These two AidCamps were held in conjunction with our partner organisation SERVE in the rural community of Uda Walawe in Sri Lanka. SERVE works primarily in the areas of social work and education for the benefit of underprivileged and deprived children.
These two projects financed a resource centre providing a child friendly environment for the children of the rural community in Uda Walawe, giving them facilities for additional studies, to do their homework, use the library, and play indoor games such as chess and carrom.
The volunteers plastered, painted, decorated and generally finished the building. The first group completed part of the building and the second group completed the rest.
In addition to working on the building the volunteers were also taken to see SERVE’s work for the poor in the area, as well as on several local and regional sightseeing trips.
The following report about the first AidCamp, in July, was written by Sarah, one of the volunteers:
"At the start of July we all left the UK, eleven of us keen to get underway, a more mixed group of people you're less likely to see, from students to retirees with some in between.
There'd been talk prior to leaving, 'What do we bring?', the girly ones amongst us in a terrible spin, but lo, at the airport, what do we spy?, the biggest of suitcases and belonging to a guy!
A treat on arrival, a hotel by the sea, and a boat trip on the lagoon - this is alright with me!, our group now thirteen with Julie and Ruwantha, there to keep us in order but join in the banter.
And so we set off to Uda Walawe, this place would be home for the extent of our stay, what a welcome awaited us as we arrived, the children, so smiley, it brought tears to our eyes.
Straight into routine, the chores and the toil, like sieving the sand or stomping the soil, and all the time under the guiding eye, of Mrs De Silva and Shanta, who could probably cry!
In our three weeks of work we joked, laughed and sang, and during that time the builders joined our gang, there's Chundi and Smiley to name but a few, who laughed at our failings but helped us lots too.
We certainly can't claim it's been all work and no play, and we have definitely enjoyed our weekends away, the first to Kataragama, Tissa and the hot springs, the second to Matara and everything that the coast brings.
Whilst enjoying the luxuries of each hotel, and the free time to shop, sunbathe and chill, coming back to the village was special for us, seeing bright smiling faces greeting the bus.
But of all the events that most captured our hearts, must surely be those where all the children took part, the sports day, the shows and now YMCA, but now it's time to take our leave and call it a day.
We'll miss Karuna's cooking and Charlie the Rooster's crows, but everything must come to an end, that's how the story goes, from those eleven individuals three weeks ago, we're now one big family so it's sad to let go.
A big thank you to Julie and to AidCamps and SERVE, these two organisations have enabled the project to work, a more smoothly run operation we could not ask, l et's hope more volunteers come and rise up to the task."
"It has been a fantastic experience which I would not have missed for the world. The greatest pleasure came from the welcome, greetings and smiles of the children wherever we went."
"A 'gap year' type experience for those with only three weeks to spare"
"Nothing can prepare you for the final ceremony - the looks on the children's faces will be a lasting memory. Thank you AidCamps!"
"A very worthwhile and enjoyable experience. Challenging at times and also full of laughter and new adventures."
"I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Sri Lanka, an amazing country, a lovely group of people to spend 3 weeks with and a brilliant cause!!!"
"Best holiday ever, the true amazing experience of Sri Lanka and their people"
"Combining two cultures, in three weeks, working towards one goal; where language created no barriers and we built something that we can proudly call part ours - there is nothing else quite like it!"
"For a cheap cost you will experience a vast amount, which money can't buy at the end of the day"
"It has been a great experience that cannot be put into words."
"If you want to try voluntary work, this is the best way to find out how satisfying it can be."
"Had a fantastic time! Great to see where all your money and hard work goes to and know you have made a difference"
The following report about the second of the two AidCamps, in August, was written by Reena, one of the volunteers on that project:
"I saw the advert, researched the organisation on the World Wide Web (what a fantastic, appealing and fascinating organisation AidCamps International is) and just had to apply.
I've wanted to work on such an inspiring project for many years - finally that year has arrived. I can do this. I will do this. Will my application get accepted? It has got accepted! Am I excited? I am very excited, overjoyed and proud to be making such a difference to so many people. It just feels so surreal.
We were introduced to the SERVE staff and from then onwards I knew that we were in this together to create a special something for the children who deserve it the most. Arrival into the village was just so overwhelming; the welcome and smiles from the community left me speechless. A lump in my throat and tears of joy and happiness flowing like a river - I knew I had made the right decision.
We didn't need a morning call, Charlie the Cockerel was in charge of that! We set to work at 8am every day - the physical activities of plastering, mixing concrete, sieving sand and painting etc kept us all busy and some of us gained muscles! The singing and dancing amongst some of us motivated one another and ensured the adrenalin rush continued to flow.
But of course we could not have got through the 3 weeks of hard work without the builders watching us or shall I say laughing at us as we applied plaster to the walls but then for it to fall off and for us to start all over again - very amusing! The bond created between us volunteers and the builders was astonishing.
Weekends away enabled us to experience some of the culture in Sri Lanka. But being 'home' was the most valuable time well spent. The delicious food at 'home' and the sensational smell of dhal was an experience never to be forgotten! Sharing a home and life with so many people created an influential bond amongst us all.
Nothing could prepare us for a very tear-jerking opening ceremony. I cannot convey the feelings I felt when the ribbon had finally cut (goose bumps all over, tears of happiness and a secret smile). Did we really make this dream come true? We had completed the centre in 3 weeks! Who could have imagined that we would have completed it in 3 weeks!?
The speeches had left such a lump in my throat, how could something so special mean so much to me (to us)? It is because we made a dream come true. The transformation was breath taking. Standing back and looking at the end result was like sitting on the log and watching the sunset over the mountains.
It was an experience of a lifetime. You have to see it and do it to believe it - experience what I experienced and I promise you - you will never regret it."
"It was certainly an EXPERIENCE!"
"It was exactly what it said on the tin!"
"Such a rewarding experience. I felt so at home with both the volunteers and Sri Lankan community we were in."
"Brilliant! To be part of the village and work with and for the children is an experience not to be missed."
"The experience was exceptional, it's something I cannot describe in words"
"An interesting and valuable experience, one I won't forget - The children were so loving"
"AidCamps is one of the most worthwhile challenges I have undertaken"
"To give the children a great centre, that can make them great, is a great experience."
"This has been the experience of a lifetime. For the first time I feel like I have made a difference to other people's lives and my outlook on life has changed completely."
"Being involved with this inspiring project was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The project exceeded all my expectations and I would recommend it to anyone."
"Mission Africa and Challende Anneka all rolled into one!"
"Best thing I've ever done in my life...so far!"