December: Happy Christmas from SRI

The charity received a special Christmas greeting from one of the students at the special needs centre we established at Debarawewa President's Primary College back in 2008.

It was painted by a 16-year deaf student called Nipuna Kavinda.

He's always loved art.

December: KV Temple English Class

Pictured left is one of the students from the English class we are sponsoring at Kande Viharaya Temple.

The students come every Sunday for a host of classes, man of which are non-religious in nature. For example, they also learn how to be good members of society.

SRI is paying the volunteer English teachers a small stipend to cover their travel costs to and from the temple.

December: Sponsorship Student Trips

SRI directors Jackie Horne and Jonathan Back were in Sri Lanka for a month and organised a series of trips for some of Jonathan's sponsorship students.

As in past years, we (Jackie and Jonathan) tried to find new places to take the children.

This year, we took a group of girls to Yala National Park, where we had lunch at an eco retreat, clambered across a rope bridge (pictured left) and then enjoyed a jeep safari through one of the lesser known parts of the park.

The next day, Jonathan took a second group of boys group to Ussangoda National Park, which is further up the coast towards Galle.

This is Sri Lanka’s most recent national park where, in Hindu mythology, King Ravana landed his peacock chariot.

We then took a third group of students upcountry to visit a tea factory.

En route, we stopped to have tea and cakes at the Ella Motel, close to one of Sri Lanka’s most beautiful waterfalls.

December: Osuwina School Trip

We (Project Manager Jaya and Project Officer Teddy) took about 60 students from Osuwinna School on a three-day trip in honour of the Principal, Mr Disanayake.

He leaves the school at the end of December after being promoted to Principal of nearby Mahasenpura School, which is much larger and where he originally started his career.

Since his arrival at Osuwina School in 2005, Mr Disanayake has helped to transform it.

He wanted to arrange a trip to say goodbye to his students and we were happy to oblige.

We also wanted to help because the school has many children from rural families and most have not had the chance to travel around Sri Lanka before.

The trip began at the temples of Kataragama, followed by a trip through block four of nearby Yala National Park.

Then we headed north to Polunnarawa, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka.

Along the way, we organised a talk by the Wildlife Department at Girithale National Park.

November: Mulana School Essay Competition

We arranged two school trips for Mulana School this year led by Project Manager Jaya and Project Officer Teddy.

The main purpose was to enable the children to travel around their own country as many of them don't get an opportunity too.

We always try to structure school trips working with the school principal to come up with an itinerary, which will help to deepen the children's knowledge.

One good way to do this is to hold essay writing competitions when they get back. Pictured are the winners of the Mulana essay writing competition with their prizes: new school bags.

November: Gangeyaya is 50

Project Manager, Jaya, hosted a workshop at the school about human elephant conflict on a special day to honour the school's 50th anniversary.

We also helped to arrange stalls for the Department of Wildlife, The Forestry Commission and the Archaeological Department.

They all came to the school to promote environmental awareness.

During the break we paid for all the children to have buns and drinks for refreshments.

We also paid for pens and books for the children who won awards.

November: Mulana School Trip

As they are grade-four children they were too young to go on an overnight trip so we went on a long day trip starting at 4am instead.

We (Project Manager Jaya and Project Officer Teddy) took them to the beach on the way to Colombo, then to the zoological gardens at Dehiwala on the outskirts of the capital.

This is one of the oldest zoos in Asia and has many different types of animals the children had never seen before.

The children said their highlight of the day was playing on the beach!!

October: World Children's Day

Like last year I (Project Manager Jaya) gave a lecture to promote environmental awareness.

I explained how to keep the school tidy and told the children why it is important to stop using polythene and so much plastic.

Then we showed a film about the environment.

October: MCTC Classes

We are now up to our ninth other school class at the MCTC, which is held after school hours for students who are not studying at Mahasenpura School.

Since the centre opened in 2007, the team have now taught the Microsoft Office Certificate Course to 12 community classes as well.

This latter course is predominantly geared towards school leavers.

August: KV Temple Trip

At the end of July, we (Project Manager Jaya and Project Officer Teddy) organised a three-day trip for 53 children who attend Sunday school classes at Kande Viharaya temple.

They wanted to see the upcountry, but they are not used to the weather, which is colder than Tissa.

So they all came with jumpers and hats, which was funny as the tourists were all wearing T-shirts and shorts.

Our main stop was Kandy, Sri Lanka's second largest city. We visited many temples including the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, which has the most important relic in Sri Lanka.

The tooth was taken from Lord Buddha’s funeral pyre and came to Sri Lanka in the hair of a princess in the fourth century AD.

After seeing the temples, we visited the nearby Botanical Gardens in Kandy where I (Jaya pictured left) gave an environmental talk to the students.

Final stop was Nuwara Eliya, the tea country capital to see a waterfall before heading back to Tissa.

July: Elephant Conservation

This summer I (Project Manager Jaya) spent one month at Minneriya National Park with Dr Prithiviraj Fernando, one of Sri Lanka’s most famous conservationists.

The Smithsonian Institute from the US sponsored both of us to observe elephant behaviour in the park.

This included analysing the way that elephants communicate with each other using inaudible sounds (to humans anyway).

July: Nadigamwila School IT Lab

The new Principal of Nadigamwila School was very determined to get a computer lab for his students.

As the government had no money to give him, he went out to find some sponsors and we agreed to help.

Commercial Bank, which has a branch in the town, paid for the computers. We then provided five sets of computer desks and chairs to make the lab complete.

June: Library Book Donation

At the end of June, we delivered boxes of books to Andaragasaya, Nadigamwila and Pustollamula School.

All three schools have a library, but they don't have many novels.

So we went to Colombo to buy lots of books, which children at our other libraries like. These include Sinhalese versions of Harry Potter, Enid Blyton and Tintin.

It's almost impossible to find these kind of books outside of Colombo and Kandy.

June: Bundala National Park English Class

This month we started a new English class at Bundala National Park following a request from the Department of Wildlife and Conservation.

Their officers want to improve the English of the wildlife staff and the rangers who take the tourists around the park.

We chose the English teacher from Gangeyaya School to hold the class. He is teaching English to SRI's local team as well.

April: Mulana School Trip

I (Project Manager Jaya) took 60 students from grades five to 12 on a three-day trip around Sri Lanka.

We had a very interesting trip as we went to an aboriginal area of Sri Lanka where the Veddha people live.

These people are descended from Stone Age inhabitants of Sri Lanka. After that, we climbed the big rock at Sigiriya. However, we were chased by a swarm of bees so we had to come down very quickly.

Our final two stops were Kandy and Polunnarawa.

Jan: MCTC Mahasenpura Classes Expand

Student numbers at the MCTC are starting to build up as the computer lab is helping to attract more students to the school.

We have also expanded our classes and are now teaching grade six students at Mahasenpura School in addition to grades seven to 13.

They come to the centre for practical sessions to complement the theoretical classes they do with the government teacher in a normal classroom.