Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Same But Different.

Posted on behalf of Steve & Gav

It’s been four years since we were last in Sri Lanka.  It seemed like a long time ago as we reminisced on the flight about what to expect.

Immediately on arrival, that intense heat which hits you as you step from the aircraft was familiar.  But things seemed much more efficient than we remembered and we were at the hotel within 90 minutes of touching down.  Admittedly, it was a Sunday, but Sri Lanka seemed far more geared up for the huge increase in tourists who now visit.

On our first full day, we visited three projects.  First up was the Village Nursery where we have spent many hours making strange noises and faces much to the delight of the children.  This experience was very much the same, and reassuringly, the same teachers showed the same amount of dedication to the adorable 3-4 year olds.
Next up was our visit to the village school.  This was our first visit since the school became a primary school catering for grades 1 to 5.  

At the school

The first thing to strike us was the almost eerie silence.  How different it was to when around 140 children were running around and playing games and, sounded like a school.  We went in and visited each of the classrooms. Now, all the children were being taught with little to distract them.  In one Grade, the ratio of teacher to pupils was 1:5.  This seemed far more conducive to education and the teachers themselves seemed more comfortable in the quieter environment.  From our first visit in 2008, and the 10 visits since, the school had been our primary focus and we had literally shed blood sweat and tears over the years.  Yes, the hustle and bustle had gone which made me a bit sad but I reflected later that the kids were now receiving a much better education as a result of the change.
Next it was time to visit the School on the Beach.  This was the first time we would see it since it was established in 2015 and we were both really excited.  There were two rooms, both probably smaller than our hotel bedroom.  But there was a sense of order and discipline as the old school desks were lined up neatly in rows. And then it happened… from 2pm children wielding exercise books started to arrive.  They had already finished school for the day and we counted 20 children.  The first subject was Health and Science and one of our paid teachers gave a lesson complete with PowerPoint presentation which was projected on to the wall.  The kids were attentive and active, and despite all the things they could be doing, had decided to turn up to learn, which they do every day. Surreal and amazing, in equal measure.

Teaching at he School on the Beach

So our first impressions?  Some things are the same such as the amazing landscapes, stunning sunsets and amazingly warm people. Other things have changed but definitely for the better: smaller class sizes is a good thing for more focused teaching and the establishment of our own school on the beach is meeting a demand we never thought would be there and has undoubtedly helped improve the village kids’ education. 
If you are lucky enough to come and visit please take time to speak to the children in both schools as conversational English skills will be so important in their future lives.
On Tuesday  whilst Della, Don and their guests Sarah and Nick visited the Jungle nursery, we went along to the beach school and taught for an hour using improvised scenarios.  And despite it being a national holiday, we were pleasantly surprised to see the classroom full again.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Sanitation and Medication

 Everyone should be entitled to the privacy of a toilet.  In the fishing villages, there is often only a hole deep in the sand. Before we left Sri Lanka last week, we paid to have a private toilet  and plumbing installed within some new brick walls..  The villagers have been hard at work and have already sent us photos of progress so far.   Thanks to FODAD supporters, the villagers will have a toilet and plumbed in water.

Medicine and doctors visits are expensive.    For just under 12 years, FODAD has paid for  a free clinic.  Open once a week,  the clinic has 3600 registered patients and 11 voluntary doctors working in rotation.  FODAD supplies all of the prescription drugs, pays for x-rays and any specialist visits.   We also takes out vitamin supplies  from England.

Prescription drugs paid for by FODAD
Vitamins from the UK

With the Duty Doctor

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Fun in the Sun

FODAD is not only about education, shoes, books and uniforms for the children  but also about giving them some fun.   We have had 3 wonderful days with different groups of children.

Four years ago we determined that the kids we support from a children's home in the interior who had never seen the sea,  should come and join us on the beach, play in the sea, have some time to play sports and then enjoy a lovely lunch.  Everyone and especially Don had a wonderful time.

