Ocean Stars Trip 2010

Reflections on returning from OST trip to Sri Lanka, October 2010

OceanStars :: Wednesday 3rd November 2010 :: This Story


Having now returned back to the UK after our trip to Sri Lanka I am, for a start, FREEZING, and reflecting on all that we have seen and done over the past ten days. I feel so lucky and privileged to have been able to be a part of the charity and to witness the impact Ocean stars has had on so many families. I will cherish all that I experienced out in Sri Lanka, and having seen how the charity can improve people’s lives and having felt the people of Sri Lanka’s warmth and kindness I am inspired to do all that I can to continue helping where I can, and raising money for the charity. I have been so touched by the way the people welcomed us into their lives with such generosity whilst they have so little.

We’ve been home for 3 days now and my head is still so full of faces, sights and sounds from the 10 days we spent in Sri Lanka. Beginning to process it all and settle back into the routine of life here is quite a task!
On Monday morning I found myself searching online for the Tamil “Happy song” which Sudha had introduced us to and which brought back such fond memories, and I began to realise how much of my experience over the trip was captured in that song. As I’ve thought about this it seems a bit of a contradiction as in many ways I met people who live in poverty and have experienced trauma such as I’ve only encountered maybe once before in my life. I remember the second playgroup we visited where I played with a little girl with Downs syndrome who had open sores on her foot which the flies were clustered around. In the same playgroup the children and teachers had nothing but an empty room with a concrete floor full of potholes and a few plastic chairs. In their village there were still large tracts of empty land which served as a reminder of the destruction of the Tsunami and the trauma which so many families had suffered.
A visit to the family of 1 of the playgroup children on our first morning gave an insight into the poverty of some of the people – this family had a concrete shelter of 2 rooms for a family of 7, with nothing in it but a couple of plastic chairs and 2 cooking pots. How the mother managed to send her son to playgroup immaculately turned out in his Ocean Stars uniform is completely beyond me! Meeting some of the Deaf and Dumb families at dinner on Wednesday was very emotional for me, as I saw something of the struggle they have as people who are outcast by their race and their disability. In a similar way it was very moving to meet the 3 young women teaching at a new Ocean Stars playgroup who are part of a community which has been displaced 4 times during the Conflict – I cannot begin to imagine the pain and horror they have experienced.
So why on earth does the “Happy song” feel like a fitting theme for our trip? I guess this is something about the impact of Ocean Stars on so many lives, as well as the resilience of the human spirit in so many people we met. There was so much joy and happiness as old friendships were renewed, and as so many people felt cared for and encouraged by the very fact that somebody had come to see them, I remember the bright colours of the children at Trinco meeting us in the intense sun, and the happiness and transformation to the lives of the 10 families who received their new fishing boats that day. I was also struck that day by the simple but happy way in which the community lives there, with children playing safely and running in and out of each others’ houses.
In the playgroups we visited 1 or 2 of the children cried to start with as they were frightened by our strangeness, but by the end of the mornings it was always lovely to see them laughing and having fun – and to see them later in the day out in the village still wearing their fish hats! When we met the girls who are sponsored at St. Vincents it was a joy to meet such lovely young women who all take such pride in their work, and who have hopes for their future because of the opportunity they have been given to continue their education. At Dilanee’s birthday celebration and again at the Teacher Training morning it was brilliant to see all those young women having fun and to hear
them screeching with laughter, despite the hardships that I’m sure they have all endured. It was also a real joy to see them in their Playgroups and to witness the love and care they give to their children, as it was to visit one of the groups where children and teachers of Hindu, Christian and Moslem faith were able to work and play together happily. And how could I forget the friendship, fun and endless hard work of Ranga, Janaka and Sudha?
So, all the above as well as the happiness amongst us as a team, the sight of elephants, peacocks, herons, processions, fantastic fruit and vegetables, beautiful brightly coloured clothes, and so much more leaves me with really happy memories of my time in Sri Lanka. Thanks so much for taking me Dilanee, and thanks for sharing it with me all you other Ocean Stars!