World Challenge Sri Lanka Blog

Fifteen Withington Sixth Form pupils embarked on a World Challenge expedition to Sri Lanka in the first three weeks of the summer holidays. Here follows the blog of the two accompanying Withington teachers Miss Diana Bruce and Mrs Kathryn Williams, with some entries written by the girls.

Tuesday 1st August

We are home! All of us loved Sri Lanka and have some wonderful memories to treasure!

Monday 31st July

Today we had a relaxed morning before setting off for the airport. En route our charismatic driver, Chandra, insisted that we stop for a tea break at his house! Chandra has been a huge part of or experience in Sri Lanka, so it was lovely to meet his wife and son. We are now waiting for the flight at Colombo airport, filled with amazing memories of this beautiful country and the experiences that we have had together.

Sunday 30th July

Our day started with a late get up and a classic breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast or cereals. After breakfast, some of us attended yoga and the rest went straight to the beach. The hour of ‘Yoga with Asiri’, was challenging but a great start to the day. The majority spent the day in the shade under sun umbrellas. Following a packed lunch on the beach, we all went swimming in a calmer part of the sea. ‘Tuk-Tukking’ back to the villa left us with lots of free time to get ready for the disco ahead of us. Our final meal was at the ‘Lucky Tuna’ restaurant and after a barbecue and an Awards Ceremony we headed to the Sunny Beach disco! The disco was an exciting and fun way to end an amazing trip and we will be leaving Sri Lanka with many memories that we will cherish forever.
by Leia

Saturday 29th July

Today was the groups planned ‘Beach Day’ and the girls wasted no time in getting to Jungle Beach for a relaxing day. This included lots of time playing in the Indian Ocean and the most intellectual beach reads we’ve ever seen! Everyone enjoyed lunch on the beach then stayed in for the evening for a delicious pasta dinner (rice noodles as a gluten-free option!) with ice cream for dessert. It was a lovely end to a chilled-out day. We gave out the categories for tomorrow night’s award ceremony and it hit us that we leave very soon!

World Challenge - Sri Lanka

Friday 28th July

World Challenge - Sri Lanka

We awoke at 8am to get to Galle for 9. We visited the Japanese Peace Pagoda en route which was beautiful and had a lovely view of the southern coastline. At the temple, we even got to witness ‘Chan the man’ breakdance and pull out his finest moves (headstand). Galle was an interesting city, bustling with activity and many opportunities to buy funky pants and jewellery. It is an old Dutch fort town with the exterior walls still existing. These walls protected the town from the 2004 tsunami. We enjoyed lunch in small groups and many took the opportunity to walk along the fort wall overlooking the cricket grounds. Then we headed home, ready to go out for a ‘vibey’ meal at a very trendy restaurant called Koko’s Surf Lounge. Afterwards, we hit up the Happy Banana for their weekly disco… a bit of Justin Bieber and Rihanna and all the girls danced the night away.
By Maggie

Thursday 27th July

Today we enjoyed a lie-in, and a homemade breakfast of cereal or eggs and toast. Then, we travelled to Samakanda gardens where we were treated to a walk through the conservation project which encourages ecotourism in Sri Lanka.

World Challenge - Sri Lanka

This was followed by a fresh buffet of various curries, including jackfruit, pumpkin and ‘lady’s fingers’, made of the fresh produce of the gardens. The views of lush vegetation perfectly complemented a cup of Ceylon tea served by the friendly locals. After a quick turnaround, we headed to the beach for an evening of relaxing and shopping in the local clothes shops. We finished the night at a beach restaurant under the stars, and prepared for the next day.
By Daisy

World Challenge - Sri Lanka

Wednesday 26th July

New updates have arrived!

