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!


Return to Batticaloa

It was with a mixture of emotions that I left Dambulla for Batti.

OceanStars :: Tuesday 2nd November 2010 :: This Story

I had been up most of the night with sickness and diarrhoea and felt quite drained of energy which wasn’t ideal before several hours on a minibus followed by a strenuous schedule at the other end.  It was my first Ocean Stars trip without my sister Dilanee and I felt responsible for my four companions; my dear long-term pal Helen for whom it was her second and long-awaited return to Sri Lanka, her friend Sheila, a keen supporter of Ocean Stars eagerly anticipating the chance to work and play with the children in the nursery schools and my two youthful nieces, Jo and Sarah, who were visiting Sri Lanka for the first time and bursting with enthusiasm for all they were seeing and experiencing.  As it turned out however, I had little to fear as the magic of Batti soon engulfed us and within a day, everyone was talking about “the next time”.  


Travel to Batticaloa Nursery
Ocean Stars visits Batticaloa The major difference since my last visit two years ago was the end of the twenty seven year old ethnic conflict.  We didn’t travel to the far north where the final stand-off between the government forces and the Tamil Tigers had taken place but we were in the Tamil area of Batticaloa.  The atmosphere was significantly lighter as the military checkpoints had all but disappeared, there was no night curfew and for the first time, the people of Batti could talk and plan for their future.  It was delightful to see local fishermen fish again and the lagoons and sea were dotted with little boats.  There were signs of road building and even the foundations of a new bridge to replace the one built by the British.

One of the charms of Batti for me is the total absence of tourism and the lack of technology.  People are genuinely warm and hospitable and can’t do enough to please.  They seem to be able to combine hard work with smiles and laughter showing no outward signs of stress.  Nothing is too much trouble and everything we did was soaked up and appreciated.  Our guest house owner, Joseph, ensured we sampled a range of Sri Lankan cuisine ranging from roti, noodles, locally caught prawns and crab to traditional rice and curry.  The local Ocean Stars team, in particular Ranchan and Ranjini, bent over backwards to make sure all our needs were met and atiently answered all our questions.   

 Our five days in Batti were mainly spent teaching in different nursery schools apart from one day where we facilitated a teachers’ workshop for 12 teachers.  The teachers do a remarkable job with little resources and their love and kindness is apparent when you see the children happy and secure within their environment.  However, the teachers informed us that they are under pressure from parents to teach reading and writing at a very early age resulting in nursery education being formal and structured with little play and creativity.  As we were immune to the pressures the local teachers face, we took the opportunity to cram as many musical and creative activities into our day even introducing painting into the children’s lives for the first time.  Squeals of laughter filled the air as we played parachute games, circle time activities and the all time favourite of blowing and chasing bubbles.

Pre school activities Batticaloa nursery - under the parachute
Parachute games Sri Lanka Pre school story

The teachers’ workshop brought together twelve teachers, one teacher from each school.  This was an opportunity for them to share the challenges and highlights they face and for us to share appropriate activities.  We had an action packed day ranging from making play dough, pretending to be various animals, reflecting on what makes a good teacher, completing team-building / problem solving tasks and learning the Scottish Gay Gordon!  The teachers were incredibly motivated and as the day went on began to see the merits of learning through play and how enjoyment is key to stimulating creativity amongst young children.

Teachers workshop

Our evenings were mainly spent sitting around mosquito coils, sipping ginger beer and discussing our experiences.  One evening we had the chance to meet the local Ocean Stars committee and hear about their work first hand. It was particularly refreshing to hear their ideas on sustainability which ranged from setting up a bakery, to running a small scale fertiliser plant and several cottage industries.  Due to the war these discussions couldn’t have happened earlier and the excitement was clearly apparent as they finally had opportunities to set up income generating activities and not rely solely on aid.  All dressed up

As I reflect on my trip, one of the overwhelming memories is the sense of
camaraderie we shared, not only between the UK group but between all the people we spent our time with.  Ranga, our ever faithful driver, Guna, our translator, Ranchan and Ranjini from the local Ocean Stars team, the teachers and cooks, Joseph from Avonlea guest house and of course Helen, Sheila, Jo and Sarah.  The group from the UK arrived offering different levels of knowledge and skills.  On one journey back to our guest house I was aware of the range of conversations taking place around me. 

