Volunteer Reviews

Jessica Rose Heron, Australia

I wish I had more time to spend here, a month was simply not long enough. Great things are often an accumulation of smaller actions and every volunteer’s caring attitude makes a difference to someone else’s life. During my time here I have worked closely with the street children at the Montessori Nursery. These kids are incredible, their positivity and excitement for life is contagious. It’s hard to think they spend each night on the street. You have the power to enlighten these children with the excitement of education and a brighter future.

The orphanage is a heartbreaking place to work but one where your mere presence makes a massive difference to daily life. Every child deserves to feel individual and loved. Sadly, the orphans outweigh the staff and this is not possible. I will never forget these kids, their beautiful attitudes and big smiles make everything seem ok. I will continue to spread their love and light around the world and will always be working towards a better future.

Thank you Janaka for everything. Keep spreading your word and the world will be a much better place one day. Your family made me feel most welcome and comfortable during my stay. I couldn’t ask for anything more than what you provided. Janaka, thank you for being such an inspiration.

Katie Twist, England

Janaka, Thank you for being so welcoming and friendly from the very beginning. Receiving your lovely e-mails reassured me how amazing you are and that would love this trip. The very first thing you said to me in person was ‘Welcome home’ and from that moment on this really did feel like a second home to me. I also want to thank all the brilliant volunteers who were here during my time who have made this experience utterly unique!

This has been an emotional journey for me due to the circumstances under which I came, and without this brilliant support (and your lovely emails Janaka) I don’t know if I would have been able to come. I have made some life long friends and I will remember this amazing experience and these fabulous people for the rest of my life. I have learnt so much more on this journey than I expected and I will never forget this place. I have already told you Janaka that this will not be the last time I am here and I promise you that. Hopefully next timeI will be here longer. Janaka, I will never be able to thank you enough for setting up this incredible project it is truly the most amazing thing I have the pleasure of being a part of.

Melanie Robinson, England

Where to start? I heard about this project 2 years ago via my cousin Ashleigh… who knew 2 years later I would be here! I have had the most fantastic experience and would like to thank you for making it posible…. You really are such a kind, giving + inspirational man who we can all learn so much from! A massive thank you to your family for their hospitality and of course the staff who have always gone out of their way for me… and everyone… nothing is too much trouble.

I will spread the world about the project and I myself hope to return in the future and cannot wait to see how many more things you have accompished, I believe many!

Just a MASSIVE thank you Janaka, I ‘ve had a blast!

Amy, Megan, Miranda, Kara, Katie, Nina, Angela & Trevor, The University of Cincinnati

Thank you and your family for generously hosting all of us. Our time here has been eye-opening and we feel that we have made a difference in the lives of the young people. Words cannot begin to explain the time we spent with you and thank you again for showing us what love really means. We have enjoyed working with the young children, the street kids and nursing students and helping them with their English. The hardest part of the experience was working at the orphanage and I hope we have done some good to their lives. Janaka, you are a fantastic person with an amazing & remarkable foundation! May your dedication, enthusiasm and creativity continue to inspire for a long time to come. This is our promise to come back and help you more.

Katalin Thopmann

I’ve done many volunteer placements in the past but I can truly say that this experience here in Sri Lanka have topped them all!

Firstly thank you & your family for your amazing hopitality & for welcoming me into your home. How very special this was. Not to mention the incredible Food!!

Secondly, I want to thank you so much for trusting me to start the ‘Art Therapy’ at the girls home and the faith you have had from the beginning in me. I could not have started this without you. I truly hope that this project can be carried on to help the lovely girls in the girls home. They themselves have tought me especially about being grateful for everything we have in life-which for those girls is very little. To realise how lucky we actually are to make our own choices, may it be as little as when to wake up or when to wash our hair, is something the girls just don’t have! And yet they are the bravest, strongest and most beautiful girls I have ever met.!

Lydia Roberts, UK

Thank you so much for this amazing experience, definitely one of the best of my life so far. It is very clear to see how much of a difference ‘VSL’ is making in the community. I have been lucky enough to be here during drasic changes happening in the childrren orphnage and Sacred heart special needs class. I am very grateful to have been a part of ‘VSL’ really feel like I have made soe differences no matter how small to the lives of the lovely people from the projects.

