Saturday, 20 December 2014

The TEA Project: British Council English Programme.

We have been developing a working partnership with the British Council in Kandy over the past few months. As a direct result of an initial proposal by Racheal and her subsequent mediation and meetings The British Council have agreed to provide five coveted places on their English Language Programme to children from Child Action Lanka (CAL). The children will be supported for a 12-month period; completely free of charge.

This week we took 16 children who attend CAL to a 'Placement Testing Seminar' at the British Council office in Kandy where they took test papers on English and had a 1-1 speech and listening interview. The aim of the day was to ascertain the needs and learning levels of the children. In 2015 five children will be selected to attend English programmes during the 2015/16 year term.
The financial cost of the English programme for the five children amounts to £2,500; this figure is the cost of the coarse fees alone and does not include the free books and materials we have negotiated for them from a local book store.

All the children attend local government run schools where standards and aspirations are not high and opportunities few to none.The childre
n come from very poor families who are marginalised and invisible to society. This opportunity will enable the children to study and learn English at one of Kandy's most prestigious schools. We are very proud that The TEA Project has helped make this life changing opportunity possible for some of the amazing children we have come to know well and have the privilege to work with.


Tuesday, 7 October 2014


and still it rains.....

Hi T-peepers,

We have been assured that the dry season is upon us, if this is correct then it's the wettest period of dry we've ever experienced! Lightning follows sun, follows rain, follows sun, follows thunder........

The gods are really moving around up there.

Hopefully you will have noticed that we have developed our website; if you haven't then please take a look -  We are really pleased with the results and our thanks go out to Radiant Point Technologies for providing their services and time free of charge. This new home will be enable us to promote The TEA Project more effectively and hopefully increase support.

We are still waiting for our NGO visas to arrive, basically the usual red tape wrapped in more red tape. Anyway, as our current visas terminate at the end of this month we must leave the country to re-apply for Sri Lankan visas oversees and then return. It's an unfortunate and costly necessity for us but one we decided to accept and use to the advantage of The TEA Project if we could. So, following some hefty research we sent a proposal to a number children's charities in India; the response that came back was very positive. Around 60% of the organisations responded and requested our services and we eventually chose to work with an organisation called 'Our Home Community' - OHC are a fantastic charity who are based in the south west of India providing a permanent home & community to homeless and orphaned street children. We feel fortunate that the opportunity has arisen to work with a charity that shares our ideals and are confident that this is the right time to deliver and pilot a new model of training called 'Child Centred Community Development'. We hope that explains our plans in a nutshell. 

We have begun a partnership with a school in Kandy which we mentioned wanting to achieve on previous TEAblogs where a large number of the children we work with attend.  Recently we supported an English Camp running activities and games with children from four of the poorest schools in Kandy and we plan to continue running workshops and teacher training every week for them.  Our workshops and training will be really important as government schools have few resources to rely on. The school we support does not even have a computer.

Our Project with The British Council is going well. Up to five centre children will be receiving free English tuition for a year worth £2,500 as a result of Racheal's efforts. This will create a fantastic and rare opportunity for very poor children.

Carl is nearing completion of the new Library which he designed for the centre in Kandy. We managed to run a series of workshops in the new library to get feedback on the project and ask the children to name it, help develop ground rules and set consequences for breaking the library rules.  The children can be very destructive and act impulsively so before the library is formally opened we needed to establish clear boundaries.  They suggested rules such as no stealing and being relaxed in the library with consequences of cleaning the library or having to leave the library for a period of time if they break the rules.  They did also suggest going to prison for 2-years and being spanked for breaking the rules but we felt these to not be appropriate punishments for the crime! The library will be named 'the space'. We will post a blog when it is fully up and running. This week we will run our first day of Personal Development training with teenagers in 'the space'. We hope at least 20 young people will attend; ice cream, biscuits and lemonade are our trusted recruitment tactics.  Watch Facebook for an update.

We still have our weekly workshops with 7-11 year olds and 12-15 year olds which are always fun, active and the children never cease to amaze and amuse us.  They recently made some excellent paper mache hot air balloons in an arts workshop but destroyed the final results before anyone could paint them. They come from families with few or little boundaries so this is the nature of the kids and the work.  Racheal now runs additional weekly English classes for centre managers and staff.  Some of the young girls were noticeably intrigued by Racheal's make-up so following their interest Racheal ran a make-up workshop.  We can optimistically say it will be a few decades before they reach the catwalk scene!!