Helen and Sheila avidly discussing how carefully the children concentrated on painting their paper plates, Sarah talking animatedly with Guna about the subtleties of the influence of French and German on the English language, Jo writing a children’s story about Armey the turtle and his adventures in the paddy fields, Ranchan describing to me how it is possible to turn rubbish into compost as an income generating project!  It didn’t matter that we were Singhalese, Tamil, Scottish, Welsh or English, Hindu, Buddhist or Christian.  We shared a common purpose and together we worked hard and laughed ourselves senseless at times.

As a new dawn rises on Batti, we leave with a deeper understanding of humanity and a greater generosity of spirit.  Thank you everyone for a truly memorable time.

Beach sun set - Batticaloa

On return...

OceanStars :: Tuesday 2nd November 2010 :: This Story


Pre school games in Sri Lanka
My head is a kaleidoscope of images; the children at Trinco as we walked up the steps between them; the excited faces of the parents as they crowded round the classroom to share in what was happening; the frail figure of Mrs Nadarajah as she watched over her boys and the almost palpable love they feel for her; the laughing faces at the Deaf and Dumb Association as they created signing names for each of us. I shall remember the skill and tirelessness of the drivers, Sudha and the Happy song, Janaka, always smiling as he helped Danny and especially Ranga constantly looking after us. Most of all I feel privileged to have shared in a small part of these people’s lives and humbled by the contrast between their meagre material possessions and the huge joy and generosity they show.

Parachute games Sri Lanka

The final day of playgroups 28th October 2010

OceanStars :: Friday 29th October 2010 :: This Story

Urani – Nursery and lunch project

Our last day working with the children found the four of us at Urani Nursery where both Amali and Kate had visited in 2008 and Helena in 2009. The difference between 2008 and 2010 was marked in that the teachers were much happier and really involved with the children, and the children themselves well disciplined.
They have a lovely nursery with pictures and decorations all around the two rooms that they use. We spent the morning with The Rainbow Fish and his friends, threading, colouring and glueing until the children finished at 12.00pm for lunch.
This Nursery has a lunch project attached to it and the children all eagerly washed their hands and sat patiently on mats while their lunch was served up to them. After a short prayer they tucked into savoury rice with an egg on top. They all seemed fit and well nourished, thanks to the generosity of those people who sponsor this project.
The Team were then invited to have lunch at one of the teacher’s houses where we were served by a ‘Great Grandmother’ with impeccable English. She had been brought up in a Convent from the age of 4 when both her parents died.
It was a lovely morning and a really fitting way to finish – and we did think that if we stayed for another couple of months that we might actually become quite good teachers.

This evening was spent celebrating Dilanee’s birthday (not until December) with a big party for all the Ocean Stars Family – Teachers, Office Staff, Joseph and his family, the drivers and the ‘English Contingent’. Lots of games, singing and dancing, and good food was had by all. All we can look forward to now is the Teacher Training day tomorrow before heading back to Colombo in the afternoon.
Kate, Helena, Amali and Ben

Kalkudah Nursery

Another early start!! The bags under the eyes grow bigger each day.
We were up and away by 7.30am for the long drive out to Kalkudah. On arrival the children greeted us warmly and we again received beautiful garlands of fresh flowers They were a lively bunch - great fun and full of energy. The pre - school itself is small – a room not much bigger than most sitting rooms and today it was filled with 28 children all of whom were seated around the edges in their plastic chairs. It was very humid and stuffy inside so we moved some of the children outside in to the shade and Matt and Georgia entertained them with bubbles, puppets and assorted games. Inside we collaged fish, sang, hopped, jumped and sweated a lot!! Then the rain came and cleared the air somewhat and we all drew sigh of relief.
Early in the day Ranchan abandoned us and went off with Danny, Janeke and Preema the nursey teacher to buy wood etc for repairs to the slide outside and the fence. As there was no-one else around for the rest of the morning who spoke any English, Suzi and I had to become very dramatic and expressive when trying to sort the children. We survived however and the children seemed happy and pleased to be able to go home with their fish, teddies and some sweets.
Another yummy curry lunsh followed and we even managed a swim at the local beach before heading back to Batti and the party!! Packing followed…it’s been a very long day. Off for some rest now….
Maureen, Suzi, Georgia, Matt and Danny

