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Sri Lanka - October 2018

Sri Lanka 1Our Sri Lanka trip is in partnership with the Ocean Stars, a charity organization set up by Dilanee Bunter following the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, and with the aim of bringing hope and education to the Sri Lankan people.

Twenty one students and four staff left for the tropical island of Sri Lanka, shortly before October half term. The students had worked incredibly hard during the year, raising over £12,000 in their weekly sales on the courtyard and through many and varied sponsorship events.

After a long journey, leaving at 8.00am from Calthorpe Park and arriving in Colombo, the main city of Sri Lanka at around the same time next day, the group wasted no time in beginning to explore all that Sri Lanka has to offer. After being greeted and garlanded by our guides Madushan and Gihan, our first stop was the elephant orphanage at Pinnawale. This orphanage, the first of its kind in the world, offered us an insight into the word of this majestic creature, as the herd bathed in the nearby river.

We moved on to the historic city of Kandy to visit the Temple of the Tooth, so called because because it houses the tooth relic of Buddha. We marvelled at the ceremony as gifts were offered and drums and wind instruments played to mark the occasion.

Sri Lanka 2Our next stop found us picking tea in the hills of Geragama. Despite strong competition, the teachers’ leaf plucking skills prevailed and they were announced the winners over a tea ceremony of orange pekoe. A short journey brought us to a spice garden where we learnt about how natural ingredients are not only used in cooking across the island, but also in Ayurvedic remedies, so popular in this country.

After arriving in centrally located Dambulla, we visited a village school, and were welcomed by the students who had come into school especially for us at the weekend. We enjoyed a game of Elle, a Sri Lanka version of baseball, but were mercilessly beaten by an incredibly strong and determined Sri Lankan side. The school is not well provided for, and we left gifts of musical instruments, provided by Normans Music, and range of sports equipment that we know the school will enjoy.

Sri Lanka 3A serpentarium was our next stop, where we learnt about how important it is for Sri Lanka to develop the essential anti-venoms to treat the thousands of Sri Lankans working in farmlands and paddy fields who are bitten by snakes every year.

After boarding a convoy of jeeps we headed for the national park to look for elephants. It wasn’t long before herds of elephants came into view, young and old, together with their newly born calves. For the students, it was the first time that they had seen the magnificent creatures so close, and many felt they could have stayed all day to observe them.

Sri Lanka 4Before heading across the island to our main destination in the tsunami area, we climbed the ancient steps to see the Rock Cave Temple of Dambulla, and wondered at the painting and statues of the Buddha, some of which date back to the first century BC.

As the landscape changed and gave way to flatter, more arid plains, we arrived in the town of Batticaloa, which had been so badly devastated by the tsunami. Even now, everyone has a story to tell about how this disaster affected them or their family. There are many people live in poor conditions, with no sanitation or running water, and as a team we were keen to do all we could to help them in some way.

Sri Lanka 5During half term week, our students taught the lessons they had prepared in four different schools:  Amirthalakali Sri Sithy Vinayagar school, Navalady Vidyalayam School, Batticaloa School for the Deaf, and Azhar Muslim Maha Vidyalayam School in Vellaimanal. Calthorpe students were amazing ambassadors for our school, involving and engaging the Sri Lankan students in a wide ranging of sport, craft, art, drama, dance and music activities, which they would not normally be able to experience. Our students were constantly amazed at the Sri Lankan students’ high levels of engagements and willingness to learn. To conclude our half term in school, Navalady School hosting a busy and fun sports day in the morning, in the afternoon Sri Sithy School hosted a talent show at which both Sri Lankan and British students performed. Everyone was very sad to leave at the end of their stay in Batticaloa, having enjoyed so much their time in the schools, and having made so many new friends.

Before returning, we stopped off at the site of the tsunami close to the seashore, where eighty-seven families live in simple huts made from palm leaves. We were pleased to be able to leave bags for each family containing toiletries, and a range of items for everyday life.

Sri Lanka 6Our long journey back across the island finally ended back in Colombo where we enjoyed a visit to the Buddhist temple, and looking at the sights of the city. A convoy of tuk-tuks brought us back to the hotel, where everyone had gathered to celebrate and reflect on what had been a truly amazing trip.

We look forward to working with the new team of students, and know that they will bring different skills and ideas, but that they will be equally as amazing when they visit Sri Lanka next year.

Ross Walker, Head of Music

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