My project with SCI Sri Lanka is located in Mutur, a rural area in the northeast of the island. The project is meant to be a link language program between English and Tamil. Therefore, the main goal of this project is the teaching of English to Mutur residents.
Originally, my work here consisted of teaching English to some children who were neighbors of the Peace Center building, lessons which took place from 3 to 4pm in the afternoons. However, the number of students dropped considerably during the Ramzan holiday until it reached a point that they stopped coming altogether. My original project plan involved also teaching English to a state school both primary and high school close to Mutur town. I engaged myself doing lessons to grades from 7 to 12 during 4 days but unfortunately, we thought a longer-term project was needed in order to see long-lasting results in the students.
Since SCI projects are dynamic and they have the power of embracing change and adjusting to that particular context and situation of a particular moment of the time, I was allocated to different varieties of groups to basically promote the speaking skills of the students. From the first day of my arrival, I was allocated to carry on English lessons to a group of 12 university students. These students are university students-to-be in January 2017. Since their vast majority of subjects will be carried out in English, they feel the need to improve their skills to be well prepared for university. What I faced at the beginning was shyness; therefore, I knew right from the start that what I needed to work with was exactly getting rid of their shyness. I carried out some activities in which they had to act out a given dialogue, I made them write in pieces of paper actions and questions which they had to ask and perform, and I suggested some games in which not only they had fun but also they had to speak in front of the others. Since I have been teaching them since June and I still am, I can see their impressive progress: there are specially a couple of them who were not able to utter a full sentence in English and they just understood 10 per cent of my speeches, and if you could hear speak right now, they can explain what they did during the weekend, they can explain an anecdote or they can tell even a joke! Their progress has been incredible higher than I could have ever imagined.
Around one month later I started with a professional English course for adults in the evenings. It is mainly a spoken course, and what I try to do is offering different types of resources (visual aids, internet, debates, games, etc) to practice spoken English but also they have the chance to improve their listening skills by watching videos, or even their writing skills when I give them homework.
Apart from formal contexts, I can see myself helping in so many other ways. For instance, I live in the Peace Center with a local volunteer who is working as a Sinhala teacher. We share many moments and spend lots of hours together, so I have also helped her, indirectly, to improve their English too. Besides, the Peace Center project enables volunteers to learn how to cook sri lankan typical dishes. Thanks to the local volunteer, I have learnt to cook not only sri lankan food but also how to cook for my own, so it is very positive because it helps you to learn to make your own food once you come back to your country.
Peace center project is established in a wonderful place, and I felt part of the village right away. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be surrounded by local people all the time, and so I had the chance to learn some Tamil and I felt part of Mutur since I took part in daily activities such as riding my bicycle, going to do the shopping, being invited by my students to have lunch and dinner together with their families, taking part in celebrations, etc.
Finally, I would like to highlight the fact that the Peace Center project is not only important to help their people to improve their English speaking skills but it is immensely positive to act as role models in a neutral position (because we are foreign volunteers) someone whose perspective is new, fresh and open. In other words, Mutur and the Peace Center project need more people who are willing to work as peace ambassadors, because, even if we don’t realize it, we represent the peace among people that one day had to endure a terrible civil war.
Story written by Judit Godall, volunteer in Peace Center in Mutur, Sri Lanka, June 2016.
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