Ali and Mike Brown enjoyed a busy three week visit from January 17th to February 10th 2013. They write: “At the invitation of the Vice Chancellor, we spent eight days at the Sabaragamuwa University where we engaged with lecturers, university staff and external students in daily sessions of ‘spoken English’ whose purpose was to give the participants confidence to speak English without worrying about perfect grammar. We were also fortunate enough to visit the Army Officer Training Academy at Diyathalawa to discuss the problems the staff encounter teaching recruits the English medium. We attended the opening of the new wells at Koonawalana and Handapanagala, and in Matara we paid visits to the pre-schools at Kirelawela and Hiththatiya. Both were obviously thriving. In Kirelawela a presentation was being given to teachers, parents and village elders on the subject of Child Abuse and Domestic Violence and in Hiththatiya the children were keen to join us in action songs. We look forward to visiting again next year.”
An important part of the work of Project Sri Lanka is fostering links between British and Sri Lankan institutions with common interests. Dr Nick Brown writes: “Normally I work as an NHS oncologist in the UK and I was keen to learn more about oncology in Sri Lanka. Through Project Sri Lanka I was able to set up an opportunity of observe in the Oncology Department at Karapitya Hospital, a large teaching hospital in Galle. My week in the department was extremely interesting and useful. I was particularly interested in the inventive strategies that have been developed to deliver the best possible patient outcomes in an environment where resources are inevitably more limited than those in the UK. I also had the opportunity to deliver a lecture to the Galle Medical Association, and to discuss research projects at Ruhuna University in Matara. I would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Sri Lanka to anyone keen to create professional links and view their everyday job from a new perspective.”
Project Sri Lanka is delighted to have provided a funding contribution towards an operation that will restore the failing eyesight of Weligama resident Perera. This gentleman has worked throughout his life as a three wheeler driver and in other activities and finds himself in a position where he is no longer able to work and earn the necessary income to support himself and his family. It is anticipated that the operation will restore his sight and enable him to work once again.
Four Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Alnwick in Northumberland spent two weeks in Sri Lanka in January 2013. The visitors were Assistant District Governor Terry Long, Club President Marion Long, Vice-President Elaine Smith and Rotarian Graham Smith. The team stayed with hosts from the Rotary Club of Colombo Mid City and attended Rotary meetings at the Colombo Mid City Club, Colombo North Club and Colombo West Club. After their stay in Colombo they set out on field visits to observe a number of the Charity’s projects which are associated with Rotary Sri Lanka. They saw the school at Moraketiara which Alnwick Rotary Club had contributed to and a number of other village projects provided through Project Sri Lanka. It is anticipated that this visit will lead to the development of future joint projects linking Alnwick and Rotary Sri Lanka with Project Sri Lanka.
The Trustees are delighted to join Monk Dharmarissa, the office bearers of Sarvoday Gandarawatte Society and parents of the village in welcoming Ms Malika as a new teacher in the pre-school. Malika commenced her duties in January 2013 and is seen here alongside the long serving teacher in the school. This good news comes at a time when a new three storey Temple building is being constructed in the village which will be used for conferences, accommodating monks and Temple meetings.
January 2013 marked the occasion of the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Project Sri Lanka and the Sarvodaya Society office bearers in Vikumgama. Like all the rest of the Charity’s villages, the people of Vikumgama have entered into this agreement which gives them the responsibility for taking good care of the building, keeping it clean and well maintained, ensuring that the school is running effectively and making sure that the building is well used for a range of other community purposes. It was a great pleasure to return to this village and see how well the building is being used. The event was attended by Trustees David and Joy Cooper and visiting
Project Sri Lanka is delighted to welcome Ms Madushani Sanjeweeni who commenced her job as teacher in our pre-school at Kirelawela in January 2013. Madushani has a National Diploma in Pre-School Education and started her role with 14 children in the Kirelawela school. We wish her every success and happiness in this important position and know that she will be well supported by the officers of the Kirelawela Sarvodaya Society and parents. Our photo shows Madushani (centre) with Sarvodaya office bearers.