Carl is working on designs which will be used to brighten the pre-school area. Work will commence on completion of the library space. Designs for a mural will also start on the entrance steps and walls to the centre providing a positive greeting to the children and parents who attend.

We are also working on a number of innovative ideas for new workshops in the future including a collaboration with a British artist who works with sound and a contemporary glass company. If anyone has an aspirational workshop idea and feel you would like to share your skills and guidance with us we would love to hear from you so please get in touch.

Outside of The TEA Project life is Kandy continues to become more familiar and feel like home.

Racheal and new friend Kylie (no, not that one) have somehow managed to find the time to start a weekly toddlers group and Asia-Lilly may start nursery in December which will enable us to work together more during the day which we are finding is essential. Rumours of a snooker club in town have surfaced offering Carl with an opportunity of 'exercise' with new compadre 'Rotherham Al'. Kyan is  liking school more & more and has quite a group of friends now all with mostly unpronouncable names. He has taken to swimming like the proverbial duck and Asia-Lilly is following close behind in his wash. We unfortunately had to say goodbye to our friend's 'the Hulses' recently who made such a positive impact on our first few months in Sri Lanka. We would like to thank them again for their inspirational support & real friendship which we will continue cherish.  Thank you guys. 

We are excitedly looking forward to a visit from 'the outlaws' in 2 weeks time. Racheal's dad and her sister Tracey and nephew Leon are arriving for a 10 day holiday. We are looking forward to seeing some of the tourist sites that have so far eluded us and showing them the centre and some of the work we do...but mostly we are looking forward to the chocolate and proper coffee they have been ordered to bring with them.

Finally we would just like to say a BIG THANK YOU to an inspiring young man from the UK  who has recently shown his support for The TEA Project. Theo Thomson from Clitheroe, Lancashire, organised a cake sale at his school and helped raise the financial equivalent of 2 weeks wages for the average Sri Lankan. We think Theo is a great role model for young people.

Love & respect as always.

Carl, Rach, Kyan & Asia-Lilly. xxxx

Monday, 8 September 2014

TEA on Tour

Hey T-peeps,

It's been a while.......

How's that summer thang going, still hanging on for you? (Do I sound sincere, do I??)

As summer slips into Autumn back in the UK Kandy is gradually getting hotter and drier (you'll be so pleased to hear that I imagine!). October to December are some of the hottest months in the Central Province.

The schedule of activities that we planned for August @ The Kandy centre for the kids was well supported and enjoyed by all who attended. We were fortunate to be around for the 1st week of events which we centered around creativity, sports, being messy and generally having fun before leaving on our mini break to Batticoloa and the East coast with the kids. We've mentioned how important and challenging the schedule needed to be due to the increased number of young people who visit the centre during the school holidays and the subsequent need to keep them fully engaged and away from the distractions and dangers of the street.

So taking advantage of the school holidays we took the little angels away on a mini break, about 7 days, to reward them for settling in so well to their new home & school lives here and also to give them a break from the constant attention that they receive in Kandy and from the kids at the centre which can be quite full on. We hired the cheapest thing on four wheels that rupees could buy ('Strawberry' the Suzuki Marutti) and set off across the mountains with our tent and the entire contents of our house jammed into this little Indian made miracle. Fortunately we had opted for the high spec model which came with seats, a steering wheel, windows and doors. The kids also could enjoy the luxury of an air pocket EACH whilst pressed happily against the window of the car wondering at the sites of the Sri Lankan landscape. The most important item that we would later realise essential for our survival was the aircon as the East coast is hotter than running a marathon race on the surface of the sun whilst eating a vindaloo in woolly jumpers whilst smoking a pipe!!; but like true adventurers we aclimatised and had a great time. We camped on a beach next to the Indian Ocean for a time with only fishermen and the odd visit from AK-47 armed soldiers for company (this was until a mini storm destroyed our flimsy home and nearly the family late one night). We played in the surf of Arugam bay further down the coast in a strange but beautiful half kilometre stretch of town populated by white, beautiful surfie folk and survived multiple ambushes from groups of peanut sellers that waited for us at every bend and threw themselves before the wheels of Strawberry. Importantly we got a chance to spend some time at the centre in Batti and meet some of the staff and young people there and visited one of the outlying villages where they work. The centre here is a lot different from Kandy, very remote & rural with few facilities or amenities; water is pulled from a communal well and there is no electricity. We were so glad that we got the chance to get involved whilst we were there. In total we covered around 1000 km's.

