Not a single day have I regretted my decision to join SCI:s volunteer project “Peace Center project”.

I applied for Peace Center project taking place in Sri Lanka in a small village ‘Mutur’. The only thing I knew about my project beforehands was that I was going to teach English in local schools and additionally organize some afternoon and evening classes at Peace Center. My expectations were met, and beyond. Not only I had a chance to teach local children in schools and local young adults at Peace Center, but also I got to join another project for poor widow mothers with the goal of providing them training modules about “how to support your child’s education”. My coordinator and all the members of SCI are very flexible and willing to adjust volunteer projects according to volunteers’ wishes and abilities. As I am an undergraduate university student in psychology, I had a great opportunity to practice useful skills with the widow’s project and also share some of my psychological knowledge. I got to visit some of the widow’s families and interview them, prepare for training materials together with local staff or volunteers and happily before my volunteer time ended, I got to attend the first training session with all the widow mothers. That time we noticed that long time research and preparing of the modules was definitely worth it: the widows were very happy about the workshop and wished for more such programs.

Mo-Fri: 8:30 am 2 hours morning classes at a local St. Anthony’s school for 1st – 2nd grade students. After school preparing for the next day’s classes

Mo, We, Fri: 2pm and 7pm 1 hour afternoon spoken English classes for young adult students

Mo-Fri: Whenever I had time (usually afternoons) I would work on with the widows’ project

Weekends: Free time – visiting friends, going to beach, travelling etc.

All of the different tasks I had were interesting and enjoyable in their own way. In the school I developed my skills on working with children and had fun with some English songs and games. In the end this was the most challenging task I had here: it is not always so easy to communicate with 6-7 years old children who only know few words in English. However I could always try to explain with pictures and gestures, ask help from other teachers, and this way I also learned to speak some simple Tamil myself! Afternoon and evening classes were something I enjoyed a lot. I would choose a topic for each class and by discussing the topic together with the local students, I learned so much about Mutur, its history, culture and religion. Soon after I started the evening classes I got to realize that my evening students were not only my students but also my friends. They showed me many places in Mutur and nearby, invited me to their houses and spended some great time outside with me. As the only foreigner I was very happy and grateful about such friends.

As a village and community, Mutur stole my heart. Moving from the capital of Finland to this small Sri Lankan village makes a big difference. In Mutur we can see many religions living side by side: majority of people are Muslims or Tamils (Hindus) and minority are Christians or Sinhalese (Buddhist). Mutur is also tsunami and war affected area and therefore there’s a lot of poverty. However, regardless of religion or income level, the people of Mutur are the most welcoming, kind and hospitable people I have ever met. People invited me to their houses, helped me without question whenever I needed any help, and always smiled and greeted me happily as I was passing by on the streets. These are the reasons why it was easy to feel like home and a part of the community, and not like a visitor or a tourist. Even though most of my stay I was the only foreigner in Mutur, they treated me like a community member and not like a tourist, and that is something I really appreciate and am very grateful about.

What more can I say? These three months were unforgettable time for me and I was very happy to be able to give my part for the Mutur community. On the community level, as a single person I cannot contribute much, but I really hope that the project we started will continue and be of help for the poor widow families. I can warmly recommend SCI:s volunteer projects for anyone who has been considering going volunteering: that way you have a great chance to work for local communities, and SCI staff is always willing to help you and adjust your project according to your wishes and abilities. Also I can warmly recommend to apply for volunteering in Sri Lanka and especially the Peace Center project in Mutur. Mutur is a developing town and in a need of new active volunteers with varying skills. Besides the project, on weekends you can travel and enjoy the amazing and beautiful nature of Sri Lanka.

Warm regards, Minna Parvio, Finland

Volunteering in Mutur 24.5.-11.8.2018