Reflections on the “kind, gentle, and humble” nature of the Sri Lankan people

by Linda Breault, Team 9

For me, my TRIP Canada experience in April 2012 changed my life. It sounds so cliché, I know, but for me this rang so true. For 2 weeks I was surrounded by people and families who have so little but are, for the most part, content and happy. Compared to our culture where we have so much yet many people are unhappy or are in constant pursuit of “more”.

I remember our first day there we were too jet-lagged to work, so we went on a tour of the community to meet some people and to see the work that had been done in previous years by former TRIP Canada volunteers. We first visited the community of houses that were built, and one of them was for a woman named Seemisilli. She has six children and her husband left her to raise her children alone. When we arrived, she came out running to greet us with a huge smile. It was supposed to be a quick stop at her house, but she had prepared a meal for us. I was very drawn to her – she was so happy and excited to see us, and still so grateful for the home that was built for her and her children. While there, I had asked through an interpreter if I could use her washroom. She took my hand with her big smile and led me behind the house where the toilet was. It was a little shed with a hole in the ground – this is a standard toilet in Sri Lanka. What I remember most about this is how proud she was that I would even consider using her toilet. I gave her a big hug when we left. She was so little, as most Sri Lankans are, compared to my 5’10” frame.

What affected me the most was the children of the community and those we were rebuilding the school for. They were just like many young children of our culture: carefree, mischievous at times, curious, and shy. I’m sure it was difficult for them to understand why they couldn’t go to school after the devastation of the tsunami. To watch them all sitting at brightly coloured, newly painted desks in the new classrooms we helped rebuild gave me an overwhelming feeling of pride and accomplishment.

Another person who greatly affected me was the head Monk at the Temple we worked on. He served us tea every day for our breaks. He shared his food with us. He prepared a feast for us on our final day there. Sometimes he worked right alongside us, barefoot. He wouldn’t say anything, he’d just join in and start helping. He said so little, and he didn’t have to.  His meanings came across in what he did, not what he said. He was kind, gentle, and humble, and without him saying a word I had learned so much from him.

The people of Sri Lanka will always hold a very special place in my heart, and the TRIP Canada experience is one I will always be grateful for.

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