On our return to Kandy we retired Strawberry and returned to the more familiar 2 wheels of our faithful scooter Blue Monster. We had been asked to support a week of leadership training at the centre in Nuwera Eliya (or Little England) high in the Tea Plantations. Racheal and the kids took the luxurious option of the floor space next to the toilet on the 4hr train journey while I took Blue Monster on the near vertical 2 hour assent to the roof of Sri Lanka. It couldn't have been more different than Batti, so much colder, like the UK in early spring (hence the Little England tag). Like most things in Sri Lanka our plans changed and we delivered our own 'TEA Training' that ran alongside the planned Leadership Training. We all slept and worked at the little centre which you can see from  pictures on our Facebook page was fairly remote. The young people who attended came from the surrounding houses that you can see scattering the hillsides. We worked with the eldest children, aged 15-16yrs, on a 3 day training programme where the young people learnt to become Youth Volunteers in their local communities. It was the first time that Racheal and I have joined forces to deliver our own training and it was amazing. The young people here are so different to the hardened kids of Kandy, more responsive and attentive. Our training had such an impact on the kids (and ourselves) over our time there and also such a positive experience for Kyan and Asia-Lilly. It was both humbling whilst truly inspiring. The young people developed many new skills and identified strengths and abilities, they all developed in confidence and progressed so much emotionally and professionally; we are very proud of them. We plan to return in December to deliver some follow-up training to the 17 Youth Volunteers and run some training with staff.

We are back in Kandy now running our weekly workshop sessions and continuing with some policy work. As usual we have a number of projects on the go.  We are working with a local school helping them to establish a partnership with a fellow primary school in the UK.  Racheal is also in negotiations with the British Council to provide free English classes for children at the centre and also working with local health services to co-ordinate a 'free' drop-in facility to respond to the mental health and emotional needs of the many children at the centre. I am working weekends to complete a new library space that I designed which will transform an unloved and unused area of the centre into a relaxing and beautiful space for learning and a much needed private counseling area.

We are planning to run some TEA training with groups of young people at the Kandy centre in October half-term.  So we are busy identifying the learning outcomes and designing a programme that will empower and engage some of the most challenging and inspiring young people we have ever worked with. Watch this space!!! 

So I think that about takes you up to speed on what's been happening and where we are and what's coming up. I hope so. 

Please continue to stay in touch with us, the UK seems a very long way away and we love hearing from you all and of course as ever remain grateful for your continued support.

Enjoy those September rays now ya hear and hope life is treating you kindly.

C&R&K&A-L xxxx

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Indian Summer

'' Summertime, and the weather is rainyyyyyyyyyyyy!''

After a few false starts the monsoon has definitely now taken a grip. The weather has noticeably changed for the wetter! It's still warm, it just means a few more pit stops are necessary on 'Blue Monster' to shelter from the warm rain. The weather conditions in the rest of the island couldn't be more different.; very hot and dry.

It is partly because of this that we have decided to re-plan our visits to Batticaloa & Killinochchi. There are no mainline water supplies there. Water is sourced from wells which at the moment are very low if not completely dry. We have decided to visit Batti & Killi later in the year and instead go to a project in Nuwara Eliya high in the heart of the tea plantations at the end of August. This area is very poor due to its location, there are few roads and few public services. The climate is a lot more like the UK, colder because of the altitude so we will have to crack out the jumpers and.....i can't believe i'm saying this.......SOCKS!!!! We will help to support a week-long Leadership Course for 14-16 year olds, the intensive course is aimed at developing skills such as self esteem, decision-making and problem solving. We are very excited to be involved in facilitating training to young people in life skills and youth empowerment. Playing a supportive role will enable us to understand how training is run here and it will be valuable learning for when we take our T.E.A Training to Batti & Killi.

Before heading to Nuwara Eliya we are planning to take Kyan and Asia-Lilly on a road trip for a week. The kids have been so patient. It has been a complete culture shock for them and difficult at times. They have worked really hard to adapt to the new environment and have been happy to accept the changes to our work priorities. Kyan has performed amazingly at school and has fitted in better than we could have hoped for. Asia-Lilly continues to test our parenting skills; they definitely broke the mould. But she is also working hard and is learning that she revolves around the world and not always the other way around. They have also both been helping out at the centre a lot recently which can be very intense and tiring for them because of all the attention they receive. So we feel both their efforts deserve a reward. We have been offered the use of a tent and a free beach pitch on the East coast so plan a camping trip there to soothe our feet in the Indian Ocean.  (and we might take a peek at the Batti project).

