December: Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas from SRI.

The Christmas card was produced by 15-year Navin Ovinda.

He is a deaf student at the special needs centre we established in 2008 at Debarawewa President's Primary College thanks to a generous donation from Credit Suisse in Hong Kong.

November: Sponsorship Student Trips

SRI Directors Jonathan Back and Jackie Horne made a second visit to Sri Lanka this year and arranged a number of trips for Jonathan's sponsorship students.

We (Jackie, Jonathan, Jaya and Teddy) took one group of about six boys to Sithulpawwa, a famous rock temple in the jungle close to Tissa.

Afterwards, we had tea with the chief priest and got to see the resident elephant that roams around in the temple grounds outside.

This was followed by swimming and cakes back at our hotel. This was a novelty for some of the boys who had never swam before. Jaya and Jonathan tried to teach them how.

A few days later we took a group of girls on a boat trip around Tissa Tank (Sri Lanka's word for a manmade lake)

Again, many of them had never been on a boat or the tank, even though it surrounds the town they live in.

Afterwards we drove to Kirinda. This is a village, which is right on the coast and suffered extremely heavy losses during the Tsunami.

It has a beautiful temple set high on a cliff looking over the sea.

We followed this with cakes and games on the beach before heading home again in Teddy's jeep.

October: World Children's Day Presentation

This was the first year we celebrated World Children’s Day in Sri Lanka.

I (Project Manager Jaya) conducted an environmental talk at Bundala School, which is very close to Bundala National Park.

I explained the importance of nature, looking after our country's natural beauty and avoiding littering.

I then showed a short film.

October: MCTC Team

MCTC teachers Nuwan, Sammani and Thushari take a break from classes to pose for photos outside the centre from right.

In the middle are the centre's two security guards, Somasiri and Jinasena.

Next to them are their children Thajika, Dharnushika and Rashmika.

They all studied at Mahasenpura School before transferring to Debarawewa Central College (the UK grammar school equivalent) after getting high marks in their grade five exams.

October: MCTC Other Schools Class

One of the MCTC's teachers, Thushari, pictured left with a pupil from our seventh other schools class.

This class is held after school hours and is designed for students at other schools who want to revise for their ICT O-levels but do not have access to a computer at their own schools.

Its becoming increasingly popular as more students understand why IT will be necessary for their future job prospects.

October: Nadigamwila School Trip

The new Principal of Nadigamwila School, Mr Kumarasinghe, is an agricultural teacher by background.

As a result, he is very interested in the environment and he asked us if we could arrange some school trips for his students.

So we (Project Manager Jaya and Project Officer Teddy) took 48 students on a three-day trip across Sri Lanka.

Mr Kumarasinghe also came along with a handful of teachers and some parents.

The list of places we went to included Kandy (Sri Lanka's second largest city), its nearby botanical gardens and a tea factory.

But the children said the best experience was going on a train.

Most of them had not been on one before and it was very exciting when we went through six tunnels.

Just before getting on the train, we examined some nearby pine trees close to the station.

We collected some samples to take back for the school’s science and agriculture lessons.

Pictured left are the students at the botanical gardens during the first afternoon.

September: KV Temple Sewing Group

We would like to thank the owners of Yala Village for letting us open a small franchise in the hotel shop.

The ladies of the Kande Viharaya Temple sewing group can now sell more of their bags, tea towels and murals to guests at the hotel, which is situated right in the middle of Yala National Park.

Since we set up the sewing group in 2007, the village ladies have learned how to sew many different kinds of Sri Lankan animals onto the front of their products.

They have been selling well at The Rosen Hotel, where we opened a similar stall in 2008.

Both hotels are allowing us to sell the products and only take 3% of the retail price. Then another 3% goes back to the group so they can buy new materials to make more products.

The ladies keep the rest of the money to support their families.

None of them have another job so this is a great way to boost their respective family incomes.

All of the ladies come from a very rural area surrounding the temple, where the only work is vegetable or rice farming. As a result, most of these families are living on only about $30 per month.

May: MCTC Columbo University Seminar

For the second year running we welcomed the Colombo University Computer Society back to Tissa for an open weekend at our Mahasenpura Community Training Centre (MCTC).

Each year the student society conducts a number of workshops across Sri Lanka.

They do this to try and close the IT knowledge gap between rural and urban areas.

The Colombo University students talked to about 200 O-level pupils from six local schools.

March: MCTC CCF Classes

We are starting to do more after-school classes at the MCTC for CCF, another NGO based in nearby Hambantota on the coast.

We are now running special classes for children in grades six, seven, eight, nine and 10.

The classes are open to any children at schools around the area who would like to attend.

February: Glasses Donation

Visit Sri Lanka and it is unlikely that you will see many people wearing glasses.

Unfortunately, it's not because they don't need them, but because they cannot afford them.

We, therefore, jumped at the chance to hold an eye clinic at our offices in Tissa. This was hosted by a team from DS Jayasinghe in Colombo.

Children from numerous schools around the town and the residents of two OAP homes benefited from the tests.

This led to the dispatch of 155 pairs glasses at a total cost of US$4,200.

February: Disabled Bicycle Donation

Towards the end of 2008, our MCTC manager Tharindu alerted us to the plight of a local man.

He had become almost totally housebound because of a deformity in his legs, which made walking difficult.

His problems were further exacerbated by the fact that he lived out in a very rural area and didn’t have the funds to get into town on a bus or three-wheeler.

In fact his only source of income was selling lottery tickets on the path outside his home making just over US$1 a day.

Getting him a wheelchair did not seem very practical given the state of the path.

However, Jaya found a shop in Colombo, which makes bicycles that can be pedalled by hand.

We delivered the bike early in 2009 and after a lot of practise he was able to learn how to balance and ride it.

January: Sponsorship Student Trips

Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s most visited national park and top of many tourist itineraries.

Yet although entry is free for locals, only the richest can really visit, as everyone has to pay a jeep driver to show them around.

Therefore, hardly anyone in Tissa has been even though it is right on the town’s doorstep.

So when we asked the SRI team where their kids would like to visit, this was their number one choice.

Pictured left are Rashmika (son of our security guard Mr Jinasena) and Chintaka (brother of our MCTC centre manager Tharindu).

The four kids plus SRI Project Manager, Jaya, SRI Directors Jonathan Back, Jackie Horne and their friend Richenda Evans-Freke, had a great lunch at the eco resort Yala Village.

This was followed by a trip round the park in a jeep that belongs to Project Officer Teddy who has a second job as a safari driver.

The same trip was repeated the day after with the family of one of Jonathan’s sponsorship students.

Sadly on both occasions, the park’s resident leopards proved to be extremely elusive.