The Chair of the Trustees had a most interesting and worthwhile visit to Sri Lanka in July 2015 when one of her substantial tasks was declaring open the Charity’s 7th agro-drinking well in the village of Walaskema and meeting villagers in four further drought affected locations to assess their water needs. She also met with Rotarians from 5 Rotary Clubs in the city of Colombo to discuss potential future projects in the fields of sanitation, water supply and health.
Another very important task was the setting up of personal bank accounts for children the Charity supports who were not accustomed to banking.
Joy presented items of mobility equipment to the officers of the Centre for Handicapped in Kandy and an extensive collection of books and sewing materials to the Principal and staff of Sri Sumangala Girls’ College in Weligama. Further details of all of these activities will be found on the relevant village activities pages of this website.
Two greatly appreciated items of mobility equipment were handed over to officers of the Centre for Handicapped in Kandy by the Chairman on her visit to Sri Lanka in July 2015. These were donated by Mrs Moira McLean of Berwick-upon-Tweed.
The devices have augmented the Centre’s store of equipment used by individuals awaiting prosthetic limbs after amputations and by those in the training stages after the fitting of new limbs.
One of the key tasks of the Chairman on her visit to Sri Lanka in July 2015 was accompanying the parents of 17 children supported by the Charity on a visit to the Commercial Bank in Weligama town. The purpose of this visit was to open bank accounts for the children of these families who, until this time, had not held accounts.
This development provided a significant educational experience for the children, who are now in a position to monitor their savings and spending of monies given to support their education.
On 20th July 2015 the agro-drinking well provided by Project Sri Lanka in the remote village of Walaskema was declared open by Trustee Joy Palmer Cooper. After the formalities and meeting with speeches of thanks, the villagers provided music and a wonderful array of locally grown fruits and vegetables to mark the occasion.
This large well has transformed the lives of the people of this village. It gives a year-round supply of water for drinking, cooking and bathing. It also provides the water needed for agricultural purposes. Crops grown by the village people are consumed by the local families and surplus goods are sold to other local communities. Income derived from sales is enhancing the provision of fencing and other measures to stop wild elephants encroaching on the fields of crops and homes.
Given the obvious success and importance of agro-drinking wells provided by Project Sri Lanka in 7 locations (5 in the Wellawaya area and 2 in the Kandy area of the island), the Chairman was asked to visit four new communities to assess their needs for water supply and to consider the provision of wells. These four villages are Parakumpura, Samagipura, Paranapara and Weherayaya, all in the Wellawaya and Tanamawilla region of the country. Further details of all four locations can be found on the relevant village pages of this website.
Extremely positive meetings were held in each place in July 2015 when the Chairman met the owners of the land and village people who explained their needs and commitment to assisting with well construction. In each place Joy was shown the appropriate ground hole where a well could be established to retain water throughout the year. The Trustees agreed to support all four projects.
A team of Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Alnwick in RIBI District 1030 visited Sri Lanka in February 2013. The four visitors were District Governor Elect Terry Long and his wife, Marion Long and Rotarians Elaine and Graham Smith. All four had previously visited Sri Lanka and been instrumental in the Rotary Club of Alnwick’s support for the building of Mapalagama School.
On this visit they visited Mapalagama and enjoyed seeing both the newly completed Primary and Pre-Schools, and they visited the Rotary Club of Colombo Mid-City, one of Project Sri Lanka’s main partners.
Trustees Joy and David Cooper and Alison and Michael Brown all paid visits to the site of our potential 7th well which lies in the village of Walaskema in the Wellawaya District of Sri Lanka. They had the pleasure of meeting villagers and hearing of the need to create a well in this location.
They gathered beside a large area of agricultural land without a permanent water supply and learnt of the need for water on site which would be used for drinking and bathing purposes as well as for arable crop growing and maintaining a herd of cows which at present do not survive the dry season.
Trustees Alison and Michael Brown made a substantial visit to Sri Lanka in February 2015 during which they visited a good number of the Charity’s projects including our villages in the Ratnapura and Matara Districts and the newly completed school at Mapalagama, They visited the new Project Sri Lanka well in village 39K and went to assess the potential for a new well in Walaskema.
