- Group:Girlguiding Midlands Region (The Sri Lanka Spice Girls)
Sri Lanka 2014
- Age:16-23 years old
- Group Size:10 Guides 2 Leaders
- Project:Care & Community
- Destination:Dehiwala, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Before they went away
Girlguiding Midlands decided to partner with Projects Abroad on this trip to give 12 young members an experience of a lifetime, as well as providing a service in a community that needed it and allowing the guides to develop skills. The Guides were all selected to take part in this trip, and none of the participants knew each other, so we were able to hold training and briefing weekends before the trip and were able to invite Projects Abroad staff to some of these meetings to help us plan our trip! Despite not knowing each other before hand the girls were able to work well as a team and we are all so proud of the achievements we made as a group.
What they did
We worked in a government run rehabilitation centre for special needs girls called Mith Sevanna. The centre is in a large suburb of Colombo called Dehiwala, and although the children were well cared for it was understaffed and needed all the volunteering help it could get. Our main focus was providing the girls at the centre with fun, educational and creative sessions; we worked in small groups with the girls; making under the sea themed crafts, to create mini aquariums. The girls thoroughly enjoyed the crafts, and this was evident through the huge grins on their faces, the chatting and laughter in the room, and the amount of glitter that was in hair, on faces and on the floor after each session. We also loved playing games and singing songs with the girls. At the end of the fortnight we took the girls on a trip to a local aquarium to experience the under the sea world for real!!
Our other project was to revitalise some of the walls at the centre with some bright zingy murals. We took inspiration from art work created by some of the girls at the centre. We also created a tree of friendship, using ours and the girl’s handprints to create a rainbow leaved tree to remind the girls of the time we spent with them.
During our time in Sri Lanka we were able to visit the Headquarters of the local Girl Guides, discussing with them the projects our organisations have been undertaking to make a difference in the communities we live in. We were able to follow this with a cultural exchange of songs, dances, and poems.
We really felt like we made a difference to the girls at Mith Sevana and provided them with a fun, extra-ordinary program of activities that has helped them to develop.
The main challenge was communicating with the girls we were working with in the rehabilitation centre; we could not speak English; we could only speak a few words in Sinhalese, and many of the girls had communication problems alongside their learning and special needs. Thankfully we were able to adopt a method of sign language and were aided by staff at the centre and our FANTASTIC projects abroad translator Marsha.
The weekend trip
We took the long trip to Kandy to experience a truly cultural side to Sri Lanka. Visiting a Botanical Gardens, we took in the fantastic plants of Sri Lanka as well as coming face to face with wild monkeys. Visiting the Temple of the Tooth and the Dambulla rock temples we were able to learn more about Sri Lanka’s main religion Buddhism. An early start on the Sunday morning allowed us to take a Jeep safari into the Minnieriya National park to see elephants, wildebeest, peacocks and chickens in their natural habitat.
During the fortnight we were also able to experience the area we were staying in, visiting the beautiful Mount Lavinia beach, sari shopping at Dehiwala junction, swimming at a local hotel and sight-seeing in Colombo itself.
We certainly had the trip of a life time; we made lifelong friends both within the group, with our host family and with the girls we worked with. Seeing the girls at the centre grow in confidence, and explore their creative sides was so rewarding, as was being greeted by their smiling faces and laughter. The group leaders Hannah Foxon and Sara Miles said “We are so proud of the hard work our girls put into making a difference at the Meth Sevanna centre. Their enthusiasm, creativity and passion really helped to make the fortnight enjoyable and worthwhile. Each team member has developed a wide range of skills, including teamwork and confidence”. Our trip was a brilliant volunteering and cultural experience and was made so by the hard work and dedication of our two Projects Abroad supervisors (and now friends) Marsha and Eline.