Recently, I returned from a three week volunteering trip to Sri Lanka, during my time there I worked with young boys aged 7 to 12 years who were training to be monks in a Buddhist temple. My main role was to teach them English and Maths, this was a fantastic opportunity for me as I am currently doing my BaHons degree in Primary Education and the experience was without a doubt invaluable. Although I was there to teach the young monks, I truly believe I was the one the who learnt the most during my time there.
Prior to the trip, I did a lot of research on different volunteer companies, destinations, flights, visas and the overall cost. I’m not going to lie volunteering is expensive but most definitely worth it! There are a lot of costs that you don’t even think about and then there will undoubtedly be additional trips that you’ll want to do when you are in country, so my advice would be to research well, book far in advance and then save and then save some more! I was lucky enough to get a small grant from the Eleanor Peel Trust which I put towards teaching supplies and resources for my trip.
The company I chose was called IVHQ and I must admit they were fantastic. I always had a placement officer with me, to escort me to and from the temple, so that I didn’t get lost, as well as to translate during the lessons when needed. Teaching in Sri Lanka was an absolute joy but not without its difficulties!
The boys were very eager to learn and appreciative of the time I spent with them. They looked forward to their lessons every day and would come running up to me in a morning with shouts of “Teacher you’re here!” eager to learn and get on with the day’s lessons. The boys were incredibly intelligent and having a 5-year age gap in the class really pushed me to differentiate my lessons effectively. The lack of resources also made me more resourceful and to think more creatively when planning my lessons.
The other volunteers that I lived with were incredible, we were all from a diverse range of countries and cultures however everyone was there with the same purpose in mind and shared similar perspectives on life and so we became fast friends and shared this amazing experience together. When we were not volunteering we arranged fun and interesting trips in the evenings and at weekends. We visited a tea plantation, experienced a Buddhist festival, went hiking in beautiful Ella, visited the south coast and assisted at a turtle conservation site. This allowed us to really engage with the country and its culture and to see more of what the spectacular country of Sri Lanka had to offer.
I would highly recommend volunteering and travelling to anyone and everyone, it’s such a rewarding and enriching experienced and one not to be missed!