Other highlights included spending time at the Centre for Handicapped in Kandy where various items of equipment were handed over and visiting the Hindu College in Ramboda. At this College they met the ladies who have received sewing machines from the Charity and enjoyed seeing samples of their work which they sell in order to support their families. In this location they also were welcomed into a school of 500 Tamil pupils in need of water supply.
Four Trustees attended a gathering at the Centre for Handicapped in Kandy on January 28th 2015 and had the great honour of handing over prosthetic limbs and other items of mobility equipment which formed part of the substantial donation to the Centre made by the Charity in 2014.
Alison and Michael Brown and David and Joy Cooper met several individuals who had suffered amputations and others in need of mobility devices. They appreciated a tour of the Centre’s workshops and physiotherapy facilities.
Trustees Joy and David Cooper spent four weeks in early 2015 visiting the Charity’s villages and associated projects. They also enjoyed meeting with the young people in Weligama being supported by Project Sri Lanka. Highlights of the visit included the official opening of the Pre-School at Mapalagama, where they planted an orange tree to mark this special occasion. They also declared open of the well in village 39K, and handed over prosthetic limbs and mobility equipment at the Centre for Handicapped in Kandy.
Joy and David attended meetings of the Rotary Club of Colombo Mid City and the Rotary Club of Kandy and engaged in exploratory visits to other places which may be considered as locations for projects to be supported by the Charity.
On January 17th 2015 Trustees Joy and David Cooper enjoyed a second visit to the village named 39K in the Wellawaya District. The Trustees had agreed in 2014 to support the construction of an agro-drinking well in this village which for much of the year did not have access to water.
The wonderful well was declared ‘open’ on this visit, much to the joy of the people in the community. They are now able to access water for drinking, cooking and bathing throughout the year and the water will also be used to develop local crop production. It is anticipated that employment opportunities will arise from the development of small scale agricultural endeavours.
Two guests associated with the Rotary Club of Alnwick visited Sri Lanka in January 2015. Laura from the UK and Rachel from Australia joined Trustees Joy and David Cooper on visits to the Charity’s community buildings in Ihalagalagama and Puwakgahawela. They met the new intake of pre-school children in both villages, donated pencils and balls to the schools and enjoyed conversing with children, teachers and village people.
On 13th January 2015 Trustees David and Joy Cooper paid a visit to the site of Mapalagama School. They enjoyed seeing the completed Junior School and took part in a ceremony to declare open the associated Pre-School on the site. The original ‘old’ pre-school had been much in need of repair and refurbishment . A grant from Project Sri Lanka enabled the repairs to be carried out and new furniture, equipment and a toilet block to be provided.
The refurbishing of this pre-school is seen as a very important step towards completion of primary education at Mapalagama. With a flourishing early years facility, children will come here and progress to the primary years.
On September 18th 2014 the Chairman of the Trustees was invited to make a presentation on the work of Project Sri Lanka to members and guests of the Rotary Club of La Vallette on the island of Malta. She explained the evolution of the project, recent developments in the fields of education, water supply and health, and emphasised the centrality of Rotary partnerships. A significant proportion of the Charity’s recent endeavours have been in association with Rotarians in Sri Lanka, notably in the Rotary Club of Colombo Mid-City and the Rotary Club of Kandy. Rotarians have engaged with Project Sri Lanka at various levels including District involvement, Club support and involvement by Rotarians as individual donors. Joy is pictured here with the President of the Rotary Club La Vallette, Anne Marie Bianchi.
On 13th August 2014, a meeting was held in Alnwick to which the Presidents of the Rotary Clubs in Area 1 of District 1030 R.I.B.I. who had contributed to the Mapalagama School project were invited.
Chairman of the Trustees Joy Palmer Cooper made a presentation on the Mapalagama project in which she emphasised the success of this wonderful partnership endeavour which has united Rotary Clubs throughout the District’s Area 1 in support of this gift of education to the children of Mapalagama.
Clubs and organisations who have contributed substantially to the Mapalagama project are The Rotary Club of Alnwick (which co-ordinated the Rotary fund-raising), The District of R.I.B.I. 1030; the Rotary Clubs of Amble and Warworth, Ashington, Bedlington, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Morpeth, Seahouses and Till and Glendale; The Alnwick Rotakids, The Inner Wheel Club of Alnwick and the Duchess High School in Alnwick.
