POONICHIMUNAI NURSERY Wednesday: Helena, Bron & Matt

OceanStars :: Saturday 31st October 2009 :: This Story

Nursery Swinging

Ocean Stars Nursery Games

Sri Lanka Moped Ride

Wednesday: Helena, Bron & Matt

These names are just impossible for us poor Brits who are so unused to learning new languages…so Pooh Corner is what this playgroup has now been ‘christened’. What a relief for Bron and I…there are tables as well as chairs! No need to stick and glue on a sandy track. Led by two lovely Muslim teachers this playgroup of 30 kids is in one reasonably sized room …so out came the glue and streamers, crayons and beanbags and off we went. It became apparent as we worked, that these children have real difficulty choosing for themselves. They were desperate to do things ‘right’ and kept asking which colour to use on their pictures and waiting to be told what to do next. Thulia bravely translated our songs and stories and all went well. The teachers smiled and nodded and laughed along with the rest of us as the children tried to guess what these mad people from England were expecting them to do. The hokey-cokey was a great success…a brilliant song for bringing us all together. It was lovely for the children to see Matt and Ranga joining in with everything. Like in England…men are a rare breed in the playgroup setting.
Prayers started and ended the day then waving their streamers at the end of a really hectic session the kids set off for home on whatever form of transport the family used. Some running, some on the cross bar of their father’s bicycle or balanced on the front and back of their motorbike.

Wednesday evening we set off for Dinner and a meeting with the Organisation for Deaf and Dumb Families which is yet another project supported by Ocean Stars. These families are often outsiders in the communities and have difficulty finding work and communicating with those of us who taking hearing and speaking for granted. Over twenty families were gathered together and translation became ever more complicated…English, Singhalese, Tamil, Sign…but it was all carried out with the best of humour everyone managing to get across their views, their thanks and their requests. Many had travelled for miles but benefited from being together and finding support from each other

Betty, Kate and Danny
Kalkudah is a Methodist Playgroup. The schoolroom was in good condition but apart from a store cupboard there was nothing else there. Danny immediately set to work planning how to put up two shelves, one on each side of the room. Procurement of materials proved interesting. It took 6-8 woodyards before he could find what he wanted. The outside area was quite large and they had a lot of play things but unfortunately the swings were out of order. This was another job for Danny and by the end of the morning all three swings had new seats and the children enjoyed playing on them. We were a little concerned about the lack of toilets.
Kate started with an introductory circle and the children were very responsive. We sang a few songs and ended with Five Little Ducks. We then divided the class into two groups. I took the older group and Kate took the younger one. They coloured and decorated cardboard ducks which were then hung on the wall. The children had a biscuit and drink during their break. After break the children made and decorated crowns, which they were very proud to wear. All this to the accompaniment of hammering in the background as the new shelving was being put in place so we took the children out into the play area. They sang marching songs and played with shakers. This was followed by bean bag games and other physical activities. We went back in for the final songs and circle activities to say “Good Bye” The staff were very pleasant and we were taken to one of the parents houses and had a very enjoyable lunch.

Thursday, we (Heli, Bron and Yasmin) set off to Urani playgroup along with our now vastly experienced support team… Ranga (the driver) who makes an excellent ‘monkey falling off the bed’ and Thulia (our interpreter) who now has ‘Three little ducks’ off pat in Tamil and can quack along with us all. We introduced the playgroup teachers to the idea of linking with PK Preschool in Grayshott. Heli showed the children the photos from PK and they were especially thrilled with the idea of snow (which took some explaining to 3 year olds who never have a day when the temperature drops below 20 degrees Celsius.) The two wonderful teachers there were really enthusiastic at the idea that photos of them and their children would be taken back to the UK to share with PK. It was a delight to have Yasmin with us today. She added a new dimension with her bounciness and her energy, entertaining group after group with bubbles and chases and push after push on the swings in their playground provided and maintained by The Ocean Stars Trust. The lunch club in Urani is sponsored by Ocean Stars which ensures that these children from very poor homes have one hot meal a day. But like all kids, they have their likes and dislikes so all the vegetables and fish were chopped small and hidden in the rice. (Sounds familiar doesn’t it). The lunch provided for us ‘teachers’included crab portions in shells, a serious challenge to those of us not yet adept at eating with our fingers. A lovely morning…and now we have worked in our last playgroup, I think we have nearly got it sussed.

Friday 30th October …..Time to go!
We woke (at 5a.m!) to a heavy shower of rain, badly needed in this part of the world as drought has rendered many of the wells that provide clean drinking water, almost dry. Despite the weather, we headed off to the beach for a sunrise swim which was a bit mad in the circumstances since we are all pretty exhausted. However Joseph served up omelettes and scrambled eggs for breakfast when we returned to Avonlea Inn which set us up well for this our last day in Batti. And what a day it proved to be…
Having spent time in many of the playgroups which Ocean Stars sponsors here in Batti we decided that it might be useful to have a morning with the teachers. Our aim was to try to support them in the difficult and challenging situations that they all work in and to give them some ideas for activities that they might like to try with the children. So we had hired a local community hall for the morning and at 8.00a.m we headed there and began the setting up process. By 9.00 thirty teachers had arrived all dressed in their best saris, much to Sudat’s delight. There was a lot of pointing and giggling going on! We divided into five groups. Each group then moved around the room joining in the different activities that we had prepared for them. They all participated willingly even if they were a little bemused by all that we were doing- jumping around with beanbags on their heads or making things out of junk not to mention all the whooping (led by Dilanee) that was going on around the parachute ,are not activities that they are used to. It was a good session and as the morning concluded we all felt it had been very worthwhile. Lunch was a Sri Lankan take away, rice and curry wrapped in newspaper and then it was time to say goodbye. It was difficult – these people have moved and inspired us so much. It was a wrench to leave.
And then began the long(!) journey back to Colombo. Travelling here is a bit like the whacky races. Cars speed by and overtake on corners, horns constantly blare and cows, buses, lorries compete with the cars for space on the roads. But we bumped along without too many hairy moments or maybe there were lots but we’ve just become more acclimatised to them. Around 10p.m we arrived at the Galadari hotel – bright lights, carpets, hot water…a world away from Batti and yet it’s just the other side of this small island. We were all quiet as we entered and were shown to our rooms and yes we are tired but are minds are still full of the people we have met and worked alongside this week. This is a world far removed from them…the way some people have to live really is a bitter pill to swallow.