I can’t believe I’ve been here for 5 weeks!! It has flown by and I’ve somewhat neglected to keep you all updated apart from the odd insta. Between working at projects and travelling on the weekend, every moment here is filled. I am so grateful for everything I’m getting to experience and have really settled into Sri Lankan life. I thought I’d give you an idea of what we typically get up to in a week here.
Monday morning, bright and early is session planning – this is where all the volunteers from across my district (Colombo) meet to plan our 8 projects a week. It’s a fast-paced couple of hours where we feedback our previous week and prepare our project plans together. We assign 15 minutes per project and figure out who will be responsible for which parts and resources and we flesh out the plans during lunch time and evenings. We usually try and incorporate a game or two to keep us motivated! My projects are very diverse and include Activity support in psychiatric facilities, Special Ed in a variety of settings and teaching English in the community and in schools.
Community Outreach Projects are where we teach members of the local community ad-hoc English lessons. My project on a Monday afternoon is a group where age-range is quite broad but most are leaving school age. We’ve been working on interview skills as many of them are interested in applying for jobs and further education and it’s been really lovely to help them improve as the sessions progress.
Special Ed Activity Support projects focus on developing functional skills to increase independence and well-being. People we support on these projects are of any age and have a wide range of needs and abilities. One of my projects is a residential centre for men, we run therapeutic activities for them and visit quite often as there are no staff at this facility. Last week we had a Christmas party which was loads of fun, making festive crafts ands singing Christmas tunes. Here we try to promote self-esteem, well-being and self-confidence as well as creativity and motor skills.
In Sri Lankan schools there is heavy emphasis on written English and grammar and so children often are very good in this sense. We find that they need more confidence in their spoken English so we direct the teaching in such a way that they can play games that they can really engage with and encourage talking. We focus on language acquisition, confidence and socialising.
We provide activity support in psychiatric facilities in and around Colombo. There are a wide range of diagnoses with acute, intermediate and rehabilitation wards which requires us to be very flexible and prepared. We do lots of arts and crafts, games, singing, yoga, dancing and sports. I’m chuffed to say that I’ve acquired a guitar since arriving and it’s been so useful on projects. From ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ to making up their own tunes, it’s been amazing to engage everyone with music. Although these projects can be under-resourced with very poor conditions, it is rewarding to help where we can and contribute to the ongoing improvements.
As part of my placement I am given lots of opportunities to attend field trips and workshops. I’ve attended a meditation and creative therapy workshop, shadowed a psychiatrist in an addiction clinic and been on a field trip to Kilinochchi in the North of Sri Lanka. These are incredible opportunities that allow us deeper insight into mental health and the Sri Lankan culture from professionals that work here day-to-day, they compliment our work here on projects perfectly.
Weekends are for travelling and exploring as much of Sri Lanka as we can squeeze in before Sunday curfew at 9.30pm. I’m looking forward to posting more in the future about where we’ve ventured to. I hope this has given you some insight into what we get up to on a daily basis. More to follow…