After sponsoring 4 children for a few years and listening to Val’s stories of her trips to Sri Lanka, I really wanted to visit to see for myself. When Val asked me if I wanted to go with her I couldn’t wait.
We left Heathrow on the 4th August and arrived in Colombo in the early hours of the 5th. After a rest on our first day we spent a few days sight seeing. We had a wonderful driver who I would recommend. He made sure Val and I were checked into each hotel (we stayed in 3) before leaving us. On our trips out he explained everything including the history of each place we visited.
Val and I visited many of the tourist spots and went to a Culture show one evening.
I had been told that Sri Lanka was a beautiful country, in fact most of the scenery was breathtaking, with beautiful waterfalls and tall green trees. The people we met were lovely, they smiled all the time and their English was very good, which of course helped.
As we made our way down to Galle, the landscaping was still beautiful,
we saw many different areas where there was still a lot of work to be done. The people were working in the fields, cows walking beside the roads, dogs laying in the roads or at the side of the road. Everywhere there seemed to people doing something, trying to make a living, they all seemed to have one thing in common though, their smiles and some indescribable happiness and contentment.
We eventually arrived in Galle for our stay at the Light House Hotel and where we also said goodbye to our driver. Our first day was spent by the pool and then it was time to meet up with Siri, his family Gill, Dan (Gills son) and meet hundreds of Siri’s cousins!!!! Our first tea party for some of the children and their families was held at Ruvini’s parents home. What a welcome we all received, whilst the children were arriving we sat down to some wonderful food. After we had finished eating we went outside where Val, Gill and I received some lovely flowers. There were a lot of speeches made by Headmasters and Headmistress’s, also Ruvini’s father and Siri.
Many of the children sang songs or gave speeches in their own language or English. It was very humbling to see children sit very still for a few hours, listening to what was being said. After everyone had had something to eat and drink plus an ice cream it was time to give out presents of pencils, pens, crayons and books. All the children kept thanking us and still they smiled their beautiful smiles. Many of them had brought presents for their sponsors which they gave to us asking us to pass on and to thank them on their behalf. What I hadn’t realized as I hadn’t been before was most of these families had walked miles just to see us and then had to walk home again, nobody seemed to mind or moan.
The next day we went with Siri and his family to visit some of the homes that Val and others had either had built or renovated. The owners of these homes were very proud and invited us to see everything they had. I cannot describe how I felt, these people who didn’t know me wanted to show me how they were living. The only way to describe these homes is to say that most of them were about the size of my double garage.
Many had no electricity or running water but the families were all very happy with what they had. They had lost their homes and many family members in the Tsunami but were getting on with their lives.
Our next tea party was held in Galle in a Buddha Temple, where about 300 people attended. Again Gil, Val and I received flowers. There were many speeches made and again the children entertained us with singing, dancing and speeches. I was put on the spot and had to give a speech!!! What could I say to these wonderful people who like the families at the other party had walked many miles to meet us and thanks us? In the end I thanked them for coming and for allowing us to sponsor them. It was a privilege to meet them and I felt and I’m sure everyone else felt that they had given us more than we could ever possibly give to them.
After they had eaten and had their ice creams it was time for presents for the children and again many of them had brought presents for us or Siri to pass on to their sponsors. I met several of the children that some of my friends sponsored, took some pictures to pass back to them and gave them presents. I also met my children, they were all wonderful, I wanted to bring them all home with me. I have a future doctor, an accountant, a manager and an engineer. These children want to do well and when asked what they want to do when they qualify they all said help children in the future.
What is left to say, I can’t wait to go back again (this time with my husband). To thank Val for putting up with me and for her wonderful company. To Siri, Ruvini and all of Siris cousins, Ruvini’s wonderful parents who do so much for free, a big thank you, not only from me but from all of these families you have helped, without you there would be no friends of Galle.
Margaret Taylor, UK