Bringing Young People Together: Ocean Stars Cultural Exchange Programme

Naomi Booth :: Friday 25th February 2022 :: This Story

Picture: /files/blog/448/w288/ost-xultural-exchange.jpg


Visiting schools and preschools in Sri Lanka can be a life-changing experience. Post tsunami students were learning under trees, in temporary huts, in the mid-day sun and anywhere that learning could place. 18 years on it is 2022 and rural schools still do not have the resources that we take for granted in the UK. Yet the welcome and warmth they show towards anyone who cares to visit them can be very moving. Seeing how thirsty the young people in SL were for friendship and knowing that most of them will never get a chance to travel abroad, the concept of bringing young people together and taking UK to Sri Lanka was born.

Picture: /files/blog/448/w288/ost-1.jpgSecondary Schools

Ocean Stars Trust in its mission statement is committed to, identifying, and overcoming the barriers to equal opportunity for children in Sri Lanka through education and social enrichment, supporting their families and communities, sharing friendship hope and joy.

Through our cultural exchanges programme, we seek to develop links with secondary schools in the UK with secondary schools in Sri Lanka. We focus our programme with communities in the East and Northern Sri Lanka, areas where young Sri Lankan students would never get the opportunity to meet students from other countries.

Secondary School trip to Sri LankaOur first Cultural exchange began in 2013 when we took a group of 15 students and 3 teachers from Calthorpe Park School, Fleet to visit their link schools in Eastern Sri Lanka. Trips took place for 6 consecutive years till the 2019 Easter Sunday Bombings and Covid-19 temporarily suspended our programme. Plans are being made for the Cultural exchanges programme to restart in 2023. Over 125 students from Calthorpe Park school have visited SL and lives have been enriched changed for both sets of students. Avonbourne School in Bournemouth took a group of students out in 2018 and in 2023 the Royal Hospital School in Ipswich are planning to take a group of students out to SL.


 Ocean Stars Trust also promotes cultural links between preschools schools in the UK and preschools in Sri Lanka. OST runs 30 preschools in SL and several of these preschools are linked with preschools and primary schools in the UK. Heatherside Infant School in Fleet has been linked with Ampilanthurai preschool for 15 years. The children in the UK have raised money for a new playground, for uniforms for the school children and regularly exchange drawings from the children. Crookham Junior School raised money for a tap for Pattipalai preschool. The UK students learn that not all children have access to drinking water and play areas and the Sri Lankan students' lives are transformed by these links. School resources are often sent out to Sri Lanka and many students in SL have had hours of fun playing with parachutes.

Picture: /files/blog/448/w288/ost-4.jpgIMPACT

When it is time to leave the tears from both sides tell their own story. For the Sri Lankan students, they have experienced a different style of learning which is more interactive using resources they would normally not have access to. They form unforgettable friendships which the students will always treasure. The UK teachers get to know the SL students and colleagues as they visit each year and share their stories. The smiles and joy on the SL student's faces provides a warm welcome wherever they go. The SL students value everything that is given to them. UK students begin to feel how lucky they are when they see students who don't have shoes for school or are wearing shoes that are falling apart." They have so little but give us so much" is a constant reflection from students who go on our cultural links programmes. 

Schools together on exchangeThe Headteachers of the schools in Sri Lanka talk about how the cultural exchange improves the mental health and wellbeing of Sri Lankan students. Having a boost of feel-good interactions for a week leaves the SL students motivated and eager to continue with their own learning. UK Headteachers also comment on how the students develop their leadership skills and awareness of being global citizens.

For more details of our cultural links programmes or if you would like to from a link with a school in SL, please visit our website: