Posted by: horizonlankafoundationlk | August 26, 2010

AN ENGLISH CAMP FOR THAKSHILA STUDENTS AT HORIZON LANKA

Jamelia Harris with Thakshila students

Jamelia Harris – Trinidad and Tobago

On August 5th 2010 we, the volunteers at the Horizon Lanka Foundation, in conjunction with the English teachers of the Thakshila school, Mahavilachchiya hosted an English camp for the students of the school. At 9.00am, a delegation of 46 students from grades seven and eight eagerly entered the gates of Horizon Lanka in anticipation of the day ahead.

The theme that selected for the day was World Culture. A topic that is interesting, educational and relevant to all ages. The students were welcomed with a song and dance, thereby lightening the atmosphere. We then conducted two sessions focusing on the seven continents and the culture specific to each area. This was primarily visual presentations using images and Basic English words to paint a picture of world culture. In order to maintain the ‘English’ element of the teachings, an interactive grammatical session on tenses was done. Here the student were invited to construct sentences using the present, simple past, present progressive and future tense.

The afternoon session comprised four challenges. These challenges were based on what was previously taught and were designed to test the students’ ability to speak, listen, read and write the English language. Points were allocated for each task. All teams performed well in this area with the lowest score being 76/120. This is clear evidence of their level of understanding. At the end of the day, a winning team was selected and a prize given to reward their efforts.

Based on the feedback received from both staff and students, it can be concluded that the day was a success. With regards to our objects of the days as measured delivery of the sessions, student interaction and performance during the challenges, these were all accomplished. It must be noted however, had there not been time constraints, the results could have been even better.

For the full report, visit http://www.horizonlanka.org/news/2010/englishcamp_thakshila/index.html

Posted by: horizonlankafoundationlk | August 20, 2010

MY EXPERIENCES IN HORIZON LANKA, MAHAVILACHCHIYA – THALIA FOTAKI

Thalia in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka

(Thalia Fotaki, Greece : January 3, 2010)

A few months ago I wouldn’t dare to imagine me being in Sri Lanka. I wanted to go somewhere totally different and experience a humble life with plain people who are happy with small everyday things. So when I arrived in Mahavilachchiya the first thing I thought was, “Yes, this is exactly what I wanted.” Another tempting thing about Sri Lanka was the tea!!! I love tea.

During my stay I met some interesting people. Marijn was one of them. She was another volunteer from the Netherlands who was also in Mahavilachchiya the same period as me. We stayed at the same house. We made a lot of trips. We also taught together.

I stayed at a hospitable family. I was really touched by their generosity. They were very compassionate and warm-hearted. They were also great cooks which is very good when you live in a village that has just the essential things. Sometimes the food was too spicy but fortunately it was still eatable. The funny thing is that generally I don’t eat much salt and spices but strangely I enjoyed it.

I’m also happy that my host family was a traditional Sri Lankan one with principles and morals. That fact helped me to get closer to the cultural understanding I was seeking. What captured my attention was the fact that people believe in stars and sometimes they let them determine their life. Another funny thing is that some people told me that I look like a Sri Lankan girl. Some others told me that I look like Cleopatra because of my short hair.

Every morning I woke up by the singing of the birds, it was amazing and exotic. We had breakfast by the sound of their traditional Sinhalese music.

It was so cheerful so it was a really good start of the day. After breakfast we went to Horizon Lanka where small kids were having a class. In their breaks we were playing. I will never forget them calling us teacher. It was such a sweet and innocent sound.

A lot of times I was considering about the similarities between Greece and Sri Lanka and I found many. In villages we also greet everyone and we also have a lot of sun (I didn’t expect it to be so sunny in Sri Lanka because it was the rainy season and that’s why the first days I had sunburns.) Greece has also mountains and beaches. And of course another similarity is that people in Sri Lanka love taking pictures. I love taking pictures and capturing every moment. :))

As for people, at first they stared at me but the funny thing is that they smiled immediately after I smiled. It was such an honest smile and every time it was the same. I loved it. The people didn’t speak English; they just knew a few English words so they were very proud of themselves when they had the chance to use them. Such words were ‘where going?’, ‘Where from?’ or just a ‘hi’.

Based on my little experience as a teacher I can say that it’s very difficult to teach a language when you don’t speak the native language of the students. Indeed it’s challenging but simultaneously there is uncertainty about the result. Also their alphabet has nothing to do with the Latin alphabet so children had many difficulties in English. However heir thirst for knowledge overcame all the difficulties. I loved it when the students called me Thalia teacher. There was also a bird whose singing was the word teacher. For a long time Marijn and I thought that it was in our imagination. It was so funny when we discussed about that and we figured out that it actually sings the word teacher.

