Monday, 21 July 2014

From July LOOkin to August...

Hey everyone,

We hear you're having a heat wave in the UK?? Fancy that. Hope you're all enjoying the sun wherever in the world you are and you get a decent run of it.

The weather is typically changeable here in Kandy at the moment. I think it's signalling a move towards another monsoon season; there are around three a year don't you know.  It's blue skies one minute then wind and rain the next; but it always stays warm.  We love it. We love the rain and it rarely lasts long anyway.  Usually we just have to pull 'Blue Monster' (our battered lil family 90cc scooter) under the nearest tree and wait until the rain passes.   We have a tried and tested technique for riding the scooter now.  Kyan is the eyes and ears up front (Asia-Lilly does take the helm when Kyan is at school but due to her tendency of falling asleep she must wiggle her fingers at all times to show alertness) and she is in charge of the honking the horn (which in Kandy is needed every other  minute...literally!) Then it's Daddy, I steer.  Asia-Lilly is next.  Her job is to sing out of tune and to call out 'BIG BUDDHA!!' when she sees one.  At the back is Racheal to sandwich Asia-Lilly in and hold the bags.  Added to this at any one time can be our vegetable shop from the markets and supermarket essentials. We are very proud of Blue Monster; surprisingly there has rarely been a hill that has beaten her yet. When she starts to struggle we all shout ''COME ON BLUE MONSTER, YOU CAN DO IT!!'' which mostly seems to do the trick.

We are getting accustomed to the pace of life now in Sri Lanka and the work practices. Both very different to the UK.  Not better or worse, just different.  For example, if you agree a time to do something say 1pm then you need to add 'Kandy time' onto that which could be another 3 hours or even days depending on the individual.  It can be frustrating but it kinda works, you just gotta roll with it.  It is really interesting adjusting  to the change of pace and the way we worked in the UK, work is less organised, plans and details are very collective by nature and subject to change at any time.

July has continued to be both busy & productive.  We have now set up a regular weekly arts workshop that both Racheal and myself run for some of the older young people and Racheal also takes a weekly English class for the eldest teenagers.  The classes have been a great way of helping to break down barriers with the young people and develop some key relationships.  Racheal is being tasked  to help advise & develop key policies for CAL & project manage future events.  I am planning to start and run another regular workshop from next week with our pre-school children, these little ones access the centre from 8am - 6pm each day and  are provided with 2 hot meals, a shower, education, fun and activities each day.  In a recent portrait drawing workshop some of the older kids created portraits of their peers which we plan to reproduce onto the entrance walls to the centre. On my days at the centre I have been spending the majority of my time with the toddlers and babies.  New additions arrive regularly and without the assistance from volunteers the workload of caring for approximately 20 toddlers and babies for the 3 regular staff would be impossible.  As a result of their difficult and harsh living conditions most of the children are often sick, always tired from lack of sleep and comfort, under fed and generally in need of some love and attention.  You do put yourself at risk though in this environment.  The constant exposure to the snots and coughs of the babies greatly increases your chances of becoming ill. I am coming to the end of a coarse of antibiotics after contracting a rather unpleasant chest infection from the loves.  It also took out the manager and hospitalised another worker this week.  What can you do, if a baby needs a cuddle then the baby needs a cuddle!

July also included us helping to co-ordinate a visit from 21 students and teaching staff from Tonbridge school in the UK. The boys visited two centres that are being set up in the North and East and culminated with a visit to see the centres in Kandy where again they provided practical skills helping to paint the interior walls of the children's class rooms.  On the last day of their stay before departing back to the UK a rugby match was held between The Tonbridge boys (representing CAL) and a team from the local Trinity College; who we have under good authority from our legendary neighbour 'Lucky' have the 2nd best college team in the country. Trinity were undefeated but having had time to acclimatise to the heat of SL Team CAL provided an excellent display of grit and determination to win over the local champions.  Racheal and I unfortunately saw little of the match as we provided impromptu and makeshift 'face painting' on the touchline for anyone not interested in the display of testosterone.  You can see some of the creations on our Facebook page.

August promises to be even busier.  Racheal is taking a 2-day visit to a project in Colombo this week before returning to help lead a month of activities that she has helped put together for the children during August when they are on holiday from school.  The planned schedule of activities has needed to be extensive to entice the children back off the streets and into the safety of the centre. The loss of school would usually signal a happy time for children but without the daily security school provides the young people are forced onto the streets to beg, steal & sell to the influx of tourists visiting during the Perahera Festival; which lasts for the whole month.  We are also planning a road trip in August with Kyan & Asia-Lilly to visit and work with other projects in the East of the Island where we hope to be able to develop our Empowerment & Awareness training programme.  Currently with Kyan's school commitments we are limited to travelling and supporting other projects in SL so we plan to make the most of the school holidays.

We still continue to be amazed by the warmth and kindness shown to us by our colleagues, the children we work with, from our neighbours (providing deliveries of chocolates, cakes & wondrous tropical fruits for the kids) and mostly absolute strangers on a daily basis. We are really feeling part of the community. We were fortunate recently to meet a young family from the UK who are working here for 3-months doing important research work at the local hospital. We were kindly invited to their daughters 3rd birthday party on Sunday; again I will post some pictures on our Facebook page. Mr. Mouse even made an appearance from The Gruffalo book, although there was concern at one point that heat exhaustion may get the better of him because of the need to translate from English to Sinhala which greatly increased this children's classic into an epic adventure akin to 'War & Peace'! We're very grateful to their hospitality, kindness & cooking advice to us over the past 2 weeks.

Our hope from writing these blogs is to tell you about some of the silly little things that happen to us out here alongside the bigger ones so that you can begin to create a picture of what your donations and support are enabling out here in Sri Lanka.

Sthuthi (Thank you) sincerely,

Love Carl, Racheal, Kyan & Asia-Lilly xxxx

(This post is dedicated to the memory of Peter Metcalf &  to his family)

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