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Sri Lanka summary and conclusions

Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 4 months ago

Summary of the Autumn 2005/Spring 2006

Childen's World International tour

to Sri Lanka

to work with children affected by the Tsunami

 

SRI LANKA – November and December 2005

 

Children's World International was determined to work with children who had suffered from the Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami. The Director and "Devilstick Peat", a splendid performer, undertook a Mini-Performance/Games Tour in Sri Lanka in March 2004, less than 3 months after the Tsunami struck. As well as providing lots of children with a lot of fun, the situation on the Island was assessed, and good contacts made so that we could run future tours taking performances, workshops, play and games to Sri Lanka again in the future, as we felt that they would greatly raise morale in the camps where people were having to live in very difficult conditions. Please click on March 2005 diary to see details and pictures. In May 2005 Children's World International was invited to send Peat to join IOM (the International Office of Migration who undertake huge amounts of building work and psycho-social work in Sri Lanka) on the East coast to participate in a Children's Festival there and also undertake performances and parachute games in camps. In England, meanwhile the Director was contacted by Teardrop Relief who were going to be sending a Playbus to Sri Lanka in November, and Children's World International decided to fundraise and, God and funders willing - which luckily they were! - undertake a 5-person Tour of Sri Lankan camps along the West and South coasts in November and December 2005.

 

General introduction

 

The Children’s World International Sri Lankan Performance, Games and Participation Tour in November and December 2005 was tremendously worthwhile and provided performance, participation and a lot of fun for more than 2,500 children, and many of their parents, who have been living in camps and temporary shelters since the Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami hit the island, killing almost 40,000 and devastating fishing fleets, hotels, businesses and homes.

 

The team

 

The Children’s World International Team (Arabella Churchill the Director of Children’s World and Children’s World International, Paddy Hill and Charlie Miller who are Children’s World’s 2 Chief Workshop Leaders, Jo Galbraith a guest performer and workshop leader, and Holly Whitmore, a guest volunteer) undertook many sessions of performances, games, workshops and activities in camps and temporary shelters down the West Coast and along the South Coast of Sri Lanka with Impakt Aid, a locally-based NGO, who were already running occasional “Fun Days” in the camps.

 

The Playbus

 

The idea had been for the Children’s World International team to tour on the Teardrop Relief Playbus, which had been shipped to Sri Lanka in late October full of play equipment belonging to Teardrop Relief and to Children’s World. The Playbus docked in Sri Lanka on 10 November and the CWI team expected to be able to tour with it from

17 November, the day after their arrival in Sri Lanka. As well as running performances and workshops the CWI team were meant to be training up the future Playbus team - a job we were very much looking forward to, as Children’s World ran a Playbus Tour, as part of its many Special Needs Tours, in the West Country of England during the 1980’s and 1990’s.

 

Problems

 

Although the CWI Tour was extremely successful in that it gave a great deal of pleasure to large numbers of Tsunami-affected children and their families, through no fault of CWI, things did not work out quite as planned and there were some problems and difficulties.

 

An outline of the tour

 

Sadly, although the Playbus arrived at Colombo docks safely and on time from England, it proved impossible for Teardrop Relief to liberate the bus and get it and its contents through Customs and get it registered as fast as they had hoped. This meant that for more than half of the Children’s World International Tour travel took place in Impakt vans rather than in the Playbus, which was fine - but it also meant that we had none of the play equipment CWI and Teardrop Relief had shipped out on the Playbus (PA sound system, badge machine, beanbag making equipment, parachutes for large games, etc.) which made running sessions fairly difficult. However the CWI team (and John Holmes and Natalie Bull, who joined us as volunteers and the Impakt volunteers who helped us a lot when venues were within commuting distance of Colombo) are a resourceful bunch and we managed to make do with the small amount of equipment we had brought in our luggage (face paints, spinning plates, etc.) and items we were able to source or make in Sri Lanka (paper, crayons, ribbon-twirlers, hoola hoops, etc.) Jo and Charlie’s clowning and juggling performances and Paddy’s copying and chanting exercises were excellent and gave a strong focal point to the visits to camps, and actually even the very simple activities such as drawing, that we were able to offer at that time, were very much appreciated by the children.