On Sunday 27th January Joy and David Cooper and Alison and Michael Brown celebrated the official ‘openings’ of the first two wells provided by Project Sri Lanka. These are in the villages of Koonawalana and Handapanagala, in the Wellawaya Disatrict of Sri Lanka. It was a truly wonderful and memorable day, experiencing the joy felt by the village people at having water for drinking and agricultural purposes locally available in their villages. We observed children drinking glasses of water from their wells and heard explanations of how having the water would transform lives and agricultural livelihoods in both places. These projects are clearly hugely successful and Trustees resolved to explore other barren areas where the provision of wells would make a significant difference to the quality of life for the local people.
Joy and David Cooper spent four weeks in Sri Lanka during January and February 2013. It was an extremely busy visit, which involved introducing 4 Rotarian visitors from The Rotary Club of Alnwick to many of our partners and projects, visiting our partnership villages both in the Matara District and in Belihul Oya, conducting the opening ceremonies of two of the Charity’s new agro-drinking wells, visiting a new potential site for a well, signing an MoU, investigating locations for new humanitarian contributions and meeting many of our sponsored children. Several of these activities are written as separate ‘news’ items. The visit concluded with a 5 day visit to the Jaffna peninsula which was a most interesting experience. It is very clear that a good deal remains to be done in this location in terms of reconstruction and support for development. The photo accompanying this news item shows Joy and David in attendance at a meeting of the Jaffna Rotary Club where they planned support for local projects.
Trustee Scott Weightman visited Sri Sumangala and Siddhartha Schools in Weligama in November 2012 to discuss his 2013 English Literature teaching and a provisional timetable. On November 2nd he presented a laptop computer to Sri Sumangala pupil Erandi Ruvinika, a grade 13 student, who was recently placed second in a national IT competition organised by Microsoft.
Scott was accompanied by American mathematics teacher Robb Grove from Denver who engaged in some teaching at both of the Weligama schools as well as discussing the curriculum with staff,
Trustee Joy Palmer Cooper visited many of our existing partnership villages in the Matara and Sabaragamuwa areas in June and July 2012. She spent time with the 2012 team of volunteers living in Matara and shared the wonderful occasion of the ceremonial opening of Vikumgama community building and school. She handed over plentiful supplies of sewing and embroidery materials provided by friends of the Charity in Sri Sumangala School and held meetings with Rotarians to plan for development of our partnerships with Rotary Sri Lanka.
Joy also visited the villages of Koonawalana and Handapanagala in the Wellawaya area, as previously referred to, in order to plan the Charity’s provision of drinking and agro-wells in these locations. In both villages, well-attended meetings were held in shady outdoor places where the surrounding parched landscape spoke volumes as the villagers told of their desperate needs for water supplies.
Joy Palmer Cooper’s visit to Sri Lanka in June/July 2012 (see related report) incorporated an exploration of inland villages in the Wellawaya area with dire need for water resources. Many villages have no adequate water supplies for drinking or for agricultural purposes. Their landscapes are barren and parched; crops and natural vegetation are dying and successful cultivation of essential food supplies is impossible. It was resolved to provide wells for drinking water and agriculture in two village locations in 2012, these being Koonawalana and Handapanagala. Further details of these places are provided in the ‘Villages’ pages of this website.
On 12th July the Charity’s tenth community building was officially opened in a wonderful traditional ceremony attended by 9 of the student volunteers who had raised funding for this building and Chair of the Trustees Joy Palmer Cooper. Also in attendance were Bandula Senadeera, Head of the International Division of Sarvodaya Shramadana; Divisional and District Co-ordinators of Sarvoydaya’s Matara District; Government Officials from the Provincial and District Councils and all of the people of the village.
Accounts of this splendid day written by the volunteers are placed on the Vikumgama pages of this website.
Trustee Scott Weightman returned to Sri Lanka in June 2012. Sri Sumangala College for Girls in Weligama gave him the usual warm welcome. After 4 years of visiting this school, Scott now feels well at home and a part of the staff. He taught English Literature ‘O’ Level (Auden and Shakespeare) and repeated such lessons at the nearby Siddhartha College for boys. Other lessons included ‘A’ Level English Language and Music to Grades 6 and 7.
In July Scott moved on to the Sabaragamuwa University where, despite a national strike by university lecturing staff, he was able to carry out a wide variety of lectures and workshops within the Community Development programmes.
One of the highlights of the visit was seeing the three community buildings/pre-schools of Project Sri Lanka, namely Ihalagalagama, Puwakgahawela and Pambahinna, where the villagers and children made him so welcome. In free time, Scott explored a tea plantation, paddy fields and the three largest waterfalls in Sri Lanka.
Durham University Alumnus Stephen Fletcher devoted ten weeks of his time to voluntary work in Sri Lanka in 2012. First port of call was the Sabaragamuwa University where he taught business studies, agri-business and English, working around the difficulties of a protracted staff strike taking place the time. From there he moved on to Matara and worked in Aruna Vidyalaya where he taught English to appreciative staff and students of all ages up to university entrance level.
During free time, Steve enjoyed diving in the Unawatuna area and seeing the wonderful natural history including elephants and leopards.
Chandana Dissanayake, Senior Lecturer in English Language at the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka was awarded a Visiting Fellowship by Hatfield College of the University of Durham in May and June 2012. Whilst based in Durham pursuing his academic studies, Chandana was provided ample opportunity by the Charity Trustees to explore northern England and where possible, links with his literary interests. He participated in visits to Cumbria and the Lake District, Northumberland, Edinburgh and the Scottish borders.
In March and April 2012, Charity trustees Joy and David Cooper visited various venues in California in order to give presentations and engage in discussion on Project Sri Lanka’s model for humanitarian aid. They visited the Haas Centre for Public Service at Stanford University and discussed the possibility of engaging Stanford University volunteers. Also, presentations were given at the Rotary Club of Mountain View and the Palms to Pines Rotary Club in Palm Desert. Rotary remains a central partner in the Charity’s endeavours.
Trustees Joy and David Cooper gave presentations on Project Sri Lanka to staff and students in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia in February 2012. Students from Ljubljana had engaged with Sri Lankan communities in need after the tsunami of 2004 and productive discussion took place on the successes of and issues arising from post-disaster interventions by international agencies.
Presenters explained some of the perceived challenges that had been encountered whilst working with partners and communities in Sri Lanka and such challenges and issues were set within the cultural context of the partner organisations and communities.
We were invited to participate in “English Week”, and were made very welcome by the Vice Chancellor, and by both the Department of English Language Teaching and the Department of English. A schedule had been devised which included some teaching at schools in Balangoda and a visit to the Military Academy at Diyathalawa, as well as work at the University itself.
As usual we were impressed by the friendliness and enthusiasm of pupils, students and staff. Highlights included our “entertaining” more than 120 youngsters for a four hour session, engaging with non academic staff, and talking to students about cultural differences. Most of the people we met and taught had some knowledge of written English – the challenge (as emphasised by our wonderful coordinators from DELT) was to encourage them to practice their English speaking and not to be afraid of making mistakes.
Our very enjoyable and stimulating week ended on a high note. On Sunday afternoon, we were entertained at a variety concert given by the external students. There was drama, music, comedy, choral singing, and dance (both traditional and modern). The standard was extremely high, and there were moments of slapstick which brought tears to the eye.
Now back home (after visiting Yala National Park, and then relaxing at Jagabay Hotel on the south coast), Alison and I have many treasured memories of our week at Sabaragamuwa. We definitely gained a lot from it, and we hope that our hosts also found it a valuable experience.
