December: Kithulkote Library Renovation

Kithulkote School lies on the main road from Thananmalwila to Wellawaya and is a school for all the children who live in the surrounding villages. Many of them have a long way to travel to come to school every day.

The school is slightly outside of our normal operating area, but it was recommended to us by the Zonal Director of Education in Wellawaya, a largish town at the beginning of the tea country.

Kithulkote's old library had very few facilities. There were no reading tables and the books were all very old.

It is thanks to HSBC, which paid for the renovation and provided the funds to buy a lot of new books as part of a series of library renovations this year.

We decorated the library around a sea theme with a big mural showing lots of fish and some paintings. We thought that was quite apt given the school is a long way from the sea.

The chief guest at the opening ceremony was Mr Duminda Kalasuriyaarachchi, HSBC’s software delivery manager. He cut the ribbon, whilst Corporate Sustainability Manager, Mrs Dilini Fernando gave a speech.

Since the library has been opened, the principal Mrs Coore has done a great job ensuring that it is well used.

All the children are allowed to borrow three books to take home and unusually they are also allowed to come into the library during their breaks or free time if it is not being used for other classes.

November: PowerPoint Competition

Congratulations to Madeesha Chathurangi who won our Microsoft PowerPoint competition this October.

Her presentation was chosen because it was extremely well structured and featured strong content. This covered the impact of oxygen on fire.

Mr Kithsiri, Zonal Director for IT, presented Madeesha with a USB pen drive and some IT books at a special ceremony at the Mahasenpura Community Training Centre (MCTC).

October: Teachers' Internet Training

We organised a two-day web training course for government teachers in association with the Ministry of Education, SLIIT, a major training institute in Matara (three hours away by bus) and the University of Moratuwa in Colombo.

We've also registered the schools into a special programme providing free domain names and hosting run by the University of Moratuwa.

August: SRI's Superman

It is called the Tough Mudder for a reason and Hong Kong's Tim Cuffe put in a heroic performance to raise US$6,000 for SRI.

A big thank you to all his friends, family and colleagues who donated US$3,000 and to his employer, Barclays, which made a matching contribution.

The 12 mile challenge took place just outside of Edinburgh and was designed by Britain’s Special Forces to test participants strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie.

Some of the challenges included: an arctic enema (swimming through a tank of ice), walking the plank (dropping 15 feet into a tank of freezing water) and electroshock therapy (sprinting through a field of wires carrying up to 10,000 volts of electricity).

Tim and his wife Brandy visited Sri Lanka on their honeymoon in 2012 and fell in love with the country and its people.

August: Kirinda Muslim School Trip

The principal, Mr Alammuden, had been requesting a trip for some time.

We thought it would be interesting to visit the Tea Country, as it is much greener than hot and sandy Kirinda where school is located.

This village was heavily devastated by the 2004 Tsunami and the school itself was rebuilt by Save The Children.

On our way north, we stopped to see the waterfalls at Ella before arriving at the Haggala botanical gardens where we had a picnic lunch. The students loved running across the grass in their bare feet and looking at the different types of flowers.

Later in the afternoon, we visited a tea plantation before stopping for the night at a Muslim school near Kandy.

On the second day we looked around Kandy and walked around the lake.

In the afternoon, we visited Pinewala elephant orphanage where there are hundreds of elephants roaming around.

We spent some time down by the river where the elephants drink and many of the children played by the water’s edge. There was lots of singing on the bus back.

July: Beralihela IT Presentation

MCTC Manager Tharindu and teacher Sammani led an IT awareness presentation.

This is a very rural school and most of the students' parents will not have any interaction with computers in their day-to-day lives.

We explained the importance of learning IT if students want access to jobs at many of the new infrastructure projects in the area such as the harbour at Hambantota and the recently opened international airport.

July: Uduwila IT Presentation

This was a well attended presentation with around 75 students participating including the IT teacher and principal.

Some of the students already come to the centre for their after-school classes and the school also has its own IT lab that SRI built in 2007.

July: Weligatha IT Presentation

This presentation was held by MCTC teachers Nuwan and Sammani.

They both attended the school when they were younger so were very happy to be back to spread the word about the importance of learning IT.

They were aided by the principal and IT teacher.

