This may be the first time I have been greeted by nothing but smiles at being a foreigner. We were greeted by song at the school and given packets of leaves by the age 5-11 students. Some people are impressed that Canadians and Americans work together. We are smiled and waved at when driving down the street. Word of our mission here has spread far and wide, and I am so happy to be here to help instead of simply as a tourist. I wonder if I could ever be a tourist in a less fortunate location again? Either way, the 20 computers we’ve assembled as a full time computer lab will surely have a substantial impact on the local community for many years to come.
At another school, we found conditions in much poorer shape than at the Primary school where we installed the computers. They were so grateful for the school supplies, we immediately ran outside and played with some of the athletic equipment we brought. Not everything we did was perfect – I think many students would rather the soccer balls be volleyballs. But I met a small child who latched on, he wanted to be an Olympic athlete and a professional cricket player. Though his classes were taught in Arabic (it's the one Muslim school in the town of the total 95 schools), he knew Sinhalese, Tamil, and English – all are taught as secondary languages at the school. Apparently the Muslim community comes from one section of town that receives much less government attention (road upkeep, recovery aid for example) and yet living with little more than a roof, I saw sparks of intelligence, a great understanding of the English language, and nothing but smiles. I am truly humbled, and I was wide awake at 3am trying to determine how I can connect myself and contribute more to give more opportunities for growth to those I now find myself around.
Sri Lanka 2010