Poonachimanai Nursery

Team C set off with slightly flagging energy this morning with the addition of Dilanee and Rangini, as well as Sudha who was a brilliant interpreter as well as extra teacher all morning. We were greeted with lots of lovely garlands by one of the teachers and her assistant – the other teacher was away at a meeting with the local Minister for the first couple of hours.
There were 45 children at this nursery, in a lovely room which the teachers have kept decorated with displays of the children’s work. Every child had a chair and sat in groups of 4 at round tables so movement was quite restricted. Outside was a small fenced off play area with some play equipment. The children were a little shy at first and 1 particularly was very frightened, but as we sang our hello song and did some circle time activities they gradually relaxed. We had a busy 3 and a half hours with the group, and again they really enjoyed the outdoor play and making their fish hats, as well as listening to Chris, Sudha and their teacher reading the Rainbow Fish story. By the end of the morning they were all smiling and laughing, and went away happily with their teddies.
We shared lunch in Batti with some of the sponsored girls from St. Vincents. They were delightful young women who enjoyed chatting about their schooling and their ambitions, as well as very obligingly helping us with Collingwoods eco questionnaire.
This evening’s celebration was a wonderful affair, but as it’s now 12.30 am and we have another early start tomorrow you’ll have to wait until we can tell you about it in person!
Chris, Kat, Carolyn

the day for alternative blog entries

OceanStars :: Friday 29th October 2010 :: This Story

The Adventures of Kaptain Kate and Team BAM – Eruvil nursery

E ighty children (or thereabouts)
R ainbow fish + associated activities
U nder the fans the scales went flying
V ictorious, Kaptain Kate and Team BAM emerged in one piece – without a tear in sight
I nspiring teachers worked hard, hand in hand with the Team
L eaving with teddies and smiles on faces, a morning of much joy was had by all
Kate, Ben, Amali and Matt

Lone Worker

So they all set off in their teams
To work with kids and feed them dreams.
Whilst I was left to work alone
With help if needed on the phone.

We travelled down a long causeway
With lagoon and paddy either way.
The village is so very small
Upon an island far from all.

In fact it was a lovely day
With only five youngsters to play.
Out came the fish book and the games
With teacher’s help to learn their names.

I went with memories from last year
The littlest girl is still a dear.d
They all chased bubbles round and round,
Laughter and giggles, such a great sound.

The homes there may be made of brick
But one kitchen’s just a pile of sticks.
No bed, no sofa just bare floor
And a mango tree outside the door.


‘Alternative’ entry by Carolyn, Chris and Kat in the style of Abba singing ‘Does Your Mother Know’

It was so hot, we had such fun, visiting karankulan was a day which we’ll never forget, the lovely teachers we met.
The room was small, the cupboards bare, but the smiles on the faces of the children made us feel so aware, of all the teachers that cared.
We danced in the courtyard, Kat made Carolyn work hard, and then we made a rainbow fish hat. We played with the bean bags, we all wore our name tags, and enjoyed circle time when we sat.

Heads and shoulders knees and toes how we love that song, and the children dance, and they sing along.
Lots of teddies and some biscuits and a little drink, what a lovely morning, we all really think!


27th October Maureen Georgia Dilanee Ranga and Suzi – Veluvil Pre School

“Just a short drive into the countryside….”

..Or a marathon drive deep into the countryside, across a causeway and down bumpy tracks!
The village was very poor with the majority of the residents having been deeply affected by the civil war, but the children at the pre-school could not have been better turned out or smilier.
The school was impressive, with lots of stimuli in the classroom for the children and swings and slides outside. They loved the bubbles that Georgia was blowing for them, and Suzi’s choo choo train , which the parents and teachers also joined! Playdough was a new experience for the children and they loved making snakes with it, and scaring the wits out of Maureen.
So a busy morning, but a very enjoyable one.
Visiting the homes was a different matter; to actually witness the conditions in which these people have to live both humbled and moved us all. It feels so unfair.

Nursery Visits - Batticaloa

OceanStars :: Wednesday 27th October 2010 :: This Story

Thirukkovil Visit Featuring Carolyn, Chris, Kat and Danny!