The annual Prize Giving Ceremony at Sri Sumangala Balika Vidyalaya took place on 26th January 2012. Sri Sumangala is a large girls’ school in Weligama with some 2,700 students aged 5 to 18. Various Project Sri Lanka volunteers have visited this school and donated equipment and engaged in teaching.
Trustees Joy and David Cooper attended the ceremony during which prizes were awarded to 200 girls for outstanding achievements. The ceremony also included some superb musical and dance entertainment.
Having selected Vikumgama as location for the tenth community building and pre-school, a ceremony was held on January 24th 2012 for the purpose of laying foundation stones for the building. At the auspicious moment of 09.32am the first stone was laid.
The ceremony was attended by Monks from the Temple of the village, Sarvodaya officers from Colombo and Vikumgama, local community and government officers, village people and their children. Project Sri Lanka representatives Alison and Michael Brown and David and Joy Cooper laid stones on the site marked out for the building and enjoyed the ceremonial activities.
The ceremony was attended by the Sarvodaya Society officers and members, officers from Colombo, parents, pupils and Project Sri Lanka representatives Joy and David Cooper and Alison and Mike Brown.
On 21st January 2012, Trustees Alison Brown, Joy Cooper, and David Cooper attended a meeting with representatives of the Sarvodaya Societies from the three villages we work with in the Sabaragamuwa Province, namely Ihalagalagama, Puwakgahawela and Pambahinna.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Trustees and by the office bearers of the three villages. This agreement formalises the handing over of the community buildings for community use and the acceptance of responsibility for maintaining them and using them to best advantage by the Sarvodaya Societies.
On 20th January 2012, Trustees David Cooper and Joy Cooper attended a ceremony in the village of Pambahinna in the Sabaragamuwa Province. They presented certificates to pupils of the village who has achieved excellent results in tests at the end of English language learning classes run by our student volunteers in the summer of 2011. These volunteers were sports students from Durham University. 21 certificates were presented and it is anticipated that Project Sri Lanka will continue to support the learning of English in our partnership villages.
On 16th January 2012, Trustees Joy and David Cooper visited the village of Vikumgama which is to be the site of the 10th community building and pre-school. Vikumgama lies 17km inland from Matara town and is home to a community of 1090 people, 449 of whom are Sarvodaya Society members.
Local people work as labourers in paddy fields and tea plantations. The photo here shows the site where the new building will stand and an existing government owned building which serves as a community health centre and temporary school.
On 14th January 2012, Trustees David and Joy Cooper met with Professor Mahinda Rupasinghe, the Vice Chancellor of the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka and signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Project Sri Lanka and his University. This agreement commits both organisations to working together to further the ‘University Village’ concept
Three villages in the vicinity of Sabaragamuwa University, namely Ihalagalagama, Puwakgahawela and Pambahinna, have already benefited significantly from the association of Project Sri Lanka and the Sabaragamuwa University.
Joy Palmer Cooper spent a very productive visit to engage with our partners and communities in November 2011. She visited several villages and was delighted to meet Mrs R.A. Gayani Mali, the newly appointed teacher at Rassandeniya Pre-School.
The resignation of the Rassandeniya school teacher in 2011 led to a temporary closure of the building. We are delighted to report the appointment of a new teacher Mrs R.A. Gayani Mali who re-opened the school with 27 pupils in November 2011. Under her leadership activities there continue to go from strength to strength.
In October 2011 Trustee Scott Weightman arrived in Weligama where he visited Sri Sumangala and other schools. Scott writes:
I was delighted to be able to assist the department and accompany Grades 6 and 7 classes, who were enthusiastically preparing for their end of year concert. The chosen programme included “Jingle Bells”, “Silent Night” and some Singhala songs. It was great fun.
Teaching English was as enjoyable as ever. The girls are so conscientious , particularly class 12ci whose debating skills improve with their growing confidence in speaking English.
