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Volunteering In Sri Lanka: A Comprehensive Guidebook

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Located in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Southern India, Sri Lanka is a true paradise with picturesque beaches, tropical jungles, enchanting waterfalls, magnificent hills and stretches of tea plantation. The warm people of the island country will greet you with love, and make you feel at home in their land.

In this comprehensive guidebook, we have discussed everything that you need to know about your volunteer trip to Sri Lanka. Take a quick look before you plan your journey.

Why should I volunteer in Sri Lanka?

Now, that’s an interesting question. Volunteering at any Asian country has a charm of its own since their world is drastically different from that of the West. While a tourist only gets to see the country and visit the main attractions, a volunteer gets the chance of living with the locals, getting a taste of the authentic Sinhalese lifestyle, and also make some impact in the developing communities.

The people of Sri Lanka will make sure that your visit to their country is rewarding and memorable.

#Rich culture and heritage:

Being ruled by several European masters for ages, Sri Lanka has a mix of Dutch, Portuguese, and British influence in their culture and lifestyle. The infusion of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity is totally worth experiencing. The mix of cultures is reflected in the art and architecture, cuisines, music, and dances – and every bit of it will delight your senses.

#Landscapes:

The little island is blessed with beautiful landscapes, from lush green mountains to pristine beaches, tropical forests, and cascading waterfalls. You can explore the country during your volunteering journey, at an affordable cost.

#Wildlife encounters:

Whether you join an animal volunteering project or not, you’ll surely have an encounter with the wildlife while in the country. Being in closer proximity with them will help you feel the warmth and you’ll understand that even animals have strong emotions, like humans.

#Self-discovery and personal growth:

The journey to Sri Lanka will surely open your eyes, heart, and mind in new ways and give you an entirely new perspective to view the world. Your experience of integrating into the Sri Lankan community will take you on a journey of self-discovery, increase your self-confidence and foster a greater sense of appreciation for the small things in life.

Overall, the experience of volunteering in Sri Lanka would be an experience of a lifetime, that you’ll cherish forever.

Are there any specifications for volunteering in the Sri Lankan Projects?

There are no specifications – your enthusiasm, open-mindedness, passion and sincerity will be enough for being a part of any of the projects. For the Disabled Care Program, knowing the basics of physiotherapy will act as an added advantage.

However, there are certain prerequisites that one must keep in mind before planning for a volunteering tryst.

– The age of the interested candidate must be at least 18 years while applying for the project.

– Participants must be ready to work hard and be devoted towards the project-work.

– Every volunteer needs to have a positive approach towards the project.

– Since there are programs associated with children, volunteers should not have any past record of criminal activities.

– Interested participants should be of good mental and physical health.

– Participants should be sensitive towards the environment. While dealing with the animals, volunteers need to be patient and careful.

Which projects in Sri Lanka can I be a part of?

volunteer projects in Sri Lanka

We always suggest our volunteers to choose projects that are aligned with their areas of interest. If you love kids and enjoy spending time with them, then you should volunteer for the Teaching Program. Similarly, if you are an animal lover, then being around the elephants or turtles will fascinate you more. Let’s take a quick look at the programs that are available in Sri Lanka:

Teaching Program – Colombo

Participants joining this project will get to work in some underprivileged schools in the outskirts of the capital city, Colombo. These schools mainly provide education to kids of poor families, who can’t afford to go to private schools. With inadequate staff members and poor infrastructural facilities, these schools need some external support. Volunteers can spread the light of education among the kids while helping them to learn through activities.

The main tasks of the volunteers would be to assist teachers in various subjects like English, Maths etc, and also focus on the teacher-student interaction. Activity based learning should be encouraged. Volunteers can also take classes and give vocational training to young adults. This would be a great opportunity to spend quality time with the children and you’ll also get to know about the education system of the country.

