The world-class beaches, coral reefs and rolling hills carpeted with tea plantations, not to mention the roaming elephants and the delicately spiced food, all combine to make Sri Lanka the perfect destination for travellers – and volunteers.
Set in the Indian Ocean in South Asia, the tropical island nation of Sri Lanka (previously Ceylon) has a history dating back to the birth of time. Few places in the world can offer the traveller such a remarkable combination of stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, captivating cultural heritage and unique experiences within such a compact location.
Within 65,000 square kilometres lie 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 1,300 kilometres of idyllic coastline, 15 national parks, 250 acres of botanical gardens, 350 waterfalls and a culture that extends back over 2,500 years.
Before the tsunami hit Sri Lanka’s coasts in December 2004, about 5 million people or 25 per cent of the population were living below the poverty line of US$12 per person monthly. Another 3 million people eked out a living on the equivalent of US$15 per person monthly. In a few terrifying minutes, the tsunami took its toll, killing more than 38,000 people and changing the lives of many more by wiping out their livelihoods.
Yet Sri Lanka now has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Primary school enrolment is 95% (2009) thanks to free provision by the state, resulting in a literacy rate of 90% (2008) in people over the age of 15, one of the highest in Asia. The health care system is also good but there remains a high level of prejudice against disability and that is where our projects focus.
Our projects are in the area of Galle, an 18th century Dutch walled fortress town which is a World Heritage site. Galle is understated, stylish and emerging as a chic destination due to its colonial architecture, tropical gardens and proximity to the long sandy beaches, coral reefs and mangrove lagoons of the south coast.
We have volunteer opportunities in Sri Lanka to teach English in a school, as well as supporting a special needs project working with both children and adults.
You will stay in comfortable guest accommodation with a local host family and be welcomed by the friendly local community.
Sri Lanka is a destination to fascinate everyone, with projects suitable for gap year students, graduates and professionals wanting to volunteer or take a career break to use your teaching or special needs experience to help a project in need of support.
Mr P has a degree from Colombo University in Tourist Management and is a qualified guide registered with the Sri Lanka Tourist Board. He coordinated a tsunami relief project. He joined us in 2006 once the tsunami problems had dissipated. He lives in Galle with his wife and two children, close to our project base and takes an active role in supporting the Sri Lanka projects. His wife cooks the best curries in Galle!
It is not easy to say goodbye. I would love to come back to Sri Lanka and visit the project, so I feel that although my last day was very sad, I will be able to see these people againDisabled peoples project in Sri Lanka
From enormous dagobas (dome-shaped structures) and remains of ancient buildings in the ruined cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, to the awesome stairway to the temple at Dambulla and the sensual frescoes of heavenly maidens at the palace at the rock of Sigiriya, volunteers can experience these World Heritage Sites within a compact area called the Cultural Triangle.
Visit the central highlands that are carpeted with lush green tea gardens and roaring waterfalls mingling with the clouds and verdant landscape.
Dolphins, humpback and blue whales all inhabit or visit the southern, eastern or west coast of Sri Lanka. The ideal locations for whale watching would be Dondra Point (accessible from Galle, Hikkaduwa and Mirissa) and Trincomalee, while the sea off Kalpitiya has an abundance of dolphins.
One of the world’s oldest forms of healing, Ayurveda — derived from the Sanskrit words for life (ayuh) and knowledge or science (veda) — originated in India more than 3,000 years ago and soon spread to Sri Lanka, where Sinhalese kings established Ayurveda treatment centres in the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.