Trying new things: visiting a volunteer project abroad

I always want to try new things. Well, not really new things, but things that I haven’t done (yet) since my brain injury. So when the opportunity came along to visit volunteer projects in Sri Lanka, I didn’t need to think twice.

Old life vs new

In my old life, I’ve spend two summer holidays abroad volunteering. But ever since my brain injury, I started to seriously doubt my ability to do so again. Especially seeing how hard ‘normal’ daily life at home is.

For some reason travelling isn’t as draining as a normal working week. That’s one of the reasons why I love to travel. To feel alive again and to be able to enjoy new things again.

That’s why I jumped to the opportunity to visit a couple of the volunteer projects here.

Not only am I really interested in the work that’s being done, I’m also very curious about how this ‘new me’ is going to react.

Give a Fig

These volunteer projects are part of the work that the ‘Give a Fig‘ NGO does. They started off working as a UK non-profit and are now also registered as a Sri Lanka NGO.

Two and a half years ago they started their work in the schools and villages. Teaching english, building toilets and growing the income of the people, also through tourism.

My experience

Which is how I ended up assisting during an English lesson for child-monks and children from the village.

Outside in the shade (very important) the use of words like ‘who’ and ‘where’ was explained using a white board. Vocabulary and spelling were taught using games like pictionary and hangman. What struck me was the enthusiasm of the children and how much the adults stress the importance on learning english.

After three hours of being the focal point of attention, my brain got tired and on the way back my ability to make complete sentences took a temporary leave of absence. However, a shower and a short break got me going again. Not only was it a special experience to play pictionary and hangman in a tiny village (and in english), it also went surprisingly well.

The day after was an english lesson at a youth center in town. The lesson was about rhyme and poems, which I find a little more challenging in english. Here the lesson ended with scrabble and here too everyone participated.

Seeing as this was a shorter lesson and less far, it went even better! I really liked this experience. Not only to get off the beaten track, but also to help make a difference (very little in my case) and seeing their gratitude.

Travel tip

The hostel that I’ve stayed in is the Fig and Gecko hostel. They opened last September in order to be self-sufficient and fund the work of the UK non-profit and NGO. So staying here also supports their work. A win-win situation.

So if you find yourself in Sri Lanka, stay at the Fig and Gecko hostel in Anuradhapura. And if it’s within your ablilities, you can also come and join them as a volunteer.

My take away

This experience has taught me that I can do more than I think. It also made me realize just how fortunate I’m simply because I was born in a western country.

And who knows, maybe I’ll even join a volunteer project abroad somewhere in the future.

Do you also feel better on holiday? How well can you estimate whether or not you can do something? Do you feel like you can do more while on vacation/holiday or at home?

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