A total of 45 students attended the presentation and 10 signed up for courses at the MCTC at the end of it.

July: Mahasenpura IT Presentation

This presentation was completed by MCTC manager Tharindu and his deputy Nuwan.

Around 100 students and two teachers attended.

This was one of our key presentations since the centre is located inside the school and it's good if they understand how to make the most of it during and after school hours.

July: Tissapura IT Presentation

Nuwan and Tharindu completed this presentation with the help of the IT teacher and principal.

Around 35 students and two teachers attended.

While we were at the school we also donated a new computer to replace one with a damaged motherboard.

But we put the latter computer to good use by taking it back to the MCTC to take apart during our hardware course.

July: Alice and Chloe Blog

We spent 10 days in Sri Lanka this summer, and travelled to Tissa to visit a couple of schools. We managed to find the right bus the first time, and spent a happy two hours sweating out our bottled water whilst listening to Sri Lankan National music and whizzing along the recently developed road.

On arrival at the school, it obvious how few tourists the children encounter. On meeting the Principal we had a moment of mutual panic, as it became clear that he didn't speak English, but we were thankfully immediatley introduced to the English Teacher, who took us to our first class.

After handing over our cameras, we were asked to take the class, which comprised of twelve 11 year olds. Slightly plunged into the deep end, we introduced ourselves and set about playing vocabulary and memory games (Grandma went to market), heads knees shoulders and toes, and masses of Pictionary.

By the end of the class we had mastered writing on the blackboards without snapping the chalk every time, and the children were a lot more confident – a very rewarding start.

We then moved on to the next class, (we were told that every class wanted a “go” with the English girls), where we played the same games, with a lot more singing.

One more class before break, and thank God, as I was starting to go hoarse, and get hand cramp, while still feeling like the star attraction at the zoo.

Break comprised of “spice hoppers”, a dish of sticky noodles with dahl, which came as a total shock as I had at least thought that Jaya had said “space hopper”, and I had assumed we would be bouncing around with the children on giant bouncy balls. I could not have been more wrong.

Instead, we were constantly plied with little bunches of wild flowers from the girls, who were talented at everything from braiding hair to origami. By the end of the break we could barely hold our heads up from the amount of flowers plaited into our hair, and writing on the board became impossible as we were holding enormous bunches.

We decided to take the lessons outside, and introduced Grandma’s Footsteps, What’s the Time Mr Wolf, and Splat to the school. We were followed by at least 50% of all the classes, who gave us more flowers, and braided the rest of our hair.

By the end of the day, we were unable to leave, firstly because the children were so sweet, grateful, and happy and secondly because they still had fistfuls of our hair, and neither of us particularly wanted to have such a radical hairstyle as a bald head.

By the time we had to leave we had to be dragged away, as the children were all so positive, with such a different attitude to learning and school than's described in the stereo-typical English school.

Our trip was perfectly organised and Jaya and his right hand man (AKA Mr Teddy!). They looked after us, and were so friendly taking us in safari, and helping us to negotiate the language barrier with ease.

We definitely laughed more in our two days in Sri Lankan schools than I probably did in a year at school in England. We'd definitely recommend visiting one of the schools if you have the chance.

June: Gangeyaya IT Parts Donation

This spring and summer, we have been conducting a series of presentations to raise awareness about the MCTC among schools in the district.

We received an enthusiastic response at Gangeyaya School from the 32 students who participated.

In addition to the presentation we also donated some new IT parts to the school including four keyboards, six CMOS batteries and one mouse.

June: Department of Education Donation

The Zonal Department of Education in Hambantota is an incredibly busy office serving 100 schools across Southern Province.

There are five different offices with 16 admin staff and a Zonal Director who currently share just one computer between them.

We have now given them two more re-cycled computers as we are upgrading our computers at the MCTCs.

May: Osuwina IT Presentation and Donation.

We launched an IT awareness programme with schools in the district, working alongside the Department of Education.

At Osuwinna School we spoke to about 70 students in grades 6 to 11. Some of the students already knew about the centre as we've worked at the school for many years.

Nuwan fixes the computers at this school and we also donated two mother boards and two power units to get them working again.