One of the highlights of my visit was assisting in the judging of the spelling and recitation competitions.. Words like amphibians , neighbour and continuously proved no problem for the Grade 7 contestants.
The undisputed winner of the Grade 8 recitation competition recited “The Owl and The Pussy Cat” from memory and with expression , diction and enthusiasm that I have rarely seen in any school. Quite remarkable !
A presentation on Project Sri Lanka was given by the chair of the trustees, Joy Palmer Cooper, to a gathering in California on September 27th 2011. The meeting was organised and hosted by the Rotary Club of Mountain View, in the southern San Francisco Bay area. It was attended by Rotarians from District 5170 and guests from Stanford University and the community.
Joy spoke of the development of the project, the centrality of Rotary as a core partner in Sri Lanka, potential for transferability to other higher education institutions globally, and possible future directions for the project.
A gathering to celebrate the establishment of Project Sri Lanka charity was held for our local supporters in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, on 3rd August 2011. The event was attended by all five Trustees, donors from the Berwick community of Spittal, and contributors to the charity’s ‘sponsor a child’ scheme.
Presentations by Trustees explained the origins and development of Project Sri Lanka over the past 6 years to the point of it becoming an independent registered charity, and illustrated their own visits to Sri Lanka and work with communities there.
We acknowledge and thank Tweeddale Press for providing this photo of the Trustees at the meeting held in Berwick-upon-Tweed on 3rd August 2011.
On 9th July 2011 our third pre-school and multi-purpose community building in the Ratnapura District was opened in the village of Pambahinna. Trustee Jane Taylor was in attendance. Jane writes: ‘What was delightful was the sheer enthusiasm of everyone concerned. There was some most energetic dancing, from the young men in particular, dressed in brilliantly coloured national costumes, leaping and gesturing to the sound of hypnotic drum beats.
The villagers welcomed the new building with the most genuine sense of privilege, and with passionate plans for future enterprises and sophistications.’
Our sixth pre-school and multipurpose community building in the Matara district was formally opened with a splendid ceremony in the village of Aththudawa on 7th July 2011 with the 2011 student volunteer team who had raised significant funding for this in attendance. Delightfully situated inland from Matara town and surrounded by paddy fields, this building has, for the first time, provided a school for the young and a meeting place for all of the people of Aththudawa.
Trustee Joy Palmer Cooper also visited this new building on 7th July and in the Matara District Centre of Sarvodaya she conducted a ceremony for the signing of Memoranda of Understanding with the Sarvodaya officers of all of the Matara district partnership villages.
Between January and July 2011 a series of teacher training programmes has been implemented in our partnership villages in the Matara district. These have been designed to help the teachers in the community pre-schools to learn more of the English language in both spoken and written forms and to provide them with on-going in-service training for teaching young pupils.
A month long (one day a week) course, followed by a 20 week programme was conducted by our Sri Lankan Associate Kanthi Perera, and then in July 2011 the team of student volunteers conducted further sessions. It is intended to continue contributions to teacher training in the future, given the success of the sessions so far and the emphasis on sustainability of our educational endeavours.
The Project’s community partnership with Kirelawela Village which lies on the southern tip of Sri Lanka was visited by the British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Mr John Rankin, on 6th April 2011.
This visit was organised by the British High Commission in conjunction with the British Council in Colombo and Project Sri Lanka’s partner organisation Sarvodaya Schramadana.
The High Commissioner met with villagers, local Sarvodaya Society Officers of the village and of Matara district. He enjoyed entertainment provided by school pupils of Kirelawela and saw the multi-purpose community building constructed through Project Sri Lanka.
March 29th 2011 was a very special day for the Rotary Sri Lanka Schools’ Awakening Project. When the tsunami tragedy occurred, Rotarians in Sri Lanka pledged to build 24 state of the art schools to replace ones destroyed by the waves. 23 of these were completed in the three years following the event. The final school, on the northernmost tip of the island near the town of Jaffna could not be completed on schedule because of the civil war which isolated Jaffna from the south and rendered work impossible.