Chairman of the Trustees Joy Palmer Cooper visited Sri Lanka in July 2014 in order to complete the documentation relating to the completion of Mapalagama School, arrange for the formal opening of this school and discuss other projects proposed by the Rotary Club of Colombo Mid City, one of our major partners in Sri Lanka.
She also finalised the arrangements for payment of the remaining 2014 sponsorship money for our ‘adopted’ children in Palana and Weligama and discussed future plans for this and the ‘Jagabay’ child sponsorship schemes.
The charity was asked to support the provision of another agro-drinking well and the site will be visited by the Trustees on their next visit to Sri Lanka.
For the fifth year in succession Scott Weightman spent a month at Sri Sumangala School in Weligama teaching Grade 10 and 11 classes studying for their English literature ‘O’ Level examination. He was also invited to repeat these lessons at the nearby Siddhartha School and at Telijjawila Central College.
Enjoyable visits were also made to the project’s pre-schools/community centres in Hiththatiya and Vikumgama, and to the Thellula Janapodaya well. At weekends, Scott visited many of the children helped by the project and took part in two ‘western music’ workshops. Towards the end of his stay he visited the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka to discuss a teaching schedule for his next visit to Sri Lanka.
Two of Project Sri Lanka’s sponsored teenagers have recently achieved outstanding results in Sri Lanka’s GCSE examinations. At ‘A’ Level, Sanjeewani Abeysekara, sponsored by Trustee Scott Weightman, gained an A grade in each of her three subjects, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. In the autumn of 2014 she will commence studying for a degree in medicine at the University of Colombo. At ‘O’ Level, Nimadi Nilakshika, sponsored by the Tilley family, achieved a grade A in each of her nine subjects. She will soon start ‘A’ Level courses in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. In our photo she is being congratulated by Richard Tilley who designed the Project Sri Lanka logo.
Friends of Project Sri Lanka collected over 75 kilos of sports and educational materials that were distributed to schools in the Weligama area by Trustee Scott Weightman. Warwickshire County Cricket Board and Rugely Cricket Club donated over a thousand pounds worth of cricket equipment. Other contributions included badminton, soccer and volleyball equipment, educational materials, books, toys and re-conditioned laptop computers. Scott and his friends visited Sri Sumangala and Siddhartha Colleges during early May to present these donations. Both schools were delighted with these contributions from supporters of the Charity.
On 13th February 2014 Project Sri Lanka’s fifth village well was declared open in the village of Mederigama in the Kegalle District of Sri Lanka. This ceremony was attended by Trustees Joy and David Cooper, Bandula Senadeera from Sarvodaya Headquarters in Moratuwa, local Sarvodaya officers and people of the village.
A very happy meeting was held when the villagers explained how the new well would be used and its significance. Visitors enjoyed unveiling the well plaque, realising the value of this to the community, and sharing traditional foods and music. Further details of this can be seen on the Mederigama village page of this website.
Trustees Joy and David Cooper were invited to visit a Centre for Handicapped near to the town of Kandy on 12th February. This was organised through the Chairman of the Centre, Shamil Peiris who is a Rotarian in the Rotary Club of Kandy. This is an extremely impressive and worthwhile project. Children and adults attend the Centre which provides artificial limbs for those in need, plus a variety of mobility aids, training and assistance.
Our Trustees met several individuals who have received limbs and are undergoing training and were given a guided tour of the workshops and facilities. They are recommending to the Board of Trustees of Project Sri Lanka that the Charity supports this Centre. Further details can be found on the Centre for Handicapped pages of this website.
On 5th February 2014 Charity Trustees Joy and David Cooper were the Chief Guests at the Annual University Day of the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka. This was by kind invitation of the Vice Chancellor Professor Mahinda Rupasinghe.
During an elaborate ceremony Professor Rupasinghe made a presentation on the many excellent achievements of the University over the past year and various awards and certificates were presented to outstanding students and staff. Charity Chairman Joy Palmer Cooper was honoured with an Award of Excellence for outstanding contributions to the development of the Sabaragamuwa University and its community over the past 7 years. She received a very elegant trophy and certificate.