 

Eventually the Playbus was liberated by Customs and registered, and joined us down near Dickwella on the South coast, halfway through our afternoon session on 29 November at the Kudawela Jayawickrama Vidyala Tsunami Village. The Playbus is a red, double-decker London Routemaster and its appearance really excited the children, who had never seen anything like it in their lives!

 

We had survived 9 and a half days of Tour without the Playbus and equipment, and now had 7 and a half days of touring remaining.

 

It was wonderful to have all the equipment with us, especially the PA and the parachutes, which made running sessions for large numbers of children far easier, but there were still problems – our timetable now took us too far East along the South Coast for Impakt to be able to send regular volunteers - though they did lend us the wonderful Shane, who was our translator/guide and who was the most tremendous help in every way - so while we now had all the equipment we needed, we did not have enough personnel to run all the activities we had planned. Impakt and Teardrop were having difficulties in setting up their working relationship, and apart from Shane, there were no permanent members of the Playbus team for us to train up, which was a great shame and a wasted opportunity.

 

Another problem was that while the bus is a very attractive, exciting and wonderful vehicle in many ways, it is a slow and cumbersome beast for long-distance travel, and the venues for the remaining sessions, along the South Coast, that had been set up for us by Impakt, were far further apart than those up nearer Colombo. Many, many long hours were spent on the open top of the Playbus, in extremely strong sunlight (no choice as the bottom deck was full of equipment), with the Team ducking branches and electricity wires. Although it was a wonderfully regal way to travel through the beautiful countryside and a great way to make people smile (women in the fields, children and monks would all stare at the Playbus, then smile and wave, which was lovely) it was absolutely exhausting spending several hours a day travelling in great heat (and at times dangerous – once when we knocked a low branch we were all covered in green, furry, poisonous caterpillars!) (Although the bus had large signs saying, "Teardrop Relief - bringing back the Sri Lankan smile", (and it really did make people smile a lot), it really did not clearly show exactly what purpose it was serving – signs or decoration need to show clearly somehow that the Playbus is providing fun and activities in camps for tsunami-affected children. The Playbus is not the ideal touring vehicle - being in a way only a repository for equipment, rather than the chldren being able to play on it, as with the old Children's World Playbus. Travelling would be far faster and easier over long distances in vans. We think Impakt will probably only tour the Playbus nearer to Colombo in the future, both because of the amount of travel hours and because the bulk of their lovely volunteers are based in Colombo.)

 

Kirinda was our furthest venue East on the South coast, and then we travelled, slowly, the many miles back towards Colombo, stopping for sessions at different venues. On the last 3 days, as we came within possible commuting reach of Colombo, we were again joined by Impakt volunteers, which was great.

 

Conclusions

 

If you read my Director’s Diary, you will be able to understand the difficulties we had, but also the great joys and rewards we gained by taking performance, participation and fun to so many camps. There are lots of lovely photographs as well, so do please have a look and see what pleasure was given. The numbers of children we worked with was just over 2,500 rather than the 3,500 we had been told to expect, but many parents and family members also tremendously enjoyed the performances and watching their children play with the parachutes. We believe that morale in camps and temporary shelters was raised considerably by the CWI Tour.

 

Despite all the difficulties, we consider the November/December CWI Tour to Sri Lanka to have been extremely worthwhile and beneficial, and we look forward to returning to Sri Lanka and working there again soon - specifically on the East coast if possible (when we were there in November and December 2005, it was not deemed safe for us to work on the East coast because of the Tamil "troubles").