Today, we awoke at 1am to begin our trek up Adam’s peak, one of the highest mountains in Sri Lanka (at a height of 2243m). We began our trek at 1:30 with the aim to reach the peak for sunrise. It was a long, strenuous trek involving over 5000 steps which challenged the fitness of all (especially as we only had 4 hours sleep!). It was very rewarding to reach the top, however due to cloud cover our view of the sunrise was limited. Our descent was then followed by a big breakfast for all, with many choosing the traditional Sri Lankan rottis in a variety of flavours. Mid-morning we then regrouped and got on the bus to head to our final destination of Galle, a coastal town. Our day concluded with dinner on the beach, with many looking forward to some rest and relaxation.
By Lucy and Amber

Thursday 27th July

No new updates yet today but some new pictures have kindly been sent by one girl’s mum – many thanks Mrs Bashich! The first two were taken two days ago and the remainder are from earlier in the expedition.


Tuesday 25th July

The group have clearly just managed to establish connectivity again, as a big flurry of blog posts by Miss Bruce has arrived. There are no new pictures unfortunately. They will be added when they make it through the ether.

Monday 24th July

Yesterday, the team split up into two groups. The first team worked on the maternity ward, helping with the final stages of the extension (brick laying etc).The group made some amazing progress and headed off to the Tea Factory in Abbotsleigh for a quick informative break.

The second group continued to work at the pre-school, offering a helping hand to the builders cementing the new patio/pavement. We also painted a new hop scotch onto the playground area and all nine of us got involved with playing with the adorable pre-school children for a short while.

This same group visited the town of Hatton in the afternoon to buy some resources (pencils, pens, rulers, balls, games etc) to donate to the various different places on the Abbotsleigh estate.

It was a pro-active day and was very rewarding seeing all the progress we had made over the 5 days volunteering. It was extremely sad to leave all the lovely kids behind, but now onto Adam’s Peak!

Sunday 23rd July

We awoke to an unusual breakfast of curry this morning, and a strange jam that we had not had before (it was yellow) and came to the conclusion it was pineapple jam (although that is yet to be confirmed). We then set off once again to arrive at the pre-school for around 8am, and had only a short wait today for the builders to arrive. We were quickly able to get to work as both the delivery and builders came roughly on time 🙂 despite minor trauma when half the pre-school’s perimeter fence was destroyed. The mood improved when we saw all the progress we were making, cementing a path around the pre-school, nearly completing the whole path in the day. The other half of our team made great progress at the maternity ward as well, building three walls on the extension to shoulder height. Later in the evening after dinner we gathered at the roof for an impromptu singalong of some of Rihanna’s greatest hits till the late hour of 10pm before crashing out ready for the final day of  the project phase tomorrow.

Saturday 22nd July

Another early start for the group with breakfast at 6:30. This time we all headed to the maternity ward to help build the extension. We had a physically strenuous morning involving moving heaps of sand and gravel from the delivery point to the building site. During our break time, some of the girls took the opportunity to befriend the very helpful local children. This involved sharing music, dancing, laughing, and even exercising with them. After lunch there was not much left for us to do at the maternity ward so we split into two groups; half went to Hatton to get a few more necessary supplies from the hardware store and the other half went to the pre-school to wait for a delivery, expected at 3:30. After a couple of hours of waiting the group were very pleasantly surprised that the delivery was in fact on time and they were back in good time for dinner at 6pm. Feeling full on yet another rice and curry dish the girls headed to the top floor of the hotel where the teachers announced that a quiz would be commencing at 7:15. This instantly instilled excitement in each member of the team – of course some were more competitive than others. The quiz consisted of 3 rounds assessing the girls’ knowledge of Sri Lanka, Withington, and pop music. The final round involved us taking pictures assigned to different titles from around the hotel. This proved to be very funny and provided great amusement to the teachers/judges who were airdropped the photos. The winners turned out to be ‘The Sriledgeheads’ consisted of Laura, Maggie, and Charlotte. They experienced the sweet taste of victory as the prize was a pack of bourbons! Yum!

