Round Square service learning trip to Sri Lanka

When signing up to the Sri Lanka service project we never expected the amount of memories we would return home with. Travelling straight from rainy London to humid Colombo, was a definitely shock,and walking into a hotel of 60 unknown faces we were struck with the fear of the unknown. Can our work be of use to the community? What would our accommodation be like? Would we integrate with the other students?  The Sri Lanka project itself revolved around contributing to the development of the community we met in Wasgamuwa. We split into two projects, building a classroom for the local school and planting citrus trees to divert elephants in their migration through the village.

In the Big Build project many of us had little building experience so it was up to the locals to direct us. Our use was to give manpower, through clearing fields, levelling the ground, mixing cement, concrete and plaster and laying bricks. Everyday we returned dripping in sweat but we would see our progress, by the completion of another wall or the ground, finally, being concreted.

Another branch of the service trip was the environmental project. A group of 14 people cleared land, dug holes and planted numerous citrus trees, in the hope of diverting elephant in their migration through Sri Lanka. After various experiments, the community had discovered that citrus repelled elephants hence our use of this fruit in the project. Whilst this extensive physical work, under the strong sun and high humidity, left us drained, we felt satisfaction in our achievement of planting over 200 trees and we were confident of the benefits they would bring to the community.

We had many evening presentations that focused on sustainability and now back in London we are trying to implement what we learnt, whether through recycling or reducing our use of plastic, energy and water. We hope to involve these ideas in Latymer’s sustainability. Although this was a service trip, it also focused on connecting people from different cultures and breaking us out of our bubble of everyday life. We never imagined that as a group of 60 we would become so close and work together to complete this project. Even now we communicate over social media, planning our future reunions.

Our work was a small part of the development of this community, however, we saw its benefit when handing over the new classroom during a ceremony, followed by a cricket match in the cleared field. This brief account does not do justice to the two weeks spent in Sri Lanka. This was an incredible and unique experience and we would encourage anyone to take part in Round Square projects.

Nellie Laycock & Anna-Lucia Strike

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