Boxing Day 2014 to now

Boxing Day 2004 was an unforgettable day. It should have been a day of post-Christmas indulgence and relaxed family time, but I instead woke up to images of devastation and destruction.  A Tsunami had hit the Far East and Sri Lanka, the land of my birth. 

As the hundreds of people killed or missing in Sri Lanka soon rose into the tens of thousands, I felt utterly devastated and lost. Although no relatives or close friends were impacted by the Tsunami, my devastation soon turned into a burning desire to help the people of Sri Lanka in any way I could. It was a calling of some sort, sparked by a winter's evening walk with the stars shining bright in the sky. Ocean Stars was born.

Girls needing help in Sri Lanka

But where do I start? I was a teacher and I didn't have any experience in the charity sector. Nonetheless, the journey began on the evening of Boxing Day 2004...

In early 2005 I started by writing letters to friends, gave presentations to local churches and schools and within the first two weeks we had fundraised £7000 to go towards emergency aid for Tsunami victims in Eastern Sri Lanka. After visiting the affected areas of Sri Lanka several times in 2005-2006, a friend encouraged me to set up a charity and provided some initial contacts for me to work with.

Dilanee helping a Children's Home in Sri Lanka

It was all such a massive learning experience. From making initial contacts, to registering an official charity in the UK, to organising fundraising events and recruiting volunteers. It has been quite an amazing 12 years of my life.

In 2007 I organised the first volunteer trip to Sri Lanka where I had a team of 10 volunteers go out to establish a connection with the community projects that had been setup and to take essential resources to those in need in Eastern Sri Lanka. It was chaotic, but a wonderful, life-changing experience and since then every October has become the OST month, as a new team of volunteers go out to Sri Lanka to work with the Ocean Stars Trust educational projects.

From the wonderful chaos of 2007 to the here and now in 2017, Ocean Stars Trust has gone from strength to strength. Ocean Stars Trust is now:

A pre-school group in Sri Lanka

  • 12 years old
  • Fundraised over £900,000
  • Provided access to pre-school education to over 7,000 children in Sri Lanka
  • Provides employment and training to over 30 pre-school teachers
  • Donated 50 fishing boats for livelihood projects
  • Established multiple UK/Sri Lanka school links such as Calthorpe Park Secondary School who take 20 students and 4 teachers to volunteer for OST every October

I'm sure you would agree that it has been quite journey.

In the last year I have also stopped full-time teaching to focus more on OST as well as recently setting up JAYDD Limited, a travel company that will serve as a business arm to Ocean Stars Trust.

This has been a very privileged experience for me reconnecting with the land of my birth. I have made several memorable friendships and met some truly inspiring people. Spirituality has also played a large part throughout this journey as I have reconnected with my Christian and Buddhist routes.

Although Ocean Stars Trust is 12 years old we still feel young as an organisation and have continued aspirations to improve access and the quality of education to empower young people in Sri Lanka.

Dilanee Fundraising #Bethestep

I hope you find our story an inspiring one and do have a look through our new website for more detail on the projects we work with. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you would like to get involved in any way as we are always looking to introduce new volunteers to OST and the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.

Thank you,
Dilanee Bunter