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