The charity we are working with have 5 projects throughout Sri Lanka; Kandy being the largest. I took a short trip to visit the Keleniya Project in the West of the country this week.
The day started early with our ever reliable tuk tuk driver 'Sunil' collecting me at 5:30am prompt to take me safely to the train station. Sri Lanka seems proud of its railways and it is not hard to see why, trains leave on time and the tracks, trains and stations have changed little since the colonial days. It's like travelling through time....but more importantly any country that paints trains bright pink is a winner in my book!
The bone shaking three hour journey into Colombo climbed around lush, green hills then through dark tunnels carved into mountains with treacherous sheer drops. No buses run from Colombo to the project so another tuk tuk ride was required to battle its way through the 'SHOCKING' pollution and traffic of Colombo; all made the more exhilarating by my driver erratically weaving in and out of traffic and taking frequent and sudden off road trips. Only he knew where he was going.
The project in Keleniya consists of a morning pre-school then after school 5-8 year olds arrive for a hot meal, education and fun. The children come from the most vulnerable families; many are single parents living with alcoholism, mental health problems and literally struggling to survive. The project is fortunate enough to be funded by a multi-national company and Keleniya is considered to be their flagship 'social responsibility project'. I was informed this model is planned to be replicated in China and India. Coming from the Kandy project where the health of the children is so very poor I was surprised by the excellent health of these children. They are given milk every day and have monthly health checks by a doctor. Whilst there I ran a class making 'flowers with feelings' and hand paintings in the hottest class room I have ever visited in my entire life!!!! We sang and played lots of roaring and chasing games.
I decided to spend the night there. Being very rural and remote I spent a long and very warm night on the floor of the office under an ageing fan and bathed in mozzy repellent. Luckily none of the enormous cockroaches I heard rustling about visited my boudoir during the night.
We are hoping to return later in the year to deliver 'participation and children's rights' training to social workers and teachers. We are hoping to have trained some young people to assist by then.
We'll keep you posted.