but they also lacked organizational skills. And that’s understandable because in such a poor area as Knuckles Hill, people live day to day, and it’s difficult to plan far into the future. Fortunately, Nishanta has a great organizational capacity, and the project was completed in just 1.5 days! The icing on the cake was the words of a student to his teacher:

“Teacher, from now on, nothing should be stuck on the walls.
They are so beautiful; it’s a shame if tape damages them again.”

That warms your heart, and you know you’ve achieved your goal.

In the end, we found out that the school was a bit larger than it appeared in the photos. The paint had run out, but fortunately, the money had not. In consultation with Nishanta and the parents, it was agreed that they would receive new paint once some walls were renovated (which was urgently needed). And I can tell you now that this project was also a complete success! The school is now beautifully painted inside and out in a lovely soft yellow color.

We concluded our time at the school with a group photo, music, kind words, and the last syrup waffles and licorice from the Netherlands. What an experience… I shed a small tear… so proud of everyone who made this possible and so grateful that the six of us could do this.

I don’t need to tell you that this work is invaluable. It not only creates better educational opportunities but also unforgettable moments of mutual appreciation and connection between different communities.

I also don’t need to tell you that it’s important for this work to continue. The work that Natasja does with the people in Sri Lanka must be continued.

If you’ve become enthusiastic after reading our story and want to organize something similar yourself, I’d be happy to help you get started. You can always email me at with your questions.

Together, we can bring about even more positive change!

arrival at Kandy


Blog by Wendy Van de Lande (volunteer)