At ASIJ, we have a student Habitat for Humanity group and they have been fundraising throughout the school year to support the cause of building homes for communities in need. In November, 21 students in grades 10-12 were able to travel to Sri Lanka and experience first-hand the difference that these building projects make. We left for Sri Lanka on November 20th, flying from Narita to Incheon, Korea and finally landing in Colombo, Sri Lanka at around 4am. We got to our hotel, checked in, and we all went for a swim in the Indian Ocean as the sun came up.
The first day we spent sight seeing around the hotel. Some of the highlights were an old cemetery, Negombo city center and the amazing beach! But on the second day we (literally) started to dig in to our main purpose of the service trip. We headed to the work site and were greeted by the villagers with a large ceremony. There were speeches, dances, and a candle lighting ceremony that made us feel truly welcome. We split into several groups and began work on building different houses in order to help as many families as possible. In total we worked on building homes for nine families.
Day-to-day the work consisted of carrying bricks, sifting sand, making cement, shovelling rocks, moving piles of dirt. It was hot and hard work but the students all found time to play with the children of the village and many close bonds were formed.
After two days of sweat and dirt we took a bus up towards the town of Kandy located in central Sri Lanka. The long bus ride was rather fun as we stopped several times at a spice farm, a Buddhist temple, a tea factory and on the way home the students sang their lungs out for 3 straight hours!
Night time activities included a presentation by four women from diverse backgrounds who graduated from the Asian University for Women. They spoke to us about the conflict in Sri Lanka between the government and the Tamil Tigers. We were so impressed by their strength and dedication to opening up educational opportunities for women as a way to promote peace and stability.
Other night activities included delicious local dinners, playing in the ocean, shopping, and swimming pool time. After this brief rest, we spent two more days building foundations for the homes in the village.
Another highlight of the trip was visiting an all girls orphanage. We brought seven huge bags loaded with clothes, toys, and games. The students spent the early evening with the children teaching them how to do origami, playing ball games, and singing and dancing.
On the last day of work we had a closing ceremony where we presented house warming presents to the nine village families and they presented us with smiles, their utmost appreciation, local snacks and a dance party. It was hard to leave. Before we knew it, both us and the villagers were breaking out in tears. But though we had to say goodbye we made sure to exchange contact information and will be able to keep in touch and get updates from the families we met. (Brendan Madden and Sandy Blodgett, Habitat for Humanity advisors)