 

 

March 2006: Paddy and Charlie head back to Sri Lanka for another tour

 

We are delighted to hear that Teardrop Relief and Impakt have now formed a good working relationship, and that the Playbus is touring at least 13 days each month within commuting distance South of Colombo. It is hoped that when they have found more sponsorship, their touring schedule will increase to 18 days each month.

 

Because our English schools touring schedule was not very full in the second half of the Spring Term 2006, we decided to send Paddy Hill and Charlie Miller (Children's World's 2 main workshop leaders, who were such stalwart stars of the November/December Sri Lankan CWI Tour) out to Sri Lanka again in March 2006. As I write today (15 March) they have undertaken 2 days of touring with Impakt on the West coast. Sadly the Playbus is currently having gear problems, there being difficulties in obtaining the right sort of oil in Sri Lanka. They undertook performances at 2 camps that Impakt were visiting, and then headed over to the East Coast where they have been working with IOM (the International Office of Migration). (We are delighted that IOM feel it is safe for the CWI team to work on the East coast this month - Peace Talks between the Tamils and the Government are currently underway, and though there are still some "troubles" and there are soldiers everywhere (Paddy and Charlie say there were groups of soldiers every 500 yards all the way from the outskirts of Colombo right to the East coast) everyone is crossing their fingers and hoping desperately that solutions will be found that could spell an end to these problems that have been going on for so many years.

 

Paddy and Charlie have now nearly completed 10 days of touring on the East coast with IOM - in Trincomallee, Batticalloa and Ampara, all of which were very severely damaged by the Tsunami. They think they have managed to achieve performances and activities with more than 3,000 children during this time, as many of the venues on the East have been schools, with large numbers of children, though many camps (which have smaller amounts of children) have been visited as well. Most days they have visited a large school in the morning from 9-11 and then a smaller camp in the afternoon from 3-5. This is a sensible way to plan CWI's performance schedules (and we are most grateful to IOM for setting up so many "gigs" for the team so efficiently), as the main heat of the day can be avoided and there is time for the team to rest, rehydrate and cool down between sessions, while still reaching very large numbers of children. Apparently it is even hotter in Sri Lanka now in March than it was in November and December - and that is saying something!

 

Soon Paddy and Charlie will be returning to the West coast and undertaking 2 more days of camp-touring there (hopefully in the mended Teardrop Relief Playbus) with Impakt. They will arrive back in England on 22 March, and the next week will be running 4 day-long workshops in Somerset primary schools, helping the children create dvd films on the subject of "Negative Behaviour" for use in future PSHE classes - they are a very adaptable pair, and we are very lucky to have them as members of Chidren's World!

 

Paddy and Charlie have been doing really well on this Tour, despite the huge heat. They are generally undertaking 2 hour sessions at 2 venues per day. After greetings, the chanting/echoing exercises, etc. the first part of Charlie's clown/magic show takes place, then Paddy leads the children (450 at one school!) in an energetic dance/movement exercise for about 40 minutes, and then Charlie runs the second half of his show. Lovely to see how much can be achieved really successfully by just 2 people - mind you, Paddy and Charlie are pretty exceptional people! Large numbers of children have been reached, and the performances and activities have been enormously enjoyed. We are most grateful to Impakt in the West of Sri Lanka and to IOM in the East for setting up and facilitating sessions for the CWI team.

 

Do read Paddy's diary here.

 

(Arabella Churchill, the Director of Children's World International, will be visiting Sri Lanka in June/July 2006 with her juggling maestro husband, Haggis Mcleod, to undertake a further CWI mini-Performance and Play Tour, working with Impakt in the West and IOM in the East. There will be a diary!)

 

(Arabella and Haggis will also be visiting Aceh in Sumatra, which received the brunt of the tsunami, and where there were a huge number of deaths and tremendous damage, in April on the way back from attending Bell's son Jake's wedding in Australia. The hope is to make useful contacts for setting up a CWI Tour this winter, while at the same time providing as many shows and workshops for children immediately as possible. There will be a diary - please read it!

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