The camping trip will lead on from our busiest time since starting work here.  We have all been at the centre every day facilitating activities and workshops that we planned for the month of August. August is a really busy time because of the school holidays, the 10-day Escala Perahera Festival and staff holidays which all run concurrently. Racheal spent many hours creating a monthly schedule with each activity requiring a detailed description for staff and volunteers to follow and a well stocked creative resource box; most of which we brought with us from the UK and partly from recycled  materials that we have been collecting whilst in Sri Lanka and also donated by staff members. You can see some of the positive results of the 'still life', 'junk people', 'sports', 'paper mache', picture frames,  creative writing and 'make a wish' workshops from photographs on our Facebook page.

We have loved facilitating the 1st week of workshops which we have tried to focus around 'Fun & Play'. The Sri Lankan education system, although mirrored on the UK system, is very different. Our aim has been to help the young people to 'think outside of the box' and develop their creativity. One thing we observed this week has been the difficulty of getting young people to use their imaginations. They are so used to being told what to do that sadly it seems they are lacking in the ability to think for themselves when asked to create something original. Often we are faced with pensive faces and blank pages during an arts workshop. We plan to help young people learn to develop and place importance on their own ideas and creative thought and not just copy and recite information.  To help the children to think and express themselves more freely we have banned the use of erasers as there is no right or wrong way of doing something in our workshops. The time taken to perform a task is set purposely short to encourage them to work fast and think less about what they are doing. To be more instinctive, to explode with colour, loosen up and to think BIG!!! They are rewarded with positive feedback and encouragement for the originality of their ideas and passion. The results have been very encouraging and we are extremely proud of what they have produced. 

Again you can see the photographic evidence of these amazingly robust and talented young people on our Facebook page. Young people who display so much of the same characteristics of most children their age, michievous, cheeky, happy, playful and boisterous, It is easy for Racheal and i to under appreciate the serious effects that abuse and neglect have carved and that lie beneath the childish facade. We recently discovered that one little character, a professional in lovable cheek and a real favourite of ours has been subjected to the most indescribable and aberrant sexual assaults in his brief lifetime on the streets. It was a definate reality check.

This week has really helped develop our relationships with the young people and to strengthen their trust....and also master a few more Tamil and Sinhala names!

The only negatives that spring to mind are Kyan ('The Mole', who has the ability to disappear down holes!) falling down an open sewer and the state of my knee and back following the volleyball & football classes on the 'Sports Day'. Volunteer Matt our sports guru who cuts a thinner, less ravaged (I said ravaged not ravishing for that is in no doubt!), sportier version of myself must have been very short of staffing options to put me in charge of some sporting activities. I managed to hold my own and performed courageously even considering my obvious handicaps....although my body does now feel like it's been reversed over by a convoy of slow moving trucks. As i rapidly approach my 40th I feel fittingly old enough for the occasion.

Looking ahead to September. I have been asked to design and build a brand new library space for the Kandy centre. My designs have been approved and a small budget agreed so I am looking forward to starting my 1st big solo project. Annual training for around 50 staff from all of the centres around Sri Lanka will take place in September and Racheal has been asked to design and run a workshop for this and to also develop partnerships with local schools. Momentum remains high and we continue to be inspired by the work and people around us.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to contact us while we are out here whether via The TEAblog, Facebook, email, Skype, phone or post. (*thank you Elaine for the emergency de-caff coffee delivery this morning, there's only so much green tea a boy can drink!). We love reading your messages and it is a very big deal when the postie delivers a parcel from the outside world. We are currently improving the website to help us interact with you all more easily and develop The T.E.A Project but until then please keep the messages coming.

We hope your Indian summer continues.

Love to you all,
Asia-Lilly, Racheal, Kyan & Carl xxxx

*The world lost one of the good ones this month. This one's for Tom.

'Be yourself, everyone else is already taken' - Oscar Wilde.

C&R&K&A-L x x x x

Monday, 28 July 2014

Trip to the Keleniya Project (Racheal)

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.

Spk soon.


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)

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Work Has Begun!

Aybowan everyone!!

It's been a while since the last update.  Setting up the project and our new home has been time consuming.  But things are settling down a little so we thought we would take advantage (of some rare & decent Internet connection) of the opportunity to update you.  We've missed you all.....

Our house is feeling like home; Kyan and Asia-Lilly are enjoying school life and dealing fantastically with the heat and the constant attention of the locals.  Asia-Lilly is especially happy - Sri Lanka has brightened her life beyond recognition resulting in Racheal and I being able to fully focus on work.