The students were really cute and beautiful. Girls picked flowers for us and boys, fruits. Too bad the fruits were not ripe enough that season. After some time of teaching they always wanted to play so they said teacher play.🙂

Although there were a lot of computers most of them were broken so me and Marijn focused on teaching English.

Horizon Lanka is a place with great potentials, the building is very beautiful and colorful and the most important thing is that there are students willing to learn. I’m glad that while I was there some important steps were made for its developing. More and more people were coming to check Horizon Lanka and donors were found to repair the damaged computers. I’m so glad that I took part in such a great venture.
It’s been almost one week since I left Sri Lanka and I already miss it. I hope that one day I will visit Sri Lanka again and see the evolution.

Read the story with more images at http://www.horizonlanka.net/volunteer/thalia/index.html

Miss Thalia Fotaki, an AIESEC intern from Greece worked at Horizon Lanka, Mahavilachchiya from November 2009 to December 2009.)

Posted by: horizonlankafoundationlk | February 2, 2010

UDAYA KARUNARATNE FROM THE USA SENDS PCS TO HORIZON LANKA

Mr Udaya Karunaratne from the USA sent two good-quality used PCs and three LCD monitors to Horizon Lanka last December. Now the PCs are being used at Horizon Lanka. We thank Mr Karunaratne for his kind gesture and appeal those who read this page to send us more used PCs for our usage. Contact info@horizonlanka.net for more information.

Posted by: horizonlankafoundationlk | December 24, 2009

LONG JOURNEY TO HORIZON LANKA, 6-7 DECEMBER, 2009 – Vajira de Silva, Spain

Vajira de Silva at Horizon Lanka

(by Vajira De Silva, a Sri Lankan who emigrated to England as a school boy and now living in Spain.)

During my brief visit to Sri Lanka at the beginning of December 2009, I met Nandasiri Wanninayaka, “Wanni” and we decided to visit together Mahavilachchiya and Horizon Lanka installations.

Having lived abroad for most of my life, I was of course very much gotten used to a comfortable lifestyle: the long journey on the back of a motorbike on Sri Lanka roads was not the stuff made in Hollywood. However, there would be no better way to see the countryside, the people and taken in the local scents than this. We left early in the morning after breakfast and made several short stops and had lunch at Kurunagala.

We passed via the ancient temples at Anhuradapura, where I had not been since I was a small boy. The approach to the village by the large irrigation tank – quite a lake – was fascinating.

Mahavilachchiya has the energy of a unique place, yet representative of rural Sri Lanka. Perhaps the most striking factor was its people, many of whom had a desire to progress and so they have taken Horizon Lanka to their hearts.

We had a short meeting with the volunteers Thalia and Maryn. Curiously, I have also been an AIESEC volunteer many years ago in Europe.

Later we had a meeting with local farmers, objective which was to understand how they work and their difficulties with credit financing, purchase of seeds, fertilizer and other inputs as well as sale of produce. We had discussed about how farmers are a small percentage of the population in Western Europe and are generally quite rich, compared to the average incomes of the countries. There are many reasons for this wealth:
-Subsidies and other incentives offered by the European Union
-In general farms are run as agricultural business. Therefore, at the demise of the owners, the business or the lands do not get divided: often is left to the oldest son. Then this person has to take care of the education of the other siblings. This is the general custom in North East Spain, where agricultural reforms had taken place early, thus was able to industrialize. As land is not divided into small plots for descendents, the owners tend to make long term investments for the business to grow.

Most farmers are members of a local co-operative. These are independent organisations, with no state nor political interference, and owned by the member farmers. Most co-operatives will run a farmers co-op store with seeds, tools, animal feedstock, fertilizer, insecticide etc. with competitive prices. The local co-ops may have understanding with national co-ops so the prices of purchases for their stores can be negotiated at the national level with suppliers and so achieve highly competitive cost prices. Some large co-operatives have sales networks including supermarkets and restaurants.

In Israel, where I have also worked as volunteer, there are co-operative farms known as Kibbutz. All land is owned by the Kibbutz and all work is shared by the members. People tend to live in small houses as they eat in communal dining rooms. Children live together in collective dwellings. The business is run like a company.

After the farmers’ meeting I was taken to my local hosts Abeykoon family for the night, where we had dinner and some time chatting.  The children acted as translators for the adults and the two small girls also put up a song and dance show.

Next morning we had a meeting with some of the local youth at Horizon. Some were still at school while others had left school. In general, the academic system has not prepared these youngsters for any profession nor vocation. Nor have they had career guidance. The choices of Advance Level subjects in the rural schools are completely inadequate: sciences, mathematics, English, economics, ICT are all not available.

The two AIESEC volunteers also joined the meeting to contribute from their perspective.