Finally the wonderfully designed building is complete and was officially opened by the President of Rotary International, Ray Klinginsmith from the USA on March 29th.
This school, named Kudaththanai Karaiyoor, is sited in the sandy coastal zone of the far north which has endured and survived both the tsunami devastation and the armed conflict that claimed many local lives, and separated north from south Sri Lanka.
It is a splendid building with light, airy auditorium and classrooms, science and computer laboratories and all modern facilities.
President Ray described the Schools’ Awakening Project as one of the finest Rotary projects he has ever seen.
A school pupil described 29th March as “our golden day”.
Furniture for Kudaththanai Karaiyoor school was donated through Project Sri Lanka by Delaval School in Northumberland which closed in 2010.
The opening ceremony was attended by Chair of the Trustees Joy Palmer Cooper, the District Governor of Rotary Sri Lanka and other senior Rotarians from the island.
On March 14th 2011, the Inner Wheel Club of Berwick upon Tweed in Northumberland held its annual ‘International Night’ to which Rotarians and guests are invited.
The theme of this event was Project Sri Lanka and presentations were given by Trustee Alison Brown and by Rotarians Michael Brown and Joy Palmer Cooper. Michael and Alison spoke and conveyed images of their recent visit to Sri Lanka as Project volunteers and Joy explained the history of the Project, achievements so far and hopes for the future.
Funds raised during the evening were generously donated to the Project.
Volunteers Michael and Carol Cumberland from Northumberland visited Sri Lanka is association with our humanitarian work throughout February 2011.
On 23rd February they presented a ‘duploprinter’ to Sri Sumangala Girls College in Weligama, this being a most generous donation to the institution.
They spent time with the staff and girls and were the Chief Guests at a ceremony to present the printer which was attended by Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Colombo Mid City.
On January 15th 2011, an international seminar was held in Sri Lanka on the theme of ‘Internationalising Institutional and Professional Practices’. This event was integral to a research project supported by the Economic and Social Research Council of the UK which is investigating two models on international community interventions, one of which is Project Sri Lanka.
Joy Palmer Cooper, Chair of the Trustees of Project Sri Lanka presented an illustrated talk on the concept of a ‘university village’ wherein international teams of student volunteers work in partnership with community members on sustainable development activities.
In November 2010 Trustee Scott Weightman set off on his second visit to Sri Lanka. Scott writes:
In January / February 2010 I visited Sri Lanka for the first time . The purpose of my trip was to see the reconstruction and regeneration schemes which were to form the basis of our charity. I also wanted to meet the two “tsunami” children who I agreed to sponsor after the 2004 devastation of coastal communities in the south of the country
I visited several schools in Ahangama and Weligama.
Teaching English at Sri Sumangala Girls College , Weligama , proved to be a most enjoyable experience. The students were delightful, friendly , polite , very keen to learn English and generous of spirit.
After returning to the UK friends helped me to raise £2,500 through a sponsored “organathon” . The proceeds were to be used to buy teaching equipment and resources for Sri Sumangala , a school badly damaged by the tsunami and with a roll of 2,600 girls. During the summer , 15 student volunteers spent their summer vacations working in the coastal communities of Southern Sri Lanka. They were able to take 60 packs of resources for Sri Sumangala , for the Art , Home Economics and Music departments.
I returned to Weligama in mid November 2010. On November 17th I presented the school with a multi-media projector and a Nikon SLR digital camera, purchased as a result of my organathon event.
During my stay I taught each morning at Sri Sumangala and was able to explore the local temples , historic sites and beautiful coastline during the afternoons.
The School Staff and students were most welcoming and hospitable.
I was reluctant to leave Weligama , Sri Sumangala School and Jagabay Hotel, whose staff are among the best in the world.
I promised to return in 2011 – but for longer period and with more resources for the “tsunami” children.