Why “Two Schools In Sri Lanka”?
“Two Schools in Sri Lanka” is only the name of this website. All websites require a URL and, after briefly fretting about the name's similarity to “Three Cups of…” and all that that might represent to website visitors, I decided “Two Schools In Sri Lanka” was as accurate as I could get.
I stipulate that "Two Schools in Sri Lanka" is merely a name, not an organization because there is no organization as such; there is one person working with two-- soon to be three—schools, and that person is me. I offer periodic financial support with the help of family and friends. I’m not paid. All travel expenses and the majority of project funding comes from my pocket. Perhaps in the near future a 501(c)(3) will be established such that contributions from others will be tax deductible. Thus far I've shied away from that due to anxieties regarding unencumbered visa processing. Some countries are less excited about unfettered NGO's than others, and I understand and respect that.
From Here to There
In early spring of 2004, I went to Sri Lanka for the first time. Having visited South Asia since the early 90’s, exploring South India’s highways and byways in three or four week chunks, it was time for a change. In Sri Lanka the travel was significantly easier than in India, and the birding, a primary motivator, was great. That fall the easy decision was made to return, and I planned a trip for early 2005, buying tickets just a few days before Christmas for a March departure.
The day after Christmas while watching the news, I learned of the now famous tsunami in the Indian Ocean. After crushing coastal areas in Thailand and Malaysia, the tsunami swept more than 1000 miles east in two hours. The most vulnerable of India and Sri Lanka had little warning; the giant wave hit them with undiminished power. In Sri Lanka the coastal plain is enormous, and the east and south suffered greatly with water pushing as far as a half mile inland. Between 35,000 and 40,000 people died, a toll second only to that of Indonesia. More than one hundred thousand families were displaced; most of the wooden houses in the fishing villages were destroyed.
Some three months after the disaster I arrived with enthusiasm, money, and a slight sketch of a plan…. In Galle, the major city in the southeast, I met a tuk tuk driver who spoke English, and together we visited several schools in the area. Each school had small requests. On the second day, this driver, Ananda Liyanage, took me to the Martin Wickramasinghe School in Koggala, eight miles east of Galle and less than a hundred yards from the Indian Ocean. Ananda asked if there was anybody at the school who spoke English; there was. This is how we first met Udenika Ariyasiri, one of two of the school’s English teachers, who, along with Ananda, is one of the two lynch pins to the project's successes.
This school became the focus of my efforts. I quickly learned that sustained support and oversight would be necessary; the first year's work turned into what has become a long-term collaboration.