Life's a Beach

Sanjay, now 16 whom we have known since he was 5

In November, we promised the children from our school on the beach a trip to anywhere of their choosing when we came back in February.      Obviously, the beach has no appeal.  They opted for Leisureworld.  A two-hour bus journey away.  Some of them were terrified by the rides but  they had a wonderful time and we arrived home exhausted having had a wonderful day out.

On the Bus

our tired group at the end of thd day

Different than the sea

On Friday March 3rd we took 36 children, their teachers and a few parents to the zoo.     It was a really hot day and we felt sorry for the animals.  They had rather less space that we would have expected.   Nonetheless, the children had a super time and really enjoyed their ice-creams.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Half Time in Sri Lanka

The first couple of days after our arrival were spent preparing for an Almsgiving for my Mother. It is the custom to feed the needy on the Anniversary of a close family member's death. We had a lovely service at the Buddhist temple and then distributed food in the village and at St. Joseph's Church where we run our clinic.  A lovely custom.

Classroom on the Beach

We started this project when we realised that so many children's parents were paying about £1/$1.50 for extra lessons after school  These lessons appeared to make little or no difference to their ability to speak English.  3 years ago we had 17 children and last week we had 55.  We also have Maths, Science, History and computer teachers.   

The Village School

We have been involved with the government school for over 11 years.  We have fed the children every school day since then.  It is now a Primary school.  We had our prize-giving and also distributed shoes and socks.  The children we support at the local nursery also attended and were all given shoes. You can see me with a savings account book.  We have opened accounts for all the children and put about £3/$5 in each child's account whenever we visit.

Hard at work

Handing out certificates

The Clinic

FODAD has its own free clinic which is open once a week. Staffed by voluntary doctors FODAD pays for all the medication. We delivered a new blood pressure monitor and vitamins from the UK. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

It's All about the Children

This year we decided that for the first time, the children from our school on the beach, (mentioned in my last blog)  and the other children from the village should be treated to a Christmas Party. We held the party on Sunday December 4th and it was a tremendous success.  Santa appeared and the children were thrilled, as were their parents.  We played old-fashioned party games and had an amazing selection of food.  The children then danced the night away.  A huge success.

Musical chairs

On Sunday November 27th, we hosted children from a children’s home just outside Colombo that we support to a day on the beach.   We paid for their transport form the Home and gave them fun in the sea and a great meal. They went home very happy.

Last week, we went to the Orphanage we have supported for 11 years.  We were entertained by singing and dancing.

The very poorest pre-school children go to our local nursery school.  They came to our party on the beach and on our penultimate day in Sri Lanka, we bought them all ice-creams and gave them vouchers to buy school books for year one at school.

Handing out the vouchers

We were also treated to a wonderful end-of-term concert at the Government school we support. We put money put in 65 kids' savings accounts and also ordered the food for next term.


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A FODAD Week in Sri Lanka

We arrived in Sri Lanka on November 20th and went straight to the fishing village.   Although it was Sunday, the children were hard at work in our school on the beach which we set up in 2015 and since has grown from strength to strength.  

Hard at work

All over Sri Lanka the children were taking their exams last week so, although we visited the government school we support we did not want to disturb them.   This week, things will be very different.

On Monday, we stopped by the nursery school we support.  The kids were as cute as ever and very pleased to see us.

Since 2005 FODAD has financed a free clinic through St. Joseph’s Church in Ratmalana.   It is open every Friday from 9am to 1pm.   We visited on Friday.   There are over 3,750 registered patients and FODAD pays for all the drugs  the doctors prescribe.  These can be very expensive.  We bring vitamins from the UK when we visit as they are hard to come by in Sri Lanka.  11 dedicated doctors work a rota on a voluntary basis.    We also sponsor 15 children through the same group.   Our relationship with the Committee is now in its 12th year and we have become firm friends.


Vitamins from the UK