After a fascinating and rather long journey over half made roads we were garlanded with sweet smelling jasmine presented by the children. The nursery itself was located in the grounds of a Methodist church. Danny fitted two fans which really transformed this spacious but extremely hot space to make a more comfortable area for the teachers and the children.

Although initially shy, the children did warm to us and thoroughly enjoyed the games and activities we had planned for them. It was so pleasant to see how happy the children were and what a fantastic job that the two lovely teachers were doing with virtually no equipment. The children were so well behaved and at ease in their company.

The collage was a great success because the children were able to work with materials that they would never normally have the opportunity to use. They also loved the fish hats which they had made and it was so touching to see them later on throughout the day still wearing their hats!

Ranchin and the two teachers kindly introduced us to some of the families of the children, who invited us into their homes. They have very little but were so welcoming, we were humbled by their hospitality.

Driving back we passed the projects which have replaced the devastation of the Tsunami which brought to mind the horror which the communities must have experienced at that time.


Mandoor 2 – Helena and Kate

This was the first time an Ocean Stars Team has visited Mandoor 2 so the poor teachers were unaware of what chaos would be caused. Our bags of supplies took up the vast majority of available floor space in two very small, hot rooms. Luckily only 22 of the 41 children turned up so we were able to carry out a few of our laboriously prepared activities.

Unfortunately the “5 Little Monkey” masks caused so much excitement that the song had to be abandoned after the first verse when 22 children grabbed for one mask. The rest of the morning was more successfully spent threading, colouring, sticking and eating ‘string hoppers’.

Hopefully Ocean Stars will be able to equip this new nursery with many exciting things for the children to do, as at the moment they literally have nothing. No paper, no pens, no storage space and no loo.

One of the teachers kindly escorted us to visit three of the children’s homes where we saw the families living in very poor conditions: families of 10 living in two rooms, and a family living in a mud walled shack on the flood plain of the lagoon. When it rains the waters from the lagoon flood into their house.

This brought home to us how much effort the parents must make to get their small children to the nursery looking beautifully truned out in their new Ocean Stars uniforms. It also showed how essential, for these families, is the support provided by EOST.


Kurumanvely – Maureen, Georgia, Suzi and Dilanee

“A day of puddles and plops”

It all began well, Sudha got us there on time and the children gave us beautiful jasmine garlands. At that point all our best laid plans went out of the window as we were suddenly presented with two groups of children who had to be taught in separate locations due to lack of space. As a result, Dilanee was roped in to teach, ruining her plans for a restful day! Despite the difficulties, our activities went to plan and the children enjoyed the “triangle fish”, collages and singing. After the break Dilanee and Georgia were given the Duplo to play with, and Dilanee found the Playdo that had been lost 3 days earlier – melted all over the Duplo, the floor and Dilanee’s trousers!!! (puddle no.1) Simultaneously, some poor little boy had an accident (plop) and Maureen and Suzi were melting in a puddle of perspiration!

The children went home smiling, armed with a teddy, their fish collage and a triangle fish.

Here’s hoping tomorrow is puddle/plop free!

Maureen, Georgia, Dilanee & Suzi x

25th October 2010 - The Lull Before the Storm

OceanStars :: Tuesday 26th October 2010 :: This Story

Today was the day to ‘rest’ and transfer from Dambulla to Batticaloa. To start the day we split into two, either visiting the fruit and vegetable market or ( for the more cultured amongst us) visiting the Golden Temple at Dambulla.

At the market they apparently saw: mangoes, papaya, mangoes, jack fruit, mangoes, pineapples, mangoes and some more mangoes. Apparently it is the mango season.

For the cultured few we saw statues of Buddha, Buddha and Buddha. However they were truly amazing. Danny and Ben, having committed the faux pas of arriving in shorts had to some how manage to lower their waist sufficiently to allow a slight covering of the knees, thus preserving their dignity and that of Buddha. Passing the fabulous Golden Buddha which glowed in the morning sunlight we climbed higher and higher to reach the caves both natural and manmade. Words cannot describe the wonder of the sight. A picture or two may help. Suffice it to say that it was a beautiful and enlightening. Should you ever make it to Sri Lanka, this is a ‘must see’ site.