Disabled Care Program – Colombo

This program is quite challenging and equally satisfying. Participants will have to spend quality time with people suffering from physical disabilities. These patients were left at the centers by their friends and family, and never visited again. If you are a student of physiotherapy or have any knowledge of physiotherapy, then it would be greatly appreciated if you join this program.

The main task of the volunteers would be to provide assistance to the physically disabled people so that they can smoothly perform their daily chores. Apart from that, you can conduct interactive sessions with them and also try to engage them in various activities so that they can learn something, for example, basic computer skills, or making some handicraft products etc. Volunteers will also help the staff members in cleaning the premises and cooking meals. It’ll be a great opportunity to spend time with people who are a little different from others and to know about their mental state.

Elephant Camp and Community Volunteer Project – Kegalle

If you love animals, then you’ll surely enjoy spending time with these huge friendly mammals. Volunteers joining this project will get to stay at an elephant village in a picturesque small town of Kegalle, which is around 2-3 hrs from the capital city of Colombo. As the name suggests, volunteers will also have to engage themselves in the process of community development.

The main tasks would be to take care of the elephants, clean the shed, feed the animals and also to teach the kids at an orphanage. Volunteers will be guided and supervised by the mahouts, who usually take care of these animals. You’ll also get to grow fruits and vegetables and learn the art of farming.  Spend some time in this quaint town away from the hustle and bustle of the city, with lush greenery all around, and savor the taste of some delicious Sinhalese food.

Turtle Conservation Project – Kosgoda

This program is perfect for the beach lovers who are keen on working with marine animals. Those who will join this program will spend most of their time on the beaches, and the Sri Lankan beaches are absolutely gorgeous! Volunteers will have to look after the turtle eggs and bury them in the sand in order to save the eggs from poachers. You’ll also have to patrol the beaches and occasionally clean them so that there’s no plastic waste or other materials that harm the environment.

The hatcheries have several injured turtles and you need to take utmost care of them, hand feed them, clean their shells, and refill the turtle tanks with seawater. You’ll get ample time to explore the place, know more about the sea turtles and their living from the people working at the conservation center and travel to various other places during the weekends.

How much money will I have to spend to participate in the projects in Sri Lanka?

Volunteering Solutions is famous for providing affordable yet exciting projects and we make sure that the money you spend is utilized in the best possible manner. The minimum cost of the programs in Sri Lanka is $ 525 for 1 week, while for 8 weeks you need to pay $ 1935. In addition to this, you need to pay an application cost of $ 250.

This cost includes your airport pick up, accommodation, food (as mentioned in the project itinerary), orientation and 24/7 in-country guidance. A certain amount of the fees is also given for the project development.

You need to get a travel and medical insurance before traveling abroad to volunteer.

What kind of accommodation facilities can I expect in Sri Lanka?

Volunteering Solutions takes utmost care of the volunteers and aims to provide maximum comfort. However, you should remember that you are on a volunteer trip and shouldn’t expect the luxuries of home.

In Sri Lanka, participants reside at the volunteer house. Clean and tidy rooms are provided on same gender sharing basis. There are bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. Staying there with other volunteers would be an amazing experience. The project sites would be in closer proximity of the accommodation.

Are there any more expenses once I arrive in Sri Lanka?

You’ll have to pay for your traveling and weekend tours during you stay in the country. The excursions are not included in the program, however, our in-country coordinator will assist you in planning and executing your trips.

Apart from that, you’ll have to pay for your daily transport and the meals that aren’t included in the program itinerary. Food in Sri Lanka isn’t very expensive, and you can try the beachside shacks to savor the tastes of seafood cooked in the amazing blend of spices. A decent meal for two, with beer, would come for approx. $ 20 – $ 30.

The official currency of Sri Lanka is LKR (Sri Lankan Rupee).

1 USD = 152 LKR

1 EURO = 165 LKR

1 POUND = 194 LKR

(These numbers are calculated approximately, and may vary. Please check the current conversion rate.)