Shortly after the meeting, we were on our way back to Colombo. We took a route via Puttalam and witnessed road works progressing very well. Our journey together ended at Ja Ela, from where I took a public bus (conditions have hardly improved since I was a school boy) back to Colombo.

I was very happy to visit Mahavilachchiya and Horizon Lanka.

Posted by: horizonlankafoundationlk | December 12, 2009

Help Horizon Lanka through GlobalGiving

Help Horizon Lanka
Posted by: horizonlankafoundationlk | December 12, 2009

DIALOG TELEKOM HELPS EXPANDING MESH NETWORK IN MAHAVILACHCHIYA

Two volunteers of Horizon Lanka using mesh internet in the Wi-Fi Zone

With funding support from ISIF http://isif.asia/, Horizon Lanka embarked on a project to expand its mesh internet network to the entire Mahavilachchiya village. Earlier, coverage was given only to a section of the village.

By 2009, Dialog Telekom had erected a high-capacity tower in Kiralpetiyawa, an underprivileged area which was considered ’the Siberia of Mahavilachchiya’, due to lack of basic facilities in the hamlet. Horizon Lanka thought its ideal that the mesh internet coverage could be extended to Kiralpetiyawa, but it had not been included in the original budget planning. This was explained to Dialog Telekom and Horizon Lanka requested Sri Lanka’s flagship telecom service provider to consider providing their tower facility to install mesh internet equipment free of charge as a CSR initiative. Usual monthly fees charged by telecommunication firms to share tower facilities are prohibitive for an organisation like Horizon Lanka. The much anticipated positive answer came readily from Dialog to use their tower. LankaCom, the mesh implementing company fixed mesh equipment in the Dialog tower few days back. Now the entire Kiralpetiyawa area enjoys mesh internet signals and a 500+ meter
Wi-Fi network exists around the Dialog tower. Signals from Dialog tower are strong enough to reach even distant Pemaduwa, the ‘downtown’ of Mahavilachchiya.

Dialog Telekom has been helping Horizon Lanka since 2002. First they provided low cost phone packages to Horizon Lanka staff and parents and then provided mobile access to a 50 meter radius exclusively around Horizon Lanka computer lab at a time Mahavilachchiya was not covered by Dialog. In 2006, Dialog donated IT equipment and paid salaries to one of our staff members for a year.

In December, 2006 Dialog covered Mahavilachchiya with its network on Horizon Lanka’s request even before they covered Mihintale, a bigger township.

Dialog was the first mobile company to cover Mahavilachchiya. In 2009, Dialog even expanded its coverage to entire Mahavilachchiya by providing coverage via its newly built tower in Kiralpetiyawa.

Horizon Lanka wishes to thank Dialog for its continued support over the years. We wish the company every success in its future endeavors.

Posted by: horizonlankafoundationlk | December 3, 2009

MISS THALIA , THE THIRD VOLUNTEER FROM AIESEC TO HORIZON LANKA

Thalia with the nursery kids

Miss Thalia Fotaki from Greece came to Horizon Lanka in early November to work at Horizon Lanka as a volunteer teacher for two months. Thalia is the third volunteer sent by AIESEC, Sri Lanka Chapter. She is teaching both computers and English at Horizon Lanka.

Posted by: horizonlankafoundationlk | November 30, 2009

MISS MARIJIN , THE SECOND VOLUNTEER FROM AIESEC TO HORIZON LANKA

Marijin Mostart

Miss Marijn Mostart from Holland came to Horizon Lanka in early November to work at Horizon Lanka as a volunteer teacher for two months. Marijin is the second volunteer sent by AIESEC, Sri Lanka Chapter. She is teaching both computers and English at Horizon Lanka. On Sundays she works at the Dhamma School in the village temple.

Posted by: horizonlankafoundationlk | November 30, 2009

A GROUP OF TEACHERS FROM HANGURANKETHA VISIT HORIZON LANKA

The group opposite Horizon Lanka building

A group of ICT teachers from Hanguranketha, led by Mr. D. M. S. D. Dissanayaka, the ICT Coordinator for Zonal Education Office, Hanguranketha visited Horizon Lanka, Mahavilachchiya on Friday, November 06, 2009. The trip was organized by Mr Dilina Priyanga Bandara, the Chief Organizer of their ICT club. The Horizon Lanka staff did few presentations about Horizon Lanka and how it uses technology to educate the village children and the youth.

Posted by: horizonlankafoundationlk | November 30, 2009

WATER PUMP FOR HORIZON LANKA

Fixing the water pump

Horizon Lanka fixed a water pump to provide continuous water supply to its building and the garden. This year Mahavilachchiya faced a long drought as a result the pipe borne water supply was disturbed.  Hence Horizon Lanka decided to fix a water pump.

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