Trip report Guusje, volunteer

My name is Guusje (28) and in January 2024 I spent a month in Sri Lanka. For two weeks I spent the night with a host family in Kandy and did volunteer work. An unforgettable experience.

A few weeks before I was due to leave, the Sri Lankan government had changed the school holiday schedule, meaning the schools would be officially closed. Still, I was able to help at two schools: Dambawela Primary School and Girls’ High School Kandy.

The school in Dambawela was a small village school with few resources. The English teacher had decided to paint the walls with images that they could use during English lessons. With money from Sri Lankan Hope for Children we bought paint and started working with the children. We painted animals, the English alphabet and the map of Sri Lanka. The children were super enthusiastic and even stood painting in the pouring rain with a smile on their faces.

Every afternoon I was served a Sri Lankan lunch, prepared by the teachers. This way I was able to taste a lot of dishes (with my hands, as is eaten here). I also really enjoyed the conversations with the teachers. It was really nice to get to know them better and exchange stories about our different backgrounds. For example, they were genuinely surprised that there were no monkeys in Europe and thought it was fantastic that there was snow in the Netherlands at that time. We accomplished a lot in a short time, and yet I would have liked to stay longer.

The second week I went to Girls’ High School in Kandy, a prestigious school with more than 5,000 students, where they had set up a project to introduce the Grade 4 students to other cultures. That was a completely different experience.

The first day there was a kind of welcome ceremony and I was treated to shows by the children in traditional clothing, in keeping with the different cultures and religions in Sri Lanka. Very impressive! The following days there was a different group of students every day with whom I did games and activities to practice their English. The language level differed greatly per child, but they all tried to start a conversation.

On the last day they had a surprise for me: one of the teachers had arranged a bright red sari for me. It turned out to fit, so I was allowed to keep it on for the rest of the day; also during the traditional dance lesson with which we ended the last day. I was inundated with drawings and thank you’s from the children and I was truly sorry that it was over so quickly.

These were fantastic weeks in which I learned a lot about the extremely hospitable and rich Sri Lankan culture. Not only during the work at the schools, but also thanks to the conversations with Nishantha and Madhu (the host family) and the trips during the weekends. I hope to be able to return to this beautiful country again.


painting the outside walls with pictures of animals with kids

Trip report Guusje, volunteer