We are so well looked after and made to feel so at home which I’m really grateful for, especially as this sort of work can evoke some very strong emotions. The food has been delicious, I will really miss it!! The staff are always there when you need them and even though Janaka is so busy, you never have to wait long for anything from him. It is also lovely that he puts time aside to talk to us every evening about the projects and life in general. VSL seems to attract a certain type of person as everyone has been so lovely and truly dedicated to their work. The ‘Family feel’ definitely extends to all of us and everyone in very supportive of each other.

We are given total freedom, not only over the projects we attend, but also over what we do in the projects themselves. I have learnt so much because of this and have definitly never been bored! I could go on! Can’t wait to come back!!

Jodie Burridge, Buckinghamshire, England

I don’t know where to start. This has been the most incredible and life changing experience of my life. The amount I have learnt whilst being here is indescribable and that’s from you, the other volunteers and of course the beautiful children that I have worked with.

I came out here quite an anxious, stressed and self conscious person, but I am leaving the complete opposite. The environment here has such an incredible and positive vibe, one where everyone is so relaxed and comfortable, so it is impossible to feel stressed. My confidence has grown so much, purely because of how proud I am of what I have managed to achieve when helping the children. I know that’s something that nobody can ever take away from me. The smiles on those children and elderly people faces are amazing, they have so little but smile so much and it just shows the impact that I have had on their lives. Saying goodbye is never easy, but I never thought it would be this hard. Being here has been such a hard, but happy experience and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Janaka, you are an inspiration. I cannot believe the amount of work you do, all day, every day and the amount of people you help. I really feel that over the past month I have made a fantastic and true friend in you, and I promise that I will be in touch and of course and I plan to come back soon.

Helen Weeks, New Castle, England

What an amazing time it has been, as always in Sri Lanka! The projects are thriving the same as two years ago and continue to help as many. The volunteers make such a difference, if only for a short time, to so many people!

I am so glad I was able to join my friend Shannon out here while she was here on her nedical ellective. We have had amazing time together, with many others, after discussing it for a long time in the UK. We finally made it!

I spent most of my time this time at the children orphanage which I loved. To see the babies laugh and smile is priceless and will always be in my heart. I will never forget them. Lastly, by no means last, thank you Janaka once again! Without you none of this would be possible. You have a fantastic work ethic, opening your home and heart to others and providing us with invaluable experience we will treasure for ever! I will again be talking about my trip, to others in the UK for a long time to come. I thank you once again and all your family and helpful staff for an amazing time in Sri Lanka and I really hope to be back a thrid time!

Shannon Turkington, Nothern Ireland

What an amazing six weeks I have had in Sri Lanka! After hearing all about the projects from my friend Helen who came two years ago, I knew it would be an amazing experience I would not forget.

I came originally for my medical elelctive but I am so glad I was able to experinece all the projects, they have really worked their way into my heart, specially the babies at the orphange.

Janaka, it is an incredible thing you do here helping so many children and allowing people like me to come and have such an experince. I hope the projects continue to grow and go from strength to strength in the future.

You have an amazing team around you and they all make the experience that much more special. Thank you so much for this experience and all the help you provide throughout my time here. I hope I will take home all the lessons I have learned and I would love to come and visit again in the future.

Julia Burnell, UK

When my sister told me what an amazing time she had volunteering in Sri Lanka, I didn’t think it was possible to enjoy it as much as she claimed. However after spending six weeks here, I completely understand I will cherish my time working for ‘VSL’ for the rest of my life, purticularly my time at the girls home. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to get to know the girls there and I am very sad to leave.

And of course, I feel very honoured to have met Janaka. You are such a wonderful caring person with a big heart and the work you have put into these projects is incredible. Also thank you so much for accepting me, and all the other volunteers (past, present & future) into your VSL family.

Elaine and Mary, Surrey, England - March 2014

Volunteering was something I had always wanted to do when I was younger, but family matters had always made this impossible. Now, with children grown up, I thought “why not?” On mentioning my plans to my friend, Mary, she told me that she too would love to have this experience.

We researched online, looking at various options, very aware that we did not want to be the only mature ladies on a placement. When we came across volunteer Sri Lanka, we were both immediately drawn to the project. The website was very informative and we loved the idea of the family accommodation.

We were certainly not disappointed. We were met at the airport by a friendly driver (pre-arranged by Janaka) and greeted warmly when we arrived at the house. We met with the other volunteers - a wide range of ages and nationalities, and started work the following morning. We worked on several projects including the children’s orphanage, the teenage girls’ project, the elders project, with special needs children, and at the street children’s centre. All the projects were immensely rewarding, though some could be quite emotionally challenging. Seeing the tiny children’s faces light up