April: Uduwila School Trip

We (Project Manager Jaya and Project Officer Teddy) took 50 students from grade 9 t0 11 on a two-day tour with their teachers and some of the parents.

In order to see as much as possible, we left at 4:00AM and our first stop was Ella to see the waterfalls. This town is on the edge of the highlands where the temperature is much cooler.

From there we went to Haggala Botanical Gardens, which interested the children because many of them had not seen the flowers that grow there as Tissa has a much drier climate.

In the afternoon we also visited Abewela livestock farm and again the children were fascinated because many of them had not seen a dairy cow before.

Overnight we stayed at Ampitiya temple near Kandy.

On the second day we saw lots more temples in the morning including Kandy’s sacred temple, which holds the tooth of Lord Buddha.

In the afternoon we visited Pinewala Elephant Orphanage.

There are many elephants here and the visitors are allowed to go right up to them and touch their hides.

The children said that this was their favourite experience of the whole trip.

We arrived home just before midnight, tired but very happy.

March: Kiula Library Renovation

This school is inland from Galle on the road to Hambantota. It is over 100 years old and in need of a lot of repair. It was recommended to us by Mr Piyasena, the Zonal Director of Education in Hambantota.

HSBC generously paid to completely re-furbish the library as one of a series of library projects it sponsored this year. It seemed a fitting project to mark the school's centenary.

The work included putting in new glass windows, a door, wiring as well as re-plastering, painting and re-decorating the entire room. This included a jungle mural that was shipped over from the UK.

The Bank also bought a lot of new books, which we transported from Colombo.

Whenever we do a library project, we also try to buy open bookshelves so it is easier for the children to peruse the books. Traditionally, Sri Lanka schools tend to keep books in closed cupboards. It's partly to protect them from the elements and partly to keep them secure.

One of the great advantages of sealing a library properly is being able to great a more enjoyable and accessible reading experience for the children. The opening ceremony was attended by Nick Nickolau, HSBC's Sri Lanka-based CEO.

February: HSBC Book Sale

In a selling effort that would have made The Apprentice’s Lord Sugar proud, a group of “barrow barkers” shifted 50 boxes of books for SRI one lunchtime outside the bank’s canteen in Canary Wharf.

Stiff competition to bag the title of best salesman meant that every single book was sold raising £1,200.

The high quality books were donated by children’s publisher, Walker Books.

Once again, a big thanks to Fiona Macdonald for the organising the donation and to Sanjoy Biswas (project management), Barry Childe (IT), Desiree Clark-Noble (marketing) and Russell Seddon (photographer and crowd booster) for giving up part of their working day to raise funds for us.

February: Uda Matala Library Renovation

This school is by the new Southern Airport but it has not benefited from the connection and needs a lot of repairs.

However, it has a very dynamic Principal and he was a great help to us throughout an HSBC-funded library renovation project - one of a series that the bank sponsored this year.

The principal really came into his own when we had to put up a big jungle mural in the library, which covered one wall and was a tricky task.

Unfortunately the mural only arrived late in the evening after being held up in customs.

It meant that SRI Project Manager Jaya and Project Officer, Teddy, didn't get any sleep before they went out to meet our guests from HSBC the following morning.

But we were very happy because the libraries looked great and everyone enjoyed the speeches, the singing and dancing.

Pictured is how the library looked like before and after.

The after shot is taken late one night ahead of O-level exams when the school opened all night so that students could study in peace.

February: Usbim School Library Renovation

Usbim School is close to Uda Walawe National Park and it was the Park Warden who recommended Usbim School as well as the Zonal Director of Education in Wellawaya.

They both said that the school needed a lot of help.

It was opened in 1983 as part of the Uda Walawe irrigation project and most of the families had come to the village from other parts of Sri Lanka.

The area is very poor because the land can only be cultivated during the rainy season.

Usbim already had a library but it needed lots of repairs and new books all of which were paid for by HSBC.

The bank also paid for the creation of a partition to the side of the main library room. This meant that the school could set up a special counselling room for students that need help.

This school has a greater need than most because of the arid surroundings. The relative poverty means that many of the mothers have gone to work abroad as maids, leading to a large number of social problems.

Pictured is an outdoor classroom at the school with children reading some of the books supplied by HSBC.