Exchange in Sri Lanka

The most incredible and heart-warming experience I had this summer, was working at a school in Sri Lanka. The school is specialized in teaching children with autism and down syndrome. An exceptional aspect to mention about the school, is that the principal is a 70+ women (not exactly sure, since you never ask a lady about her age), who pays for the maintenance of the school by giving dance lessons at the local university. I was impressed by the enormous things she has achieved in a total of five years and it is safe to say that I have a new role model now!

Five years ago, the school started out small, but now it holds a total of about 30 students, who are divided into three classrooms. Besides working on  competences, children are also taught to be disciplined and help with everyday tasks, such as cleaning up, gardening and stitching. Another important part of the school is the before and after school prayer. This is also done in public schools and I found it fascinating to be able to witness this part of Sri Lankan culture as well. 

In the afternoon there is a collective lunch. Most of the kids are able to eat on their own, and those who are not, are helped out by their moms. The school provides three meals everyday for free. It is usually prepared by some of the moms who volunteer to help out. 

I felt like everyone in the school is really connected and fixated on the well-being of the kids. The classes are very organized and the children treat the teachers with respect. Although communication was tough sometimes (not all the children are able to speak and understand English), all of the children were loving and helpful. It actually felt like a big family. One observation, which made me laugh a little, was that the children kind of treat each other like siblings. They tease and correct and help each other. Once one kid is not listening, not only the teacher, but also the other children lecture him. 

I was really touched by the atmosphere at the school and I know that everyone involved in the project does their best to help and support the children as far as resources allow. 

I am so grateful, I got to be part of this community and feel like part of something bigger.

This post was written by AIESEC in the Netherlands. We offer international voluntary projects and professional internships with the aim of developing leadership in youth. 

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