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Making new friends in Sri Lanka

We have spent an incredible two days visiting ChildFund-supported communities in Trincomalee district in north-eastern Sri Lanka.

Day one begun with an introduction at ChildFund’s local partner office in Kuchcheveli where we had the opportunity to meet people; fathers, mothers, grandmothers and children who will be receiving goats through our fundraising and hear exactly why they are just so beneficial for families in this community. Goats are a home-based business which mean mothers can remain at home to look after their young children, they are low-maintenance and low-cost, four goats can become six goats by the end of the year and they are well-suited to the local environment to name just a few reasons!

As we left the project office I could feel the excitement in the bus building. Next up we were to visit a local school (both primary and secondary) where ChildFund supported the construction of a new classroom and provided furniture and learning materials.

As we arrived I peeked out the window to find children big and small lined up at the school gates eagerly waiting for us. As I stepped out of the bus I heard the clapping begin. Following the child-made path to the school we all tried to hi-five as many children as we could. My utter embarrassment at the welcome we were given did nothing to diminish the joy I felt.

After a short introduction by one of the long-term teachers at the school we were given the all clear to go out and relive our childhoods again for a few hours. Howard and Rachel played hot potato with about 30 kids happily squealing. Dave, Jimmy, Alvin, Rebecca, Emma and Chan played cricket (with bats donated from my sport-mad friend, Lenny) with the future Sri Lankan cricket team. Sue and Peter played catch with kids who I am quite certain had springs in their feet. While Hannah and some of the adorable younger children played all sorts of fun games like the hokey pokey.

Ashleigh and her group made friends at a school in Trincomalee, where ChildFund is helping families recover from years of civil war and natural disasters

But for me it was a photography class with some budding young photographers. My time with them was an abundance of selfies, group shots and fun. Each and every time I turned the camera around to show the children a picture of themselves their eyes would light up and they would either shyly giggle or roar with laughter. I will never forget one cheeky young girl with pig-tail ringlets and huge brown eyes who managed (with a few pushes and shove) to get herself in almost every shot.

After nearly two hours we reluctantly said goodbye to our new friends. With rumbling bellies we travelled to our next destination: lunch prepared by and with the Kuchcheveli community leaders. Mouth-watering dahl, delicious prawn curry and fresh crab was followed by a group discussion. We spoke with local government officials, preschool teachers, mothers and fathers, and youth leaders about the challenges they face, how ChildFund is helping them and the importance of the goat project for their villages. Their gratitude felt unwarranted but we were all very happy that they felt the families would benefit immensely from our support.

The day ended with a visit to meet a family of an Australian-sponsored child who will be receiving goats in January. A short visit turned into a long visit after we were stopped by the army to verify who we were. Though not nearly as serious as it sounds, we spent the 40 minutes eating ice cream and playing with a slingshot with local kids!

After the fun of the previous day, day two had some tough competition but it did not disappoint. Our visit to a ChildFund-supported early childhood centre (a preschool) began with the children, all five years and under, playing instruments and welcoming Sue and Emma at the door with flowers.


Children and their families in Sri Lanka are truly grateful for the support they receive

We then arrived at a primary school to find children dressed up in navy and white outfits and performing what is known as their kitty routine, which consisted of marching, saluting us and standing up as straight as possible with their chests puffed out. What followed was another wonderful afternoon of singing, games and laughter. I formed a special bond with about 15 10-year old girls who loved my blonde hair and my funny-coloured skin. Naturally another 200 photos were taken.

Though the highlight of my day was a visit to the home of another family who will benefit from the goat project. This particular family is Tamil. The father of the family is unable to work and only earns US$5 per month. They have three adorable daughters, aged 12, 9 and 2.

Unfortunately their 9-year-old daughter, though she can talk, has no use of her hands and cannot walk. She uses a wheelchair that was provided by ChildFund and she cannot attend school. Despite this a big beautiful smile remained plastered on her face for our entire visit. I was completely mesmerised by the love and gentleness that both parents exuded towards their children. Words just cannot express how glad I am that the lives of this family will be improved by the small act of providing just four goats.


ChildFund’s projects in Sri Lanka are helping children have a brighter future

I feel I am still processing all that I have seen and experienced so far on my trip to Sri Lanka but what I do know is that ChildFund really is making a difference in the lives of some of the poorest families in the country and I am incredibly proud to be here on behalf of such a great organisation. I also know that this goat project has been extremely well planned by ChildFund Sri Lanka and their local partners and will certainly produce the results intended €“ to improve the nutrition of children and their families and to provide a livelihood for them to generate a much-needed income.

To Ashleigh and the rest of our Sri Lanka Cycle Against Poverty participants, we say THANK YOU for doing an incredible job fundraising over $35,000 to help some of the poorest families in north-eastern Sri Lanka get back on their feet. You’ve seen for yourself the difference your efforts will make for these families and their children.

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