The Sri Lankan Rule Book: What ‘To Do’ And What ‘Not To Do’

While you are traveling to any foreign country, it comes under normal travel ethics to abide by the cultural norms and ethics of that particular. Unlike the Western countries that are extremely liberal, Sri Lanka is kind of conservative and there are certain things that you must keep in mind while exploring the little island nation. Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts which you must follow, in order to avoid any sort of unnecessary conflicts or trouble.

DOs:

– Show courtesy and respect to the clergymen, no matter to which religious sect they belong to. If a Buddhist Monk boards the bus in which you are traveling, do offer your seat to him – not only will you get blessings, but this gesture will be highly appreciated.

– Try to learn the Sinhalese language. Of course, while volunteering, you’ll get ample scope to interact with the locals and it won’t be a hard task to pick up the basics. Knowing a little bit of the language will help you steer through the difficult times.

– Savor the tastes of the local cuisine, especially rice and curry, which is the staple diet of the people. It’s overloaded with spices, and will definitely leave you craving for more! You can also try your hands at cooking the curry under a local’s supervision.

– Buy a local SIM card, as you’ll need it the most. 3G connection is available almost everywhere, and you can make cheap calls with local SIM card.

– Use the local mode of transport as much as possible, especially the tuk-tuks. These three-wheeler vehicles are found in abundance and they are the cheapest mode of transportation.

– If you are a photographer and want to capture the beautiful landscapes of Sri Lanka along with candid shots of the people, then you should take a train ride through the countryside. It’s definitely going to be one of the best things to try there.

– Do try the tea. Visit the local markets and know about the spices. Show interest in cricket, and if there’s a match during your stay, make sure to watch it. These are the things that are loved by Sinhalese folks, and they’d absolutely love you if they find that you are interested in the matters of national pride.

– Dress properly. The people of the country are conservative, and that’s the reason why you should dress modestly and keep yourself covered properly. Sleeveless clothes and anything above the knee-length wouldn’t be appreciated much.

DON’Ts:

– Don’t tease the elephants if you find them crossing the road. You’ll find elephants in abundance and be sure of the fact that the Sri Lankans consider them to be holy animals. Never try to ride them as well.

– Don’t take photographs of the soldiers or any government building without asking for permission. Sri Lanka had a war-torn past, and although the war is over, the soldiers and the government employees are yet to come out of the trauma.

– Do not move out alone at night. If you have to go anywhere, then tell your teammates and seek permission from your local coordinator.

– Never eat using your left hand.

– Don’t encourage beggars or touts – of course, you’ll come across many, and should know how to dodge them!

– Don’t forget to leave tips after a meal at any restaurant.

– While conversing with a native, don’t take offense if he/she asks you about personal matters, or comments about religious/political matters.

Volunteering in a developing country can lead to culture shock as they are immensely different from that of the Western world in all aspects, starting from their lifestyle to religion, thought process and preferences. Therefore, it’s suggested that you follow the natives while serving in their country.

Things To Do While Volunteering In Sri Lanka

Your trip to Sri Lanka won’t just be for volunteer work, you’ll have ample time and opportunity to explore the country and visit the beautiful places. You’ll have the weekday evenings free to explore the nearby places, and on weekends, you can venture out to some far off place. Wherever you go, seek proper guidance from the country coordinator before leaving.

Here are the things that you shouldn’t miss while in the country:

Kandy

Kandy in Sri lanka

Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka, set atop a plateau and surrounded by beautiful mountains on all sides. The stretches of tea plantation and the rainforests all around will definitely soothe your senses and give you a fresh feeling. The Kandy Lake (Bogambara Lake) located at the heart of the city is popular for strolling. Kandy is famous for the sacred Buddhist sites, including the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa) shrine which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura Sri lanka

The sacred city of Anuradhapura is another UNESCO World Heritage Site that serves as a holy place for the Buddhists. According to a popular belief, the city was established around a cutting from the ‘tree of enlightenment’, the Buddha’s fig tree, brought there in the 3rd century B.C. by Sanghamitra, Buddha’s daughter. The ruins of Anuradhapura is indeed worth visiting.

