In late 2018 a group of students and staff went on a trip of a lifetime to Sri Lanka to work on two Round Square projects, the Big Build and Environmental Projects. The students who took part reflected on the experience and shared this with us below.
The Round Square International Service Project to Sri Lanka in 2018 was a trip of a lifetime. This trip was amazing and five of us from Ivanhoe, along with over 50 others from various countries around the world, went on this trip to build a classroom and plant orange trees for rural communities. The journey there was smooth with a couple of plane rides and then we arrived in Sri Lanka. We relaxed in our hotel and met new arrivals. But we knew soon, the work would begin.
The Big Build Project – Tom and Vaida
For the Big Build Project, we joined another 50 or so people from Round Square Schools all around the world and were tasked with building a classroom in a little under two weeks for a local community in the heart of Sri Lanka. We worked in unrelenting 30-degree heat with sometimes near 90% humidity which required routine water and sunscreen breaks. We learnt skills of bricklaying, concrete mixing, levelling, painting and plastering on the fly whilst also making lifelong friendships and interacting with the local kids. Our meals consisted almost entirely of rice and dhal but looking back, all of these little details were overlooked as the experience was so great. I have kept in contact with people from all over the globe who are always willing to share an inside joke or reminisce about the trip
After the walls were completed, it was time to begin the process of plastering. Plastering looked much easier than it actually was. We made the plaster out of cement and sand that had been sifted through a large sieve. After the plaster was ready, we were essentially required to slap it on the wall and hope it stayed there. During this time, there was plaster flying everywhere and falling off the walls. Luckily we had Harri, from Perth who was quite a natural at this process and could help the rest of us out. Although plastering proved challenging it provided a great bonding opportunity between everyone through the laughs and screams that we enjoyed when plaster flew onto us or when we seemed to be failing miserably - it was a new experience that was one of a kind. After the plaster dried, we began the much-anticipated process of painting the classroom. This was a very rewarding job as we saw our progress and the amazing classroom come to life.
One of my favourite memories about Sri Lanka was the people. It was amazing to get an insight into different cultures around the world and it truly made me remember that there is a whole world out there and so many opportunities that we can all take advantage of. The friends I made in Sri Lanka will be for life and I am forever grateful for all of the memories, whether it be eating our morning tea of biscuits every day, having three cups of tea on a 35 degree day or our lunchtime breaks that were full of laughs and card games, sharing cultural experiences and food. It was a time where everyone on the trip was able to come together and really make the most of our amazing opportunity. I highly recommend that if anyone has the opportunity to go on a Round Square Service Trip, they do! It was beyond rewarding.
The Environmental Group - Jemima
As our school’s representative in the Environment Project I was part of a group of 14 students and two leaders who worked with the community to reduce HEC. HEC stands for Human Elephant Conflict, and plays a key role in elephant deaths in Sri Lanka. Our team focused mainly on planting orange trees that function as a barrier against elephants, as Sri Lankan elephants dislike citrus. The orange trees also act as a source of income for farmers who can sell oranges for a good profit. The planting was part of a system where each farmer would be granted 50 trees and two days of work as part of the program. During work we would arrive at a new farm almost every day, clearing the land for around half a day and then digging and planting in the second half of the day. Of course, this work would be faster or slower depending on the difficulty of the area. Sometimes there were tree roots or rocks in our areas and sometimes there was both. We also had afternoons where we would learn about the challenges facing the Sri Lankan wildlife and conservation. One afternoon we set up a wildlife camera to watch for elephants and other animals, such as leopards, and another afternoon we learnt about a failed conservation technique that used an idea brought from Africa, hanging bee boxes on fences to disturb elephants who tried to push through the fences. We also put together the packs of donations that as a group both the environmental and big build groups had collected. As a small group the environmental group grew very close, and honestly, some of my favourite moments were sitting down for a break with sweet tea from the locals chatting about what our lives look like back home, or how many roots and stones we had to dig up.
We went to many cultural sites while we were in Sri Lanka. The first being Sigaria rock, a 200-metre high rock that was once an ancient fort. Standing on this ancient place was breathtaking and the view was amazing. The second being the Buddhist cave temples. We learnt about the story of Buddha which was a good way to learn about the culture and lifestyle of the Sri Lankan people. We also had a safari trip where we drove around in Jeeps and found baby elephants with their mothers - seeing them up close was amazing.
As we stood in a circle on the final night, tears rolled down our faces as we knew this would be a trip we would all never forget. The journey home consisted of hours of sleep and plane food. But arriving back in Melbourne for our parents to see us was relieving.
We all highly recommend this trip.