Hi there lovely people! If you’re reading this, you might have discovered one of the most welcoming and peaceful places in Sri Lanka.
My name is Poldi, I was born in Catalonia and right after finishing my university studies, I decided to throw myself into an international volunteering project. This is how I coincided with the 3CD organization and its wonderful place.
I lived in the Peace Center for 6 months. It is a large house with a large dining room where classes were held in the mornings for children with special needs. The house was located in the middle of the area known as the “rice mill”, formerly a land dedicated to rice cultivation, but which after the 2004 tsunami was used so that NGOs could build houses for families more affected.
I still remember the first day I arrived at the Peace Center and the reception and welcome given to me by Buhari. A tall man with a wise look but with a very youthful spirit, very up to date with international news and with a long experience with volunteers. His main role was to find the position and function that suited the best for each volunteer based on their qualities and skills. Somehow like the magic hat of Harry Potter.
My idea for the 3CD English classes going on, was to try to encourage a non-violent culture based on peace through group dynamics and other activities, but the multiethnicity and the coexistence of religions of the community took me pleasantly by surprise.
That is how I started my volunteering, by trying to complement some English classes, by putting all the learning into practice with activities that involved a greater capacity for improvisation. Together with the other volunteers, we tried to find games or group dynamics with which we could motivate students to talk to each other. In the second or third week I also started teaching Taekwondo classes for adults. They received them with great desire and interest, as martial arts are little known and practised in Sri Lanka.
All in all it kept me busy all week. During my free time I devoted myself to improving some aspect of the house where we lived. In itself, the Peace Center itself had grown with the small renovations that had been done by the volunteers who had stayed there. I didn’t understand much about plumbing or electricity, but I found that maybe I could help with the abandoned garden in the backyard. With the help of Shiro (the local girl who lived with us) and some volunteers, we spent many hours there to end up leaving a beautiful little botanical garden. We also started more ambitious projects with some volunteers, such as a campaign to clean up street plastics (a serious problem across the country) or a donation campaign to help children with special needs in school.
But I must be honest, the best memories have not been lived by me, I have not found them myself. They were given to me by the local people, our neighbours. They opened their house for me, where they fed me the best dishes. They have given me their heart with their hospitality, joy and respect. They have embraced me with their religion, teaching me a spirituality and integrity that aroused my most worthy admiration. With all of them, I’ve had time to talk about thousands of topics. We laughed together, we shared sorrows, we fell in love, we had the occasional misinterpretation of the culture shock, but we always ended up understanding each other. We have acknowledged each other and fell in love, because we knew how to understand and respect each other.
And once at home (the one in Catalonia), I find it difficult not to question whether, after everything they have given me, I have contributed everything I could have contributed. The volunteer movement has a lot of power to make big changes in small communities. But as long as these changes are well coordinated, and everyone acts as a group. At the individual level I know I have been able to help a lot of people, but what would this collaboration have been like if I had been at the community level? Instead of being me and a few more international volunteers, would we have been a well-established and organized group to fight for a more ambitious goal, or simply, a goal that would benefit a wider number of people? Volunteering is the service of the people, for the people. We serve for a more prosperous future, to make the world a more egalitarian set of communities. It is necessary to open borders, but above all, to open vision.
Dear all, eternally grateful. I always take you with me, everywhere, every time.