I know I am speaking on behalf of the group to say our fairly recent trip out to Sri Lanka in February 2014 was a trip of a lifetime and for many of us a trip to repeat!
This was not the first volunteer experience of mine. I have volunteered previously at a clinic in Zambia and in an orphanage in Nepal. These however were through English companies and the majority of my project money was unfortunately put for administration fees. It was lovely to actually go out with a local charity; Aid Reaching Children (ARC) founded and run by Linda Garnham. The money of the charity was accounted for, with us seeing where it went, this was satisfying.
My Mum and Linda go back many years and my Mum had always expressed that she would love to do volunteer experiences like I have previously done but she felt she would not fit in with the ‘young travellers’. Therefore, joining ARC was just perfect as the group is completely mixed ages and of all walks of life. Consequently, my Mum along with myself wish to make volunteering a yearly affair with ARC if possible.
The group and I were blown away with what Linda has done over the past 10 years following the Tsunami. To summarise, she has been involved with:
- Building an orphanage.
- Sponsoring families, providing food parcels and education funds.
- Helping to build houses for families in need.
- Turning several locals’ lives around, helping them to help themselves.
- Visiting state run orphanages to assess ill-treated/unwell children and act accordingly.
- Working with animal SOS to help animals with ill health.
The list could go on and beyond Sri Lanka…
1 thing that struck me was that the local people had so little but wanted to give so much…you would arrive at a house to deliver a food parcel and all the villagers would gather and bring stacks of plastic chairs out of the woodwork for us all to sit on. Then out would come the bananas and even sometimes children would climb trees to collect coconuts and serve them with a straw!
At the end of building sessions, the group was able to spend quality time with the children of the village. We were not sure who had more fun; the children or us, with letting off rocket balloons, playing sweet scrum and munching on popping candy! To see the children’s faces, it was like we had given them gold!
Another poignant thing noticed was that the poverty we saw was awful but smiles and happiness of the people was the main expression. We came to the conclusion that they know no different which just brought home to us what a materialistic and pressured society we live in.
Time at an elephant orphanage and a splashing time at a water park was such a highlight. 29 children and adults living in the rural poverty areas of Sri Lanka came on this fun packed day out. My mum and I raised a sum of money prior to embarking on this trip, so it funded the entire day out, covering transport costs, breakfasts, lunches, ice creams, passes for everyone etc. Some families didn’t even have appropriate clothes/shoes/bathers to wear to come out on this day out, so we put that right!
Another memorable meeting was being introduced to a 16 year old girl with Down Syndrome. Prior to the groups intervention, she was crawling on rough uneven concrete as she is unable to walk, thus her skin was cut and very sore. Money left over from the day out has funded a smooth surfaced floor for her. This has now improved her mobility and her skin condition.
This trip has naturally encouraged each of us to put our little worries and problems into perspective and truly appreciate all we have. My eyes have been opened and this trip has made me want to have them opened even more. Although some sights stunned us all, the camaraderie got us through.
ARC is an established and professional charity who deserve to be supported by Guernsey.Anna Bowditch
We are always in need of volunteers to help with fundraising as well as hands on work overseas. If you would be interested in lending a hand contact us using the form below.