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