Friday 21st July

The group woke up early for breakfast at 6:30, a slight shock to the system! Half the group travelled to help out with the extension of the maternity ward which involved a lot of manual labour in the heat , which the girls took their stride. The other half of the group got to learn more about the Sri Lankan culture and religion from the headmaster of Abbotsleigh Secondary School which everyone found extremely interesting. Overall the day was successful; however, due to ‘Sri Lankan time’, some of the group had to wait much longer than expected for the delivery of materials, a frustrating time. The whole group rounded off the day with a tasty meal and a few rounds of our new favourite game, Villagers.

Thursday 20th July

Thursday saw the team’s first full day on project on the Abbotsleigh Estate in Hatton. The day before, the girls had chosen to focus on helping with a ten-foot extension of the community’s maternity ward, as well as refurbishing the local pre-school playground. Unfortunately, the start of the day was somewhat frustrating for most of the girls as half the team attempted to cope with the language barrier whilst ordering materials at the hardware store whilst the others struggled to begin working on a roof extension at the pre-school without any skilled expertise. In true Withington style however, the girls were incredibly resourceful and managed to source all the necessary materials for the extension and began working on preparing the land around the pre-school ready for its new pathway.

The split team reunited for lunch and a visit to the Estate’s primary and secondary schools. It was a very interesting experience for all the girls, particularly as some of the team were introduced to their contemporaries in the local A level class. The girls also met the school’s principal, a very impressive man with a huge passion for education, who works tirelessly to improve the standards of education in the community. He emphasised the contribution of previous World Challenge groups to the school and inspired many of the team to spend the rest of the afternoon mixing cement and digging up the surrounding land to make the area safer for the pupils. The principal also provided the team with a better understanding of the religious and socioeconomic divisions within Sri Lanka and its impact on the educational opportunities for many children in the country. He explained that because of their socioeconomic backgrounds, many of the community’s students that do gain entry into university, drop out before completing their degrees as they face too much discrimination from their peers at university. His insight was invaluable to the girls’ understanding of the community and the obstacles many students the same age as the team face on a daily basis.

The team returned to the hostel in the evening after a quick trip to their beloved Food City and enjoyed an early dinner before taking time to reflect on the highlights and frustrations of the day. All of the girls expressed a genuine desire to be helpful to the community, which has huge amounts of potential but lacks necessary funding. The girls created a plan to work efficiently in the forthcoming days in order to complete all the projects on the Estate.

The latter part of the evening saw the entire team engaging in a very heated game of ‘Guardian Angel’ in which Charlotte C outsmarted the whole team on two occasions. In true British style the team were particularly pleased as they received mugs of tea from the hostel to accompany their game.

After a day of very mixed emotions the team got an early night remaining even more determined to begin completing their projects in the days ahead.

Wednesday 19th July

After packing up and a quick breakfast in Kandy, we set off to our project location; A tea plantation estate in Hatton. Once we arrived in our hotel we settled in and had a short meeting with the project coordinator to gain an idea of what the next six days would entail. Following this introduction we headed out to the estate to visit the possible locations in which we would be working. The first of these locations was a crèche for children under the age of six. On arrival, we were presented with bouquets and garlands of flowers and treated to a song and dance display. After spending time with the children and understanding the projects that could be undertaken we moved on to the main school in the estate, for older children. Yet again, we were given a tour of the buildings and provided with information to allow us to make informed decisions about which projects we would like to undertake. Finally, we visited the maternity ward in which pre and post-natal clinics commonly took place. Here there was a suggestion of an extension to the building to provide more space for maternity care to take place in a safe location. Ultimately, this evening concluded over group discussions to establish which projects we would like to take on over the next few days. The group consensus was to focus on extending the maternity centre and doing smaller jobs at the crèche.

18 July 2017 10:25
Blog from the girls

Today the team awoke at 7:30 to eat a scrumptious jam porridge made by Miss Bruce and Mrs Williams. We packed up all our gear from the idyllic campsite of Ash Cave and we set off on our descent down the cliffs of death through the Sri Lankan rainforest.

