Sri Lanka

RCDP International Volunteer Abroad

I am Nadja from Norway and I joined RCDP international volunteering program in Sri Lanka, Galle, at the orphanage for children.

The children at the orphanage are incredibly kind, thoughtful and beautiful. After just three days I had gotten really attached to the kids and started wondering how I would manage to leave them. During my stay I have seen their kindness close up. I have seen the oldest kids look after the younger kids. The children at the orphanage are so incredibly beautiful, and they're always smiling, which made me smile the whole time I was there.

I stayed with Michael and his family. They have been wonderful, really kind, helpful and loving. Every time I asked the family about something they did their best to help me. Michael's grandchildren even started teaching me singalese because they wanted to help me.

Michael's wife made such good food, it was incredible. The other volunteers and I started saying that all of the meals
were our favorite meal, because everything tasted so good.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Sri Lanka
Posted: Jun 24, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
8
Value:
10

RCDP International Volunteer Abroad

I volunteered at the orphanage for 3 weeks while staying at Michael's house.
Michael and his family are all so nice and I am so grateful for them. Michael's wife has amazing cooking skills and I will miss her food a lot! The house was reasonably comfortable, and it is amazing that we can see the sea from the balcony!
Before arrival, Michael made everything so easy for me as his replies were very fast (he replied to my emails all almost within a day) and although when I felt like I was asking too many questions he was very understanding and explained everything very thoroughly.
Because I landed very late in the evening, Michael arranged a host family for me near the airport. The village around the host family there was amazing and I would recommend anyone staying there to take a walk around. Michael arranged all the transports for me and this made everything so easy and comfortable.
Upon arrival, Michael explained everything about the orphanage and Galle (this town). There were three more volunteers staying with me on my first week as well so I felt very welcomed.
The children at the orphanage range from age 0 to 5 and on my first day Michael came with me to introduce me to the nurses and to show me around the orphanage. Some nurses spoke english and I was mostly free to choose which part of the orphanage I would volunteer at. The children there are so wonderful! I got to bond with a few of them especially and it breaks my heart that I have to be leaving.
Michael told me about all the must-visit places on this town, and all of those were very close by, some of them were even within walking distance. He arranged all the tuk tuks, and when I wanted to buy some things he told me where I should go and how much I should be paying, and the things to be careful of. He even arranged a 4 day trip in the north east part of Sri Lanka, which was absolutely amazing.
Overall, I had so much fun while staying here in Galle and while on the trip! I met some amazing people here, both from in and out of the orphanage and I have learned so much. I've had the best time and I will never forget my time here. I am eternally grateful for Michael who made everything possible for me, I don't think I would have been able to get anything done without him and his advice. I will miss everything about this place and the people so much and I would 100% recommend. It was truly an eye-opening experience.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Sri Lanka
Posted: Jun 22, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Frontier

I spent two and a half weeks volunteering with Frontier in Sri Lanka after hearing about the organization from a previous participant in Thailand. Gene had spent three months with Frontier and was full of great stories and enthusiasm for the project. I had wanted to visit Sri Lanka since my teenage years and after returning home from Thailand, Gene's tales stayed with me. As a keen photographer of elephants I also wanted the opportunity to photograph them in the wild and see them roaming freely.

I was met in Negombo by the very friendly Aravinda and Sampath and immediately felt at ease in their company. We set off on the 7 hour journey it would take to arrive at the project site near Wasgamuwa National Park and we chatted easily, with me bombarding them with questions! About Sri Lanka, the elephants I would see, the project. Aravinda was very knowledgeable and answered all my questions good-naturedly. The journey went quickly, stopping for a delicious lunch and a bit of sightseeing in Kandy on the way.

Arriving at the project site late afternoon, the sky was a dusty pink and the view from the house did not disappoint. Overlooking a grassy plain with a thin river running through it, usually a full lake during the wet season, and distant mountains we feasted on wonderful curry and rice and turned in for an early night, tired after our long journey. The house had five simple rooms with which to house volunteers but as the only volunteer I had a room to myself!

