Friday, March 7, 2014

Why Volunteering?

The reason I came to Sri Lanka was to work as a volunteer in a primary school. It has been a very interesting experience. A worthwhile one? That is a question I will address in a later post.

Why did I decide to volunteer? An interesting question considering I have looked forward to my early retirement for a very long time. When asked I also said i would not consider doing sub work itpf it were an option. Yet I am now back working in  a school in less than a year.

My reasons for coming were not altruistic. I love to travel and though I have been to Turkey many times on my own I have never really "travelled" alone. While I am quite an independent person I am also a bit of a worrier.

One of my plans after retirement was to travel to further afield than before. When looking at options for solo travel I came across the Saga Volunteer Programme. It seemed to fit my needs. I would be able to combine my desire to travel with the opportunity to meet people both local and fellow volunteers. I would have the opportunity to work with children without the responsibilities of a teacher, the planning, the paperwork and the accountability. I would be working with the teacher, be the assistant, the role seemed perfect to me. 

I had spent a week in a Turkish school working with the English teacher last year. This was part of an ongoing two year co-operation programme between five European schools. I loved it. I enjoyed interacting with the children in class and the other teachers in the staff room. It was interesting and informative to compare and contrast different teaching methods, curricula and working conditions. I spent the week in the home of the English teacher and was made so welcome by him, his lovely wife and his extended family. It was a wonderful experience. Yet I knew that I would not want to spend four weeks living in someone else's home. I like my alone time too much.

I chose Moragalla Primary School  because it is a small country school. Four weeks before coming, I received a letter for the Sri Lankan Project Co-ordinator. It gave me the background to the school and also how the school wished to use my skills. I thought I would be helping with English. I had been collecting resources with this in mind. However the school had something else in mind.

They were the proud possessors of 5 computers but had no IT teacher. My role would be to teach basic IT skills. I can do basic IT but I had one major question. The keyboards, would they  be in English or in Sinhala. I might have a few difficulties with that one!

 I emailed the co-ordinator with a few questions so I could come prepared. Luckily for me, they were English qwerty keyboards but not all of of the computers were in working order. I decided to bring my laptop with me as we could also use that.

Among the other information given was that volunteers needed to be flexible and not be surprised that the standard of English is lower than that of the state schools in the capital Colombo. Thinking I had a good idea of what was in front of me, after all, I had worked in the Turkish school. I was ready!


  1. Looking forward to hearing how it went.

  2. Oh!!! the suspense! You are so brave Mary! How are you managing to teach computer skills in a new language? and to children, I would probably tear my hair out. I want to hear more soon!


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