After many slips and tumbles, five hours later, we reached the beautiful waterfall where the whole team took the plunge and made the most of the opportunity to wash off all the mud, sweat and blood-stained bodies from the leaches. It was an amazing experience for everyone involved, swimming in a natural pool of Knuckles Range. It was a well-deserved rest from the challenging but exhilarating trek.

Later on it came to our lucky surprise that we would be staying the night in an extremely accommodating guesthouse at the top of the spectacular mountain range. We feasted on a potato curry and rested well before our final day of trekking the following day.

All in all, it was an incredible day with both high and low moments but everyone came through it extremely well.

18 July 2017 10:19

Sorry for the radio silence, we’ve been on the trek so no Wi-Fi. Here are our updates:

Today we headed to Kandy a more tourist town, but first Chandra had planned  three stops for us on the way. First a craft workshop where we practiced our currency changing skills whilst buying hand-carved elephants and masks made with various Sri Lankan woods, including Ebony, and decorated with colours derived from the Rainbow Wood tree’s bark. Next we headed to a herb garden where our guide provided us with plenty of delicious smells including cinnamon and vanilla and Kitty even left with a bald patch on her arm after trying out a natural hair removal cream! The batik centre brought the chance to buy our own tops and pants hand made by the staff who were mostly women! # girlpower . After buying the food for our trek phase and having dinner we all set about packing and preparing for our venture into the jungle tomorrow!

We woke with a mixture of nerves and excitement at the day ahead and started to ascent up to Knuckles Range for the first day of our four-day trek. We met our guides in a high (and very remote) area and after filling up on vegetable rice we set off, rucksacks on and French plaits all round! The day was challenging especially with us all becoming a bit too familiar with the Sri Lankan leeches; Our Dettol mix became very useful! Teamwork was required to get everyone over the fallen branches and through the tricky uphill sections but we all enjoyed the challenge and ended with a great campsite location under a cave surrounded by jungle vegetation. After Kitty and Laura’s vegetable noodle stir-fry we all headed to bed for a well-earned early night, ready for Day Two!

What a day! Having a slightly rough night in the tents we awoke with a mixture of anticipation and excitement for the day to come. We travelled up one of the ‘Knuckle Mountains’ in a mammoth eight-hour trek. Reaching the top of one ‘Knuckle’ we decided, as a group, to climb again to the second Knuckle. Climbing to the summit was a journey to say the least, we tackled vertical rocks and vicious winds but we finally made it. A second night in the tents is yet to come.

12 July 2017 16:45

Here is today’s blog written by the girls:
This morning we awoke in Negombo and promptly started our journey to Dambulla. We enjoyed food on the bus and a stop halfway at a real supermarket that sold brand snacks which were a real treat. We arrived at the Saman guest house in Dambulla early and, after a short wait, were treated to a variety of curries for lunch, before heading off to the famous Dambulla caves. At the caves, we walked to the summit which had excellent views of the luscious rainforest, from where many monkeys had come to join us. Upon removing our shoes and headwear to respect the Buddhist culture, we were able to enter the five caves each containing a number of holy figures, the first caves being a huge Buddha (real name Siddhartha Gautama) that had been hand carved into the rock over 2000 years ago. We all agreed it was very beautiful and an amazing experience.

Tuesday 11th July

Tuesday was a fun day for the World Challenge team. The day started off as a challenge due to the lack of supermarkets and money exchange services, which left us walking the streets of Negombo tired, hungry and frustrated. However, we soon found comfort in our newly-acquired pet, Toto the dog. In true Withington style, we remained resilient and rectified our food and monetary issues. After our somewhat taxing morning we enjoyed an afternoon at the beach, though we did manage to lose our dog. We sign off here as we wait for our vegetable curries!



Monday 10th July

The team have arrived safely in Colombo after a long journey! We were greeted by Chandra (our bus driver), who had bought the group flower garlands! The girls have done well to sort changing money and an enjoyable first dinner in country. Now for an early night!