Aravinda and I set off early the next morning down onto the plain for our first bird watching session and I was immediately amazed at the varied bird life. We wrote down each bird we saw, also recording our GPS location and weather conditions and after just an hour had recorded a staggering 27 different types. Bird watching fast became one of my favorite activities and looked forward the daily, early morning twitching.

We also did transect in various locations recording the signs and movements of elephants. We reordered elephant dung size, its location and age, also measuring footprints to determine the approximate age and size of its owner. As well as recording elephant signs we also did a long trek up into the mountains through beautiful jungle searching for other mammal signs such as those from leopards and sloth bears. Some of the immense trees we passed were awe inspiring and the stories of leopards passing closely to meditating monks at the hut high up the mountain fascinated me.

But by far the most enjoyable activity was afternoon time in the tree hut, a surprisingly comfortable structure high up in a tree which creaked and moved with the branches in the wind. It was the perfect spot to view the elephants as they made their way from the forest to the lake and made it easy to record their movements and behaviour. Monsoon rain became a regular afternoon occurrence and provided incredible lightning storms, also filling the surrounding water catchments with much needed water. Because of the wet some of our tree hut time became jeep time but also gave us a couple of very close encounters with the elephant herds. On one rainy occasion we observed a large herd being followed by a number of males, some of the females obviously in estrous. One large male approached us from behind sending Siriya clambering to the front of the Land Rover! But he turned to return to the females. It was absolutely exhilarating seeing them up close and being able to observe their behaviour, I felt very privileged.

We also did fence monitoring, recording any posts that may have been broken or wire that had become slack. It was interesting to see the electric fences at work and even greater to know that they were doing their job by dramatically reducing the instances of human/elephant conflict.

Visiting the local school was also a great highlight. The kids were so gorgeous, with friendly, open and curious smiles. Aravinda showed them some nature videos as well as one about the work that Frontier does. The headmaster seemed very pleased the whole exercise and was also keen to have the children exposed to things outside of their daily lives. He became very interested in my practice of yoga and so we decided I would teach about 50 of the students a thirty minute yoga practice. Aravinda and I put together a short video presentation about yoga, its history, connection with Hindu and Buddhist religion, etc., to show them before the practice. On the day the kids were great, although the girls remained in their skirts which meant a quick rethink of poses! But they were very enthusiastic, and eager to please, and did really well. It was great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to give something to the school.

Everyone on the project was so accommodating and friendly and I felt very well taken care of. Leela's food was absolutely delicious and I don't think there was a single dish that I didn't love. Siriya provided ample entertainment! Sampath and Aravinda were also kind enough to take me on an excursion to Dambulla and Sigiriya which were both staggeringly beautiful. And our trip into the lovely Wasgamuwa National Park provided lots of great elephant and bird viewing.

All in all it was an unforgettable experience and I leave feeling that I have contributed just a little to the great work that Frontier does. I will definitely be back.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Sri Lanka
Posted: Jun 19, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Global Crossroad

My experience at the orphanage with the children is one of an emotional and heart-warming adventure. I shared a lot of good memories, affection, and love with the kids.
Furthermore, I got attached very quickly to the kids, and their ignorance, beauty, and kindness are extremely inspiring. I had the chance to discover the environment and to see the wild animals. I also went to some environmental conservation, which was very pleasant, and learning about the culture was really amazing. I had the best two weeks of my life here in Galle, Sri Lanka. Mickael is an amazing person, and his family's members are as kind as himself. They were willing to help me whenever I needed. Plus, Mickael's wife is a good cook. I will never forget them. :)

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Sri Lanka
Posted: Jun 14, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Frontier

When it first arrived on the project I thought it was a bit daunting at first, made lots of friends from all over the world, it was a eye opening experience. For me the most enjoyable part of the project was being with the children it was the highlight of the trip.
The project could be improved if the timekeeping of the people in the country was better. I recommend the future volunteers do the project you can't understand what the project is like until you actually do it. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Program: TEFL
Location: Sri Lanka
Posted: Apr 7, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

