Written on: 12/04/2012 by JulieBeach (1 review written)
I first thought about working in an orphanage several years ago. I’d travelled round India previously and seen the poverty of children with parents so could only imagine the suffering of those without. I decided to take the plunge to celebrate my 50th birthday and to cross something else off my 'bucket list'!!
When I embarked on this ‘project’ I only thought I would be working with babies & toddlers in an orphanage. I read all the PMGY literature about the other projects but didn't think I would be any help as I only had 2 weeks to spare.
I was met at the airport by a PMGY rep. When I arrived, to a very warm welcome at the volunteer house, I spoke with the PMGY rep and explained I only wanted to work in the orphanage. He suggested I go to the other projects just to see the work they were doing. I agreed to this.
My first morning was spent at the orphanage. As I entered I had never seen anything like it. There were babies everywhere! Some crying, some lying quietly in cots or on a mat and the toddlers running around in a kind of pen. I just recall everywhere I looked were babies and toddlers.....I was amazed and didn’t know where to start. One of the other volunteers showed me the ropes and soon I was up to speed washing babies and changing nappies! The children were so loving. When you pick them up they hold on for dear life and love any kind of interaction. I recall sitting on the floor of the toddler pen one day and counting 6 toddlers sitting and climbing on me!!
At the orphanage I met women from other volunteer organisations. They said that they only work in the orphanage & had paid considerably more. When I explained that we were involved in lots of different projects they were quite envious. I spent time on the ‘Street kids project’ which I loved. It was a very happy positive place considering the circumstances of the children. Their parents are generally drug or alcohol addicts and the children use the project as a kind of refuge. The teacher there is amazing and so supportive and welcoming. The only condition put on the children to attend is that they have washed their face in the morning! Whichever volunteer was on the rota for the St Kids project took food that was provided by the cook at the volunteer house. Generally this was noodles and fruit. It didn’t matter how many children turned up teacher would always make sure there was some for every child. We would sit with the children and do colouring, painting, crafts or singing. The teacher is happy for the volunteer to introduce new things and often gets as much enjoyment out of it as the children do!
I worked on ‘Community kids project’ this was great fun and, like Street Kids, would be suitable for both men and women. The project is next door to the volunteer house, so not far to go. Many of the children here speak English and enjoy outdoor games such as football and cricket.
I helped out at an English class for nursing students as well, that was great fun!
I would say to anyone that is thinking about volunteering to go with PMGY due to the variety of projects available. There is no pressure on volunteers to do anything they are not comfortable with. One thing that concerned me was my age. I thought the projects would be full of young people on a gap year. This is certainly not the case. The volunteers I worked with ranged from 18 to 60 & from bartenders to those with a Phd. I made friends with some amazing people that I wouldn’t normally have met.
We worked generally from 9 – 11.30 then 2.30 – 4pm but this is very flexible depending on the projects you are on each day. Thursday afternoons and weekends were free time and all the volunteers would head to town or to the beach. In the evenings we would sit together to have our meal and just relax getting to know each other.
All I’d say if you can colour by numbers, change a nappy, have a positive outlook and understand that you can’t change the world you’ll have an amazing time in Sri Lanka with PMGY!!
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