As I reflect upon my month volunteering in Sri Lanka, I am both grateful for the experience which will undoubtedly change my outlook on life forever and proud that I have been able to help an amazing charity so desperately in need of support.
As a teaching volunteer with OPEnE (Organisation of People for Engagement and Enterprise), my responsibilities lay with teaching English and ‘Soft-Skills’ to groups of children around the Mannar district. The north of Sri Lanka where I was based is a post-conflict area and signs of the war which tore the country apart are still visible today, hence why the charity is based in Mannar. I chose to apply for the role as a teaching volunteer to gain experience of education in a completely different context to what I am used to in the UK and make a difference.
When I found out that I was the only international teaching volunteer working with OPEnE in August, I was terrified. I had envisioned a group of volunteers being based in Mannar whom I could collaborate with, share ideas with and generally enjoy my month with. Instead, I was working alongside two other local Sri Lankan teachers and between the three of us, we would plan and lead workshops to hundreds of children. Initially, I was daunted by the task that lay before me and admittedly, worried that I would not be able to last four weeks in a small, rural town where few people could speak any English.
Fast forward four weeks and I am returning to Scotland a different person. I have absolutely loved my experience teaching in Sri Lanka, although it has been completely different to what I expected.
Firstly, working with the children has been inspiring. Their enthusiasm and respect for each other despite a traumatic up-bringing is incredible. Although I have plenty of experience working with children as a Primary Education student, teaching English as a Second Language was a completely new and exciting challenge which I have loved. Watching the children progress in terms of their spoken English and in confidence has been really rewarding. Furthermore, being able to take the knowledge I have gained and different strategies I have learned from the Sri Lankan teachers back to school in Scotland is something I am very grateful for.
Secondly, away from the teaching aspect of my trip, I have grown so much as a person over these four weeks. Being thrown into a completely foreign environment so far away from home was a huge shock. However, my ability to adjust to life in Mannar surprised me. It has made me appreciate all the things we take for granted at home, and the family and friends who are always there to support me. Overall, my time as a teaching volunteer in Sri Lanka has completely changed my life and I would like to thank everyone at the Go Abroad Fund who helped make my time volunteering in Sri Lanka possible.