Then we started the long journey to Batticaloa broken only for CHIPS at Polonnaruwa.

This year the distance seemed to have shrunk as a huge amount of road construction has taken place and it was possible to travel at twice the speed of previous years. The vans suspension units heaved a great sigh of relief.

Sadly the military presence both here and on the road to Trinco is still in evidence. Road blocks have almost disappeared and we were waved through the ones remaining, but it must be a continuing reminder to the local people that the conflict has only recently ended. Hopefully the rebuilding and reconstruction work will lead to a more stable future.

Arrival at Batti and Joseph’s marked the start of the ‘storm’. Bags are unpacked and repacked, teddies, fish, crayons and gifts are all sorted and counted ready for our first real challenge……playgroups full of wonderful little people.


BTW we have changed our comment settings now so please Comment!

matt loves it.

24th October 2010 - From Trinco to Trunk-oh!

OceanStars :: Sunday 24th October 2010 :: This Story

Great start! Today the team were allowed a lie in until 5.30, when we were all bundled into our buses and off to the little village of Vellaimanal. One of the buses had a wonderful packed lunch prepared by the hotel whereas the others were allowed to enjoy the leftovers!

First impressions of Vellaimanal community: when we arrived, the younger children were lined up in their pink uniforms with tissue paper shakers, and seven of them were each carrying a sign with a letter, spelling ‘WELCOME’. They were all very sweet! We were greeted with handmade shell necklaces; everyone in the community seemed so excited to see us, too. The children performed a dance and sang for us, and then we joined in with them singing the hokey kokey!
All the team were very moved by the presentation of five shiny new fishing boats bearing the ocean stars logo! These boats, along with the nets and lanterns also provided will provide a livelihood for 10 families – this really brought home the power that these gifts have to change lives. The five boats, along with the new vegetable garden (announced open today by Dame Dilanee), were all provided by the money raised by Helen and the Ocean Stars team in Scotland.
After this, sew to the sewing project (please appreciate this pun, it means a lot to Carolyn). We met the women who are involved in the Trinco sewing project. They laid out all their work for us to browse through and purchase. At this point we were given some King coconuts to drink which provided a refreshing break in the HOT room.

We all went to visit some sponsored children in the village. Chris visited her newly sponsored child, having had 2 ‘snatched away’ for various reasons. She enjoyed walking hand – in – hand with her sponsored child who took her to his home down a lane. Although the language barrier was there, we got around it with pictures and songs.
Fish, crab, mussels, prawns, rice, beans, potatoes, popadoms, ladies’ fingers and drumsticks. Nom. Nomnom. Shout out Janabdeen and the fam for hooking us up with the boom ting curry. Respect!

We then made a visit into the jungle where we sat on a pride rock-esque rock and watched the sunset melt over some strolling elephants. Kate exclaimed “Oh it’s got a trunk, and flapping ears”, yes, thanks Kate. We were again treated to another scrumptious meal. On our way out of the area, a guide joined us in the safari truck bearing a massive torch. Yasmin explained that he was on watch in case an elephant charged the jeep. Kat was greatly concerned that perhaps a torch was not a sufficiently large weapon for a charging elephant. However when a mother and baby elephant crossed the road behind us ,the torch was an ample enough deterrent and the pair strode on back through the jungle.! It was lovely to see them so close up.

24th October 2010 - Overnighting at 'Grace'

OceanStars :: Sunday 24th October 2010 :: This Story

Pushing lorry in Sri Lanka

Nursery staff group

After the others had left for Dambulla the 'adventures' at Grace home continued for both Kate and Maureen. We were staying at the home for the night and were looking forward to sharing some quieter moments with both the boys and Mrs Nadarajah. It turned out to be both a fun and very emotional experience for us both.

The evening began with prayers which were led by some of the older boys and it was truly inspiring. There was singing, clapping as well as praying and they all joined together in a very confident and supportive way. Afterwards they continued to want to show the few possessions they call their own, taking our hands, guiding us to their rooms and proudly displaying their new t-shirts, pens, pencils etc. Little things mean so much to them!!

