We support a local project in each destination we offer as a way of giving something back to the local communities. Earlier this year, our Product Team Manager, Jennifer visited the Rainbow Centre, our chosen local project in Sri Lanka, to find out more about the amazing work they do to provide local children with an education. Find out why she came away feeling so inspired…
On my way…
Trundling along the back roads of Bentota with my driver, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I arrived at the Rainbow Centre. Any apprehension I may have felt however quickly disappeared as we passed through the colourful gates and were met by vibrant buildings covered in murals, a cheery looking school bus and plenty of warm smiles.
What does the Rainbow Centre do?
The Rainbow Centre was started in December 2005 by Sri Lankan born Aruni and British born Alison to give some of the poorest children in Bentota the opportunity to receive an education. The two met while volunteering for the Tsunami appeal and decided they wanted to do more to support the people in this area. The Centre provides local children between the ages of 3 and 17 with food, clothing, healthcare and, importantly, an education. All of this is done onsite at the Centre itself by qualified staff.
Supporting local families
Rather than wait for families to approach them, the staff at the Centre visit the local villages and approach the parents in the hope that they can begin educating the children before they reach school age. The benefit here is that parents can see their child’s progress before they make the decision whether or not to send them to a government run school. So far the Centre has helped place 140 children in the mainstream system, most of whom may never have attended school otherwise. Some families that cannot afford the government run school fees instead continue to send their children to the Centre so they can still receive an education.
Not just for kids!
What really struck me was the way in which the Centre strives to include the children’s parents. Once a month they’re invited to the Centre for an open day, not only to show them their child’s progress, but also to give them the opportunity to learn these skills themselves. The Centre offers a range of different classes to adults as well as children, including English lessons and sewing classes. One of which is run by a former student of the school, who was keen to return and help others. These classes give adults a chance to work their way out of poverty. Aruni told me about one of the Centre’s success stories: a single mother, who after learning to sew at the Centre, now runs a small tailors and uses this money to send her children to a government run school.
How we can help
I was completely blown away by the dedication of the staff and the warmth and eagerness of the children. There was a fantastic vibe of confidence and achievement amongst everyone at the Centre. During my short time there I was able to sense just how much the centre does, not just for the children in its care, but for the community as a whole.
Unfortunately as Bentota becomes more and more popular with package tourists, the price of land continues to rise. This in turn increases the costs to run the Centre. It currently costs around 250 rupees (around £1.20) per child per day. So a donation of as little as £5 can go a long way towards making sure a child in extreme poverty can still receive an education.
After an excessive amount of tea, I felt a pang of sadness as I said goodbye to Aruni and the rest of the staff at this truly inspirational place.
Want to give a helping hand? You can add a visit to the Rainbow Centre or donate £5 when you book your Sri Lanka Itinerary.