Hello, my name is Lara and I'm from Hamburg, Germany. I stayed in Galle at Michaels place for 4 weeks and was a volunteer at Ananda College.
The school is located about 15 minutes by tuktuk from the host family in a rural area. It was fun to work with the kids and very interesting to get to know a different school system. Overall it was a good experience and I had a good time at the school, though sometimes we spend more times correcting papers and books than actually teaching the kids. If you are interested in teaching, it is definitely worth it to come here but keep in mind that it is completely different to schools of western societies, e.g. most of the time the kids are simply copying sentences from the book or board instead of discussing and interacting plus some teachers still hit the children, which was very surprising for me. Nevertheless, the pupils are very happy and lovely, the teachers are nice and supportive.
The location of Michaels home is perfect, right at the beach though I only went swimming there once, and very close to the bus station to Hikkaduwa, another beautiful beach. The Fort and the main bus station and railway station is about 15 minutes by foot. The family welcomed me with open arms and was very nice. The food was good and Michael can give you a lot of information of trips to go on or places to go to. I would highly recommend staying in Galle and do volunteering, it is a great experience and I would always do it again!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Sri Lanka
Posted: Mar 9, 2017
Overall:
9
Support:
8
Value:
8

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

Michael and his family were very helpful and inviting from the moment I arrived at their home. Before arriving in Galle, Sri Lanka he answered all my questions about what to expect and any other info I needed very promptly via email. I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay here and my experience at the orphanage. There have been a few other foreigners volunteering during my 5 week stay as well which has been nice. Michael's home where I stayed is a great location too, right across from the beach and only a 10 minute walk into Galle Fort area. His family have made me feel very welcome in their home and his wife has looked after me well with all her cooking.

I would very much recommend coming to Sri Lanka and experiencing this beautiful country and people whilst doing a bit of volunteering

Thanks

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Sri Lanka
Posted: Feb 24, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

I am Johnny from China now studying in Australia. Michael is a very nice man and I have a great time living his home for one week in Sri Lanka. He always offers me reasonable advice and gives me immediate help. I hope to live in his home again next time.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Sri Lanka
Posted: Feb 19, 2017
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

My 10 Year old son and I wanted to volunteer as part of our 4 week visit to Sri Lanka. I googled and came across IFRE which seemed to offer good program options and good support. As I had a son, I contacted IFRE via email to determine the best options. I was presented a great opportunity (elephants and community based volunteering) and based upon this, we immediately applied, putting forward the application fee. There was one concern I had with the application form - it asked for our arrival and departure dates from Sri Lanka. As we only wanted our volunteering to be a part of our trip, I sent them a separate email stating the dates we wished to volunteer.

