As an old Rotaract member I have had many opportunities to involve myself in all sorts of projects but despite many years and many projects, the Gampola project was a project that filled me up with so much contentment. Thanks to one of our former presidents and one of the oldest members of the club Rtr. Dilanka Kumarasinghe, we got the opportunity to volunteer to teach at “Revatha Vidyalaya” in Gampola.
Rtr. Dilanka was the first to volunteer there by himself when he was later joined by Rtr. Isuru Udukula and myself. Our initial goal was to teach English to the grade 5 class which consisted of 6 students, to help prepare and build them up for the scholarship exam. Rtr. Dilanka also was thoughtful enough to involve the children who have been unable to attend a school by initiating a community English class for them to take part in. The children were loved dearly by “Dilanka sir” and he was adored by the children.
As each day passed, Rtr. Dilanka felt closer to the children and felt a bigger responsibility for them that he needed more assistance to make a more effective effort. After a week of solus attempts, he was joined in by Rtr. Isuru where both of them together made an even bigger effort on the children’s overall improvement. The children were more excited than usual to get to school because their favorite subject had become English and their enthusiasm fed both the sirs to thrive to give more to the children. I myself joined in on the last 2 weeks of the project. A few days after my visit the pandemic state of the country increased. Therefore, schools had to be closed for the safety of the children and the communities. With some alterations, we were able to conduct lessons at a child’s house. Though our plan was to teach them English, at the start of the last two weeks we also looked into other subjective knowledge and started doing past papers to hone their overall knowledge on every subject.
We used different methods and teaching opportunities to help children grasp the foundation fruitfully. A cricket match was used as an opportunity to teach the kids to count in English, stones, and flowers were used to help them learn comprehensive mathematics, and even forbade the basic words “ ඔව්” and “නෑ” to get the children to learn to respond in English itself.
Despite our experience being splendid, there were disruptions and tough situations we had to face as their teachers. Nearing the last weeks with the new implementations, private tutoring had to be stopped therefore, the children had to work on papers on their own. We managed to have a chat with the parents to arrange for them to guide and check on their papers and each of their progress.
While all that being said the three of us did take a few hours of two weekend days to explore the village and the bountiful greenery. Living in the urban area for all our lives and getting the opportunity to live and to see all that nature was mesmerizing and consuming that we didn’t want to leave that place behind. Our journey throughout was challenged by ups and downs, leeches, heavy rainfall, and the wilderness but the three of us were too taken by the children’s potential and enthusiasm to learn that none of that would stop us from teaching the kids.
As days passed by and the exams closing in on us, we were all under pressure but with help of each other, we managed to achieve the most. We prepared them the best we could with the little time we had with them and set them off for their exams. We stayed long enough to bid our farewells to the children and their parents who so dearly loved and gifted us with things they best could. On the final day with heavy hearts, the three of us departed Gampola and headed back towards Colombo in what was a first-class train ride that was also my first experience in such.
The three of us learned many things during our stay with these children. Learned to help each other and to work together. Learned to share responsibilities like laundry duties and taking care of each other. Most of all, we learned that every child is capable, it’s just that as adults we need to understand that each child has different capacities and to be able to cater to each child’s needs individually.
Rtr. Dinali Rodrigo