Sri Lankan Creativity, Simplicity, and the “Experience of a Lifetime”

By: Penny Gumley, Teams 5 and 10

“The experience of a lifetime” is how I would sum up TRIP Canada and their annual trips to the amazing village of Tangalle in the south of Sri Lanka. I travelled with TRIP Canada in 2009 and was lucky enough to travel a second time in 2013. I went for the same reason that so many people go on a journey like this: to truly help and make a difference in the world, especially in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami.

How many people can honestly say, “I helped build that house” or “I helped build that school”, and did so hand in hand with the families and children that benefit from that house or that school? Not many. I can honestly say I’ve done both and along the way have met some of the most amazing people ever – both the Canadians on the team and the Sri Lankans working alongside of us, or greeting us with a smile wherever we went. No wonder Sri Lanka is known as “the nation of smiling people”.

The work is hard, but more rewarding that you can ever imagine. The most amazing part of building in Sri Lanka is the simplicity – something that we lose sight of here. When you need a tool you don’t drive to Home Depot, you just create it yourself.  How about a piece of bamboo whittled to a point at one end to create a roller extension for painting, or a half coconut lashed to a stick for a paint ladle. It’s just amazing.

Each time I return home to Canada, I try to bring back some of this simplicity and creativity. The highlight for me on the most recent trip was the teamwork and partnership that existed with the team of 12 Canadians and our Sri Lankan building crew – Podi, Suresh, Kal and the gang. Language is a barrier, but that first day when we were pouring cement floors at the temple, everything just flowed and language didn’t matter. The Canadians formed the bucket brigade between Suresh and his team preparing the cement at the front end and Kal and his team pouring and levelling the floors at the back end. No words were needed – except for “heavy” as an exceptionally heavy bucket made it’s way down the chain. This was another great lesson to take home.

What means the most to me about my TRIP Canada experience is always one thing – the people, the people, the people – the always smiling Sri Lankans who are so truly grateful for the homes, and schools and friendship that TRIP Canada provides, as well as the crazy Canucks that we tirelessly worked side by side with – covered in paint, dirt, mud and sweat. It is truly a privilege to be able to part of something so great with such wonderful people, for such wonderful people.

There are so many reasons why everyone should experience this…the amazing Canadians you work beside…the amazing Sri Lankans that will melt your heart… and the incredible feeling of seeing first-hand the difference you have made in the life of a village.

Can’t wait to go again!

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