Sigiriya

Sigiriya rock in sri lanka

Often termed as the “eighth wonder of the world”, Sigiriya is perhaps one of the most iconic rock structures in Sri Lanka. The ancient rock fortress has significant archeological importance and it’s visited by thousands of travelers every year. The fortress complex includes remnants of a ruined palace, surrounded by an extensive network of fortifications, vast gardens, ponds, canals, alleys, and fountains. The palace and fortress complex is recognized as one of the finest examples of ancient urban planning. Considering the uniqueness of Sigiriya, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site in 1982.

Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka

Termed by the Lonely Planet as “Little England”, this picturesque town in Sri Lanka is located in the Central Highlands and have vast stretches of tea plantation and shelters a huge number of migratory birds including blue magpies and bulbuls. Situated at an elevation of 1890 meters above the sea level, it is the highest city in Sri Lanka and lies beneath the tallest peak of the island, Pidurutalagala or Mount Pedro.

Yala National Park

Yala National Park Sri Lanka

This is the most visited national park in Sri Lanka and you’ll definitely enjoy visiting this place. There are 5 blocks and all of them are open for public visit. Also known as the Ruhunu National Park, this place is nothing less than a Jungle Book in real, with monkeys hanging from branches, elephants strolling around, peacocks dancing and displaying their colorful feathers, deer running around and leopards cunningly hiding on the branches of the trees.

Galle

Galle fort Sri Lanka

The seaside town of Galle is situated in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka, around 116 km from Colombo. This old fortified city was founded by the Portuguese colonial masters and still holds onto the old world charm. Nothing can be better than a weekend road trip from Colombo to Galle! After the Portuguese, the Dutch came and captured Galle, and the amalgamation of both the cultures is worth witnessing. Visit the magnificent churches, beautiful mansions, ruins of the old forts and spend some time on the beach – it would just be amazing!

Why should I choose Volunteering Solutions?

With its presence in nearly 25 countries all across the world, Volunteering Solutions has a plethora of projects running in different parts of the continents, engaging hundreds of people each year. In the last one decade, there have been more than 12,000 volunteers who traveled with us in order to make some meaningful difference to the developing world. VolSol understands the importance of ethical and successful volunteering and places the volunteers in projects that would perfectly suit their areas of interest and career choices.

VolSol has a dedicated team working at the HQ, along with efficient in-country coordinators who are assisting the volunteers in the respective locations. Every participant who enrolls is given a Pre-Departure Booklet that contains all detailed information about the destination and chosen project. On the first day, volunteers get an orientation about the program and their role. Our coordinators will make sure that you are safe and secured, taking ample care of everything.

A Certificate of Project Completion will be provided to the volunteers after successfully completing their project for the chosen duration. This will be extremely beneficial for future while focusing on career choices.

VolSol also helps the participants in fund raising activities, to get a medical insurance as well as to plan trips to nearby getaways while on a volunteering journey.

We have been trusted by many and with time, we’ve earned the goodwill of being one of the best international volunteer placement organizations. Once you decide to travel with us, we assure you to provide the best experiences ever.

Experiences shared by past volunteers

“The mornings went in teaching English to the monk, which was a great experience in itself. The afternoons were focused on the children at the orphanage. What a treat that was! I spent time on English education via reading books, working on writing in activity books, singing and playing together…it was really fantastic.” – Sarin Jeghelian. 

 

“The mahouts were so sweet and fun. They were always in good mood and would let us be around elephants as much as possible. It was a pleasure to see that they really cared about elephants and that they liked their job and the volunteers.

The kids at the Pre – school and the girls at the girls home were adorable. The minute we stepped into the room, the kids were all over us to get our attention.” – Anne Ladefoged Pedersen. 

We hope that you’ll have a great time in Sri Lanka, being a VolSol volunteer. For more information, you can directly get in touch with our Program Advisors. Just drop us a mail at [email protected] and our team will get back to you.

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