We mentioned that this is a time of real growth and transition for the local charity we are working with. Previously the charity had four centres spread over the city but they have now secured a new(ish) space where all the centres co-exist under one roof; providing support for up to 60 + babies, pre-schoolers, kids aged 7 to 12 and 13 to 18 years.  The outskirts of Kandy city also provides a 'safe house' where mothers and children seek refuge from domestic violence, abuse and homelessness. 

The speed the charity has developed since it began in 2007 reflects the needs of parents for a safe place where their children can be cared for whilst they endure the labours of their survival.  The parents are poor and most survive by begging, street vending or street cleaning. There is no support system for the families who are of a cast that is neither recognised or heard but who contribute so much to fuel the machine of the city.

The most defining factors so far that Racheal and I have recognised has been our inability to judge correctly the age of the children we work with. Children who appear like babies unable to walk, crawl or feed properly are so undernourished and underdeveloped that they are actually twice the age they appear.  Children aged the same as Asia-Lilly's (who is three years old) are as light as newborn babies.  Another defining characteristic that sets them apart is the terrible condition of their skin; scarred legs, arms and heads with bodily warts, untreated sores and the infected bites of mosquitoes that result from having to sleep unprotected outdoors. We met a young volunteer from Germany in the week called Rachel (Rachel  1, and ours is Racheal 2 and not the older Racheal ok?!!). She helped some parents take home their four children from the centre, including two gorgeous newborn identical twins, a two and a six year old.  Their 'home' comprised of a 6 by 3 foot piece of cardboard on the floor of an annex to the busy, noisy and oxygen deficient bus station.  When the children return to the centre in the mornings all they want to do is SLEEP.  The luxury of a soft mattress, protection of walls, relief from a cooling fan and 1 to 1 care from staff are everything they crave.  

The approaching month of August is going to be a challenging one for everyone at the Kandy centre.  As in the UK the children will be on school holidays. Kandy is also the home of Sri Lanka's most defining festival called Esala Perahera that runs for 10-days and with thousands of visitors it attracts many dangers to the streets.  This will be a time of increased risk for the children we work with and we have been asked to devise a 20-day programme of activities to positively engage children and young people and entice them off the streets and back into the safety and security of the centres.  We are also planning a road trip in August to visit two other projects in the poorer Eastern & Northern towns of Batticolao and Kilonochi. The project in Batti is run by young community leaders and we feel this may be a great place to start our T.E.A training.  The North and East are still very much feeling the effects of the long civil war.

Racheal has recently begun teaching English to teenagers. This is very challenging as the behaviour and boundaries of the young people are typical of children who know how to survive on the streets.  Racheal is also helping to do some policy work so she splits her time between the head office and the centre.  Together we ran an arts workshop recently with fifteen 8-12 year olds who created lots of beautifully designed and laminated hands and feet silhouettes which you may have seen as the new cover photo on our Facebook page. The children were thrilled to be able to take home a design and the rest will be given as individual gifts to a group of 21 student volunteers who are visiting this month to help with the continuing renovation of the centres.   I have begun to inject some colour onto the walls of the centres; beginning with the babies nursery and in between feeding and caring for mostly unwell babies (i received a welcome vomit on my 1st day!lol) I have been designing and implementing positive art ideas for the blank walls.  I have plans to create a safe space that reflects the kids thoughts, feelings and aspirations. Where they can read, play, receive counselling or just relax and feel safe. The budget is little to none so if any of you feel like sending anything to us in the post it would be gratefully received, no matter how small. Even one pen would go a long way. Stickers, pens, pencils, sketch pads, glitter, glue, scissors, know the type of thing:

Our address is 148/6 Mapanawatura Road, Kandy, Sri Lanka if you want to get in touch. Asia-Lilly is in charge of collecting the post; so far we have only had a one water bill and some leaves so if you could send anything it would make her day.

Our present focus is the important task of developing relationships with the children and young people and to basically learn and understand where they are coming from and gain their trust. We are very mindful that before we can begin to develop any TEA Project children's rights training we must first culturally understand the children, the barriers and gain their respect.

Please send us a message if you have any ideas, thoughts or advice you would like to share or just want to say hi; we want you to remain as involved as possible in everything we do.  Even at this early stage we feel the potential to make a difference and a positive change to the lives of the street children is enormous.  

Without you none of this would be possible and we want you to know and really feel that your contributions & donations are directly having a positive effect. They really are. Well done you.

If it works i've hopefully attached some photos of the journey so far for you to see.

Speak soon and hope all is well in your worlds.

Love as always,

Racheal & Carl