There were some time delays and we were becoming concerned as there was less than a week until our departure. At this point we were put in direct email contact with Michael in Sri Lanka - a local who was very good at replying to emails. Eventually, days before we were due to leave we were informed that there was a minimum of 2 weeks to volunteer with elephants, please choose something else. We then offered to work in the orphanage. Unfortunately, we were having a communication issue and I could not make them understand that we did not wish to arrive and start volunteering the next day - that we were prepared to make our way to the appropriate place for an agreed commencement date. With only hours until our departure, I finally gave in and agreed to start immediately. All I knew was that I was to be picked up at the airport, provided a place to rest as we had a midnight arrival and then we would be contacted the next day.
The airport pick up was smooth despite our delayed flight and we were driven to an overnight home stay US$22 each - basic but comfortable with breakfast, air-conditioning and wifi. We were informed that we would be picked up at 12 the next day and driven to where we were to be volunteering - we still did not know where. The pick-up arrived on time and we were driven to a home stay in a suburb of Galle. We were met by Michael, our on ground support. He sat us down and told us about the program and that we would be starting the next day.
The family we stayed with were lovely - Michael's daughter, husband a child and grandmother and within reasonable distance from the orphanage. The home was basic (and still under construction) but fine for the circumstance. I was glad that I had good insurance as there was no railing on the stairs (i.e. open to a considerable drop) and no railing on the 2nd storey verandah. The bathroom was good with a good toilet and cold water shower (which was fine). While there was wifi at the house, it was not for our use and we could use the washing machine for a fair price. Bernie and Manoj provided us 3 meals a day - mostly vegetarian and catered for us with reduced chilli. They were very welcoming. In both of these home stays, we were glad we had our own towels and a top sheet. We wished we had our own pillows!! (1st world problem)
Michael took us to the orphanage the first morning, gave us a tour, showed us where to sign in and then left us to it. We were to work with the 3-4 year olds due to my son's age. We were under the impression that we would be working 8.30 - 5.30 each day, but in actual fact the orphanage did not want us there from midday. (I think the children were sleeping in the afternoon). We met a few other volunteers there on longer stays. . Michael arranged a tuk tuk driver for us who we used for our whole stay who we really felt gave us good value and we never discussed the price. The first afternoon, Michael took us to a phone card place and a money changer - both good deals. He also outlined all the tours he could arrange for us. (I was a little surprised by this, but I guess that longer volunteers needed something to do on weekends and this may suit.) These options did not suit us. They did seem good value, but then again, we had had no time to determine what good value was. I did wonder if this was why we had been whisked from arrival point - at this point quite green.
The family suggested some good places for us to see and were helpful at all times. Michael came on our last evening to see how our tour had gone, and to ensure we had completed this review. He again offered us a tour which we originally accepted and then declined as it really did not suit our plans.

All in all, it was an interesting experience. The orphanage was in great need of help, but the way it was managed was very different to an Australian culture. When the teacher was not there, it was TOTAL chaos with 26 3-4 year olds in a 21sqm room. The children did not listen to the volunteers (or the workers unless I suspect threatened). Toys were destroyed as respect for property and each other did not seem to be taught. These children were incredibly resilient and tough. We tried to teach some simple games but the children would not follow instructions from volunteers such as sit down. The workers did not attempt to help - just watched on. If you are considering support by providing toys, they need to be SUPER strong and light weight (as they will be thrown at other children or used to hit others). I'm not sure where the toys came from but they would need a good supply. Out door play was better, although the limited and extremely sloping area for play made games difficult - playing on a hill. There was a beautiful, huge flat grassed area that would have been perfect - but used as a car park for the odd car that happened to come in.
I was intrigued at the fees for the program. When I first googled, it seemed as though it would be around US$150. There were further considerable administration fees which I understand covered Michael's salary. We also had to pay around US$100 each to Michael (i gather he would pay this to the family). All up, It was the most expensive week for us in Sri Lanka for food and bed, but we hoped that the fees to IFRE would also find some of their way to the orphanage.
It was a never to be forgotten experience for us and if you are tough enough, I would recommend it - and the orphanage could really do with the help.

A last comment, Michael did say that it would have been possible for us to do the original 1 week with the elephants and community service. So there are some communication issues somewhere!

Lisa Gannon and Colby Gannon (age 10)

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Sri Lanka
Posted: Feb 17, 2017
Overall:
7
Support:
10
Value:
8

Global Crossroad

This is Rehani from United Kingdom. I joined a Volunteer programme through Global Crossroad in Sri Lanka in a orphanage at Galle. The programme was based on creating games and activities to children from 9 months to 6 years. It has been an emotional and important experience, in particular lloking at the smiles of the children when I used to arrive in the morning in order to be ready to play with them.
During the programme, I stayed at Michael's house near the orphanage. The family had been very friendly and helpful during my stay. They provided me with meals based on local cuisine, very tasty!They,also, suggested us the places to visit during our free time and planned a trip to Yala National Park and Mirissa for a week end.
I really suggest this experience in Sri Lanka!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Sri Lanka
Posted: Dec 30, 2016
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

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