All sorts o’ stuff going on…

August 4, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Where to start, been soooo busy?…ok work first. Pleased to be able to say progress continues. Last month the ladies who go out to work at the paper factory were invited by a VSO colleague to visit her rehabilitation centre down south in Ridiyagama Hambantota District. The visit was an opportunity for the ladies to share their work experience with the residents and staff. I had a small part just set up my laptop and projector to show the photographs I’d put together of the project. Ms PP social worker explained this with the ladies chipping in, then a question and answer session followed. The ladies were brilliant taking it in turns to respond with such confidence and enthusiasm to the questions posed. It was a great afternoon which was finished off with music, singing and a little dancing before tea.
Hambantota is a seven hour drive from Mulleriyawa which meant an over night stay for the party of 18 another experience for some the ladies had never been this far in their lives! We had a great journey down staff and ladies singing along like one big family. This was exactly what they said when I asked for feed back of the trip, from both groups. The staff kindly wrote their thoughts for my report, they too appreciated the opportunity to leave the unit and share the trip with the ladies …tear jerking stuff!
As my friend lives there, I did not travel back with the ladies and was joined by 2 other vols and we took the chance to visit in the area which included Kataragama and Yalla National Park. First Kataragama which is one of the 3 most venerated religious sites in SL (along with Adams Peak and the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy …I didn’t realise this – I’ve done all 3!)according to Rough Guide“ held sacred by Buddhists ,Muslims and Hindus alike-even Christians visit in search of divine assistance” that’ll be me then one can always use a bit of divine assistance! The town is famous for its festival with its varying forms of physical mortification, pilgrims express their devotion to the god Kataragama, ranging from crawling from the river to the Temple, (its a fair ole way!) to acts of self mutilation some pierce their cheeks or tongue with skewers, others walk across burning coals- all believe that god will protect them from pain. We were a day early for the festival I am glad actually reading about it was enough!
Instead we rose at 5am to go to Yala SL most visited wildlife reserve. We hired a jeep and set off in search of the leopard the parks most infamous resident we were disappointed we saw only footprints. We did however ooh! and ahh! over herds of Bambi deer, a wild elephant, water buffalo, crocodiles, and amazing birdlife which included storks, pelicans, egrets, kingfishers many brightly coloured parakeets. Our guide informed us of the devastation caused by the tsunami, despite the human casualties in the area virtually none of the parks wild life perished in the tidal waves.
Nuwara Eliya and Badulla are 2 other places I’ve visited recently, they are in the hill country and a real contrast to the dryness of the south, green and lush. Nuwara Eliya is known as little England it was a fantastic trip we did some walking at Horton Plains. Badulla was a trip with work to a community psychosocial programme launch. The drive was breathtaking, 7 hours east of Colombo climbing through the countryside in the moon light is a memory I’ll treasure. To avoid being accused of being in Judith Chalmers mode, I’ll cease my travel warbling and give you the link to the Rough Guide to Sri Lanka for more info for those of you planning to visit http://www.roughguides.com

Back to work , which finds me being involved with long term strategy proposals for mental health nurse education and curriculum development, I am member of a steering group for mental health community nurse training, supporting colleagues with funding applications for a bridging course for development social workers to convert to psychiatric social workers and facilitating the delivery of training in practical dementia care. Then back at the ranch, supporting the staff at Mulleriyawa develop and deliver training for the support staff. We did the first 2 hour session on Sunday these staff having worked there for many many years and never received any training, were brilliant. Animated , asking questions, doing group work with out hesitation , being proud to tell us what they knew. I was time keeper as usual but they were not bothered,they could have sat there for another 2 hours!!!
Apart from work and seeing the island, in the last weeks I’ve been to a recording studio to help a friend of a friend (an English teacher) produce some audio learning materials for her students .She wanted some different accents to read out various scripts. You know me and my social phobia had to have my arm twisted to get involved…not! It was jolly good fun and a great laugh.
Last Tuesday British Nationals were invited along to the British High Commission. The Colombo volunteers went along to check out where the tax payers money goes! It was terribly nice don’t you know I enjoyed the cucumber sandwich, a scone(or 3… they were small) and a cuppa !We did the tour of the building saw lots of water features and glass ,thanked our hosts and nipped for a beer on the way home!
Needless to say I am really enjoying the variety of work and the involvement the placement offers. At a recent meeting with the volunteers in the mental health programme, and their partner organisations I realised that collectively we are making some very positive big steps in the improving mental health in Sri Lanka and that’s an incredible feeling! And as you’ve read I have no complaints about living in this beautiful country either!

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