Sri Lanka volunteers assist in orphanage clear-up
Jo Walton, has been working as an Assistant Manager for Projects Abroad in Sri Lanka since September, here she tells us about a recent group volunteer 'clean-up' effort at one of the children's homes.
'19 volunteers, four staff and one visitor from the UK (thanks Robbie!) descended upon Don Bosco children's home on the 26th November for the start of what will certainly be an epic task. that probably won't even be finished during my time here! Don Bosco children's home in Payagala on the south coast, houses 107 boys aged from five to eighteen. The premises contain all the usual facilities contained within most homes, large dormitory rooms, dining room, kitchen, bathrooms (which we really won't discuss, as those of us who were unlucky enough to venture in there will be having nightmares for some time...), and a large outdoor washing area. In addition, they have a school and a working farm on the premises, and are currently undergoing large scale building works so that the 60 odd boys who sleep on the floor can have their own dormitories.
When you consider that the whole place is run by one man with only two farm workers, one domestic helper, and one Projects Abroad volunteer, Maggi (who's doing an awesome job and deserves some kind of medal for all her hard work there) it is easy to see why all this combines to create something not entirely dissimilar to your average male student's bedroom - mud and rotting food and unnerving stenches that seep out of the woodwork - and a major fly problem, from having pigs so close to the main buildings.
The volunteers were split into small groups to tackle laundry and bedding (much of which was thrown out as it was rotten), cleaning dormitories, the kitchen, dining room, and a team outdoors to attempt to clear some of the rubbish and rotting foodstuffs that have accumulated all over the site (mmm..fish-head anyone?). The work done in the bedrooms and kitchen has made a real and instant difference, and while we can't change the fact that boys will be boys, and despite how hard they try, 107 of them will inevitably turn the place into a hole again in no time, the worst of it has been overcome - stout work guys!
Unfortunately we seemed to make little headway on the root of the pungent aroma that emanates from the grounds of Don Bosco. We have begun work on a composting system so that the boys can make their own mulch for use on the farm, but this will need completing later - Charley and I will be going back before the end of the year to run some workshops with the boys on composting and the separation of their rubbish, which will hopefully tackle the root of the problem. We will be organising another clean up in January once the new buildings have been completed (I'm guessing Sri Lankan builders will be even worse at clearing up after themselves than English ones, so we'll be needing some young men to help clear the remaining rubble from around the home), and also to finish the composting system - so those of you who are still here then can look forward to another long day of sweating it out in amongst the flies! Once all the work was as done as it would ever be, lots of hungry volunteers headed up to the Sun View Hotel near Wadduwa for a well earned dip in the pool (after the compulsory shower, naturally) and a good feed. I'm not entirely sure where the volleyball came from, but I think we can safely say that the pool was considerably less full of water after Nick and Rob's flying leaps from the poolside to make some dramatic interceptions over the course of the afternoon!
The barbeque was lovely (though not a patch on Sisira's potato salad - is it sad that I care this much..?), and as sun drenched day turned into heavy monsoon night, the arrack (and Rum!) did flow. Throw another slightly too arrack-fuelled speech from myself, a couple of Tom Jones and Backstreet boys number's from DJ Tom (to be fair, he did have very little to work with) and an appearance from Charley at a Projects Abroad social occasion, and you've got yourself a pretty good party (though not a recipe for a fun bus ride home in the morning...)!
As a final thought, on behalf of the staff, Shyamalee, Charley, Ligaya and myself, I'd like to reiterate my thanks to everyone for all their hard work on Saturday, welcome the newbies with open arms, and thank those of you who've been here since September for making my life so easy and enjoyable, and giving me some fantastic memories to take home with me (if I ever go.!) I'll be truly sad to see you all go over the course of December, and wish you all the best for the future, whatever it may bring. And for those of you who aren't going home.. Let me know where you want to go for the Xmas Projects Abroad party on Christmas eve - and keep your ear to the ground, there must be somewhere in this country you can get a roast dinner!
This news story includes references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.