Whilst visiting the Wellawaya District, Trustees Joy and David Cooper were welcomed into the village of 39 Kanuwa which is another community desperately in need of water for drinking and small-scale agricultural purposes. A very pleasant meeting was held when the village people showed the Trustees their potential site for a well and explained their needs.
It was agreed that project Sri Lanka would fund a well in this community with much of the labour for its construction being provided by the people of the village. Hopefully, as long as weather permits, the new well will be completed by mid-July 2014. Further details are provided on the 39 Kanuwa village page of this website.
On February 2nd 2014 Trustees David and Joy Cooper visited the village of Thelulla Janapodaya in the Wellawaya District of Sri Lanka to see and to officially declare open the Charity’s fourth agro-drinking well.
The well had been completed according to the schedule and a very happy day was enjoyed with the village people and members and officers from Sarvodaya Shramadana. This well has been funded through Project Sri Lanka by the community of Spittal in Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland (see the Thelulla Janapodaya village page of this website).
On 1st February 2014 a ceremony was held at the site of the construction of the new primary school which is to be built near Mapalagama, inland from the town of Galle. The new building is to be funded by Rotary District 1030 in the UK and Project Sri Lanka as a joint venture (see the Mapalagama village page of this website.)
The ceremony was attended by the President of the Rotary club of Alnwick, Elaine Smith and her husband Rotarian Graham Smith and Charity Trustees David and Joy Cooper and Michael and Alison Brown. They were warmly welcomed by Rotarians from the Rotary club of Colombo Mid City, the school Principal and staff, together with parents and children from the community. It is hoped that the school will be constructed by July 2014 alongside refurbishment of an older classroom block on the site.
Charity Chairman Joy Palmer Cooper, a Rotarian in the Rotary Club of Alnwick UK, was invited to accept the position of Honorary Member of the Rotary club of Colombo Mid-City at the Club meeting held on January 28th 2014. This is in recognition of the international humanitarian work she has developed in partnership with Mid-City Rotarians over the past 10 years. This work has included organising several teams of volunteers to teach at Moraketiara and Ahangama Schools, organising the donation of sewing machines to the Ramboda community and co-ordinating the support for the building of a new primary school at Mapalagama.
Trustees Joy and David Cooper spent one month is Sri Lanka from mid-January to Mid-February 2014. They visited the majority of the charity’s villages and engaged in many meetings with our partners to discuss progress on all projects. Highlights of the month included the laying of the foundation stones of the new Primary School in Mapalagama, opening of two new agro-drinking wells at Thelulla Janapodaya and Mederigama, adopting another village for well provision in a village named 39 Kanuwa, visiting the Centre for Handicapped in Kandy and attending the University Day at the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka. All of these key activities are detailed in separate news items and the respective village pages.
The President of Alnwick Rotary Club, Elaine Smith, and her husband Rotarian Graham Smith spent two weeks in Sri Lanka in January and early February 2014. They visited the Rotary Club of Colombo Mid-City which is one of our main partners in Sri Lanka and enjoyed home hospitality provided by Rotarian Hiran and his family. They met some of the local children we are sponsoring in Weligama. The highlight of their visit was the ceremonial ‘laying of the foundation stones’ of the Primary School to be built in Mapalagama, funded by Rotarians of the north east of England together with Project Sri Lanka (see the Mapalagama village page of the website).
At the invitation on the Vice Chancellor, Professor Mahinda Rupasinghe, Trustees Alison and Michael Brown spent a week at the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka teaching conversational English. This was their third visit to the University. Whilst there, they also visited the three villages where community buildings have been provided through Project Sri Lanka. In the Southern Province they visited three further Project schools.
Alison and Michael wrote “It is very encouraging to see the dedication of the teachers and the good use the villagers are making of the buildings. As well as schools they serve as banks, centres where midwives and health visitors can come and work and places for numerous community activities.” Alison and Michael also attended the ceremony for the laying of the Foundation stones at Mapalagama School (see separate news items and the Mapalagama page of the website).
Friends of the charity Agneta Elvin and her family visited our well site at Handapanagala early in the New Year 2014. They were very impressed with the use of the well and its significance for the community of this village. The visitors were given a guided tour of the well site, heard about how it was being used and were then entertained to some wonderful traditional fruit and sweet pastries in the home of one of the village people. Our visitors gained a great deal from going to this community and learning about life there and the villagers thoroughly enjoyed entertaining a family from Europe.
Scott Weightman visited the partially completed well at Thellula Janapodaya on November 11th 2013. This is the well being funded by the community of Spittal in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland. Scott was greeted in the village with a colourful bouquet of wild flowers and was treated to a banquet of milk rice, fruits, wood apple juice and coconut water. It is anticipated that the well will be completed and functioning in early 2014.
After this well visit, Scott moved on to the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka where he taught communication skills to both academic and non-academic staff as well as students. Topics included writing and delivering a speech, formal letters, figures of speech, e-mails, sentence patterns, and improving spoken English. All participants engaged in presentations, debates and conversation classes and a great deal was achieved.
The team of volunteers 2013 achieved a splendid project in Vikumgama village during their stay. They worked alongside the villagers to prepare and develop small home gardens and agricultural plots. A huge amount of effort went in to acquiring the appropriate tools, digging out the plots and undertaking the first plantings of fruits and vegetables. The village residents have undertaken to ensure on-going maintenance and sustainability of this local development which should be of benefit to many families. Because of its success, a further garden was established for the community in Aththudawa and hopefully this scheme can be extended to other villages in the future.
On Thursday July 25th 2013, Trustee Joy Palmer Cooper and the Volunteer Team 2013 celebrated the official opening of the village agro-drinking well at Hippola. This well was financed by the fund-raising of Team 2013. It was a wonderful day, when the village people realised the transformation of their lives now that water was available within their community for personal and agricultural uses and for the Temple. The volunteers had the great privilege of staying for 2 nights in homes of Hippola residents, sharing in cooking and eating of genuine local dishes and finding out far more about the families for whom they had provided a water supply. They will never forget this wonderful ‘in community’ experience.
Chairman of the Trustees Joy Palmer Cooper once again visited many of our partnership communities in the Matara and Sabaragamuwa regions in July 2013. She spent time with the Team 2013 Volunteers enjoying their splendid work and achievements and in particular, she shared the wonderful opening ceremony for the well provided by this team in the village of Hippola.
Joy was Chief Guest at a ceremony organised by Colombo Mid-City Rotarians in Ramboda, where she handed over 10 sewing machines provided by Project Sri Lanka to ladies in the community. She also visited 2 new sites where the Charity will be providing agro-drinking wells in 2014, these being Thelulla Janapodaya in the Wellawaya district and Mederigama, west of Kandy. Also on this visit, Joy handed over supplies of embroidery and sewing materials provided by friends of the Charity at Sri Sumangala Girls College in Weligama and held various meetings with Rotarians in Colombo and Kandy about potential future projects.
Trustee Scott Weightman enjoyed another month teaching English Literature “O” level to the Grade 11 students of Sri Sumangala Girls School and Siddhartha Boys School in Weligima..
Scott remarks “the pupils have a wonderful attitude to their studies, are very appreciative and are a joy to teach”
Scott corresponds each month with each of the eighteen students and he intends to revisit the schools in November to carry out an intensive revision course before their December exam.
Week ends were spent visiting the homes of many of the forty seven children supported by Project Sri Lanka
He also took part in two music workshops with three music teachers from Rahula College, Matara
Church organist and trustee of Project Sri Lanka Scott Weightman staged a six hour long sponsored organathon and coffee morning on May 11 in St Pauls Church ,Spittal (Berwick upon Tweed)
He received huge support from the local residents and over £2,700 was realised , enough to cover the cost of building the “Spittal Well” in the Monaragala District.
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.
Between January 15th and January 23rd, 2012, Michael and Alison Brown were guests at Sabaragamua University, high in the hill country towards Ella.
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.
Following the refurbishment of Rassandeniya pre-school and community building and the appointment of the new teacher there, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed on January 24th 2012.
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.