Kurumunvely Playgroup, Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
The playgroup at Kurumunvely in Eastern Sri Lanka is one of the causes supported by Collingwood with monies raised by the Sponsored Walk of 2010 and the Paris bike ride in 2011. It is also one of the several contacts the College has made in connection with its application for the International Schools Award. The link has been made through the Ocean Stars Trust (OST), a registered charity with which I have close contact. The charity was formed after the Tsunami of Xmas 2004 and one of its chief roles now is to support pre-school education. I was lucky enough to spend time in the area, during October Half Term, indeed to perform the “topping out” ceremony for the classroom extension which has been partially funded by Collingwood monies.
This area is part of the Tamil-speaking area and was the part of Sri Lanka most badly affected by the tsunami and then by the ethnic conflict. Further misery came with the January floods. There is desperate poverty here and one aim of OST is to offer pre-school education to more children in this much-disadvantaged community.
Kurumunvely is entered via a vast, flat estuary which, no doubt, at certain times of the year brings flooding problems. You come off the main road onto a partially-made road and some 800 metres down you find the church - a dominant building - with the playgroup just after it. Just before the church is a government primary school (age 5 upwards), which was once allied to the Methodist church. A few cows graze amongst the sandy grass in front the church. All around the church and house is sand, though the church worker’s garden grows chillies, okra and cucumber amongst the mango and king coconut trees. Water comes from the well in the garden, where both the (open) shower area and toilet are situated. The hole in the toilet is known to be particularly large, so the tots are not allowed to enter for fear of falling down the hole. Funds are also sought for a kids’ toilet elsewhere in the garden.
The existing classroom for the playgroup is about 10 feet by 25 feet, and attempts to serve 54 3-4 year olds. Hence, there is the need for the extension which is being built on the left of the property. This will be almost 3 times the size of the existing classroom. Collingwood College provided funds for a lean-to extension to the back of the church which is finished and provides meeting space for the church and an overflow area for the tots. Collingwood has also provided monies towards the substantial extension, though this is not yet completed. More funds are required!
Our group of 13 spent a morning at the playgroup. This being Diwali, many of the children were not there, but still over 30 attended. Some of our group led the teaching. We were then able to have a topping-out ceremony as most of the roof is complete and you can see the full size taking shape. It was my honour to cut the ribbon on behalf of Collingwood.
Three teachers are being paid £20.00 each per month by OST to conduct the playgroup from 08:00 until 11:30 each weekday. The leading teacher, Nilanthi, in her mid 20s, is known to be excellent and is well supported by two others. The teachers are sponsored by individuals in the UK and would clearly continue to work even if they received nothing in return. OST provides for limited training (their only training) during the October visits.
Kurumunvely teachers and the church workers are extremely grateful for the help given by Collingwood College, and would plead for further assistance, initially to complete the extension.