Then it was dinner time and we were treated to another curry feast. Sudha joined us and it was good to talk through together the events of the day. Time was moving on and some of the younger boys fell asleep on the concrete floor of the main common room. We played games, 'talked' together and had a bed-time story which was a bit of a novelty for them. We had adapted the story of 'The Rainbow Fish' and had it translated into Tamil. I read the english and the boys took it in turns to read the Tamil translation. Meanwhile Kate was being beaten hands down at noughts and crosses.

After the younger boys had gone to bed, we moved outside and sat on the veranda talking with Mrs Nadaraja and the older boys. Their devotion to her is obvious - she truly is a mother to them. Equally her concern and love for them is evident. Even at 72 years of age she sleeps in a bed in the boys dormitory to ensure their safety and security. 10 o'clock came and it was bedtime for all of us. After we had chased the mozzies out of our room we finally got some rest and had a good night's sleep.

Early starts have become the norm on Ocean Stars trips but even by recent standards, our start today was exceptionally early. The alarm sounded at 5 a.m and we were up and out by 5.30 a.m to join the boys for morning prayers. Again an inspiring experience with all the boys taking part.

We went back to bed for a bit more sleeping while the boys did all their chores; sweeping the floors and ironing their crisp white shirts ready for their Sunday morning service. We were able to have bread and jam for breakfast but the boys were fasting until lunchtime. It seems so unfair!! We later joined the boys for their Sunday service along with many others from the local village. It was a moving and uplifting experience and Kate particularly enjoyed the drums as she is not used to hearing them in church.

The highlight of the rest of the morning was watching the boys push their truck to try and get it started. Eventually, with the guidance of Sudha they managed to get it going, whereupon they took us for a short ride around the village. Very bumpy and health and safety in our country would have a fit. It was great fun and the boys thoroughly enjoyed their ride in the back.

After another delicious curry it was time to leave. It was very hard to say 'goodbye' to both Mrs Nadarajah and the boys. They carried our bags to the bus and waved and waved until we were out of sight. We are the only visitors they have each year and we look forward, with them, to our return in 2011.

Maureen and Kate

23rd October 2010 "They showed us some Grace"

OceanStars :: Saturday 23rd October 2010 :: This Story

So today we had an early start to Grace Childrens Home in Vavuniya, which is a currently the furthest north that foreigners can travel. What a welcome we received! The boys at the home had been looking forward to having another visit from Ocean Stars, who are their main sponsor. All the boys at the home come from difficult backgrounds - they are either orphans or their parnets cannot look after them. Alternatively child services place some children at the home. There was such a happy vibe, and the boys were so enthusiastic, and happy and well disciplined. This is a testament to Mrs Nadarajah who has become to be seen by all the boys are their "Mother".

Lots of games ensued, starting with the great favourite, and much enjoyed, parachute games! Then we handed out the frisbees and tennis balls and about 20 games started at once with the Sri Lankan team putting the English to shame with their catching skills! After much physical endeavor under the hot sun, the Ocean Stars team started to wilt and we ushered the boys into the study to do a sea-scape collage. Some fantastic artistic skills were shown by the boys in decorating their fish, octopus and whales and the OST team demonstrated their originality with clingfilm!

Whilst the rest of the team sheltered from the sun, the driving team of Ranga, Janaka, and Sudha, overseen by Danny, fixed and renovated the see-saw and swings which now boast a shiny new lick of paint, and new seats. What a great job!
The boys showed their budding photography skills by borrowing several of the team's cameras - so instead of having lots of photos of the boys to show for today, most of the team will have about 300 photos of the OST team, especially of Kat, who several of the older boys took a bit of a shine to! Amongst the boys there were some budding male models, posing for the cameras with great pouts and borrowed OST sunglasses!

The day finished off with some presents being presented to the boys & the staff and a rousing chorus of tunes from the boys, who showed their proficiency in language by singing songs in Tamil, Sinhalese and English.
Just as the OST team were about to bundle into the minibuses home, the drivers instigated the second OST vs Sri Lanka Test Match....thankfully the sun set and bad light stopped play or the OST would have been in for their second thrashing of the day!

What a great day and fantastic hospitality from everyone at Grace, and the OST left with renewed respect and thinking what a great job Mrs Nadarajah and her helpers are doing for all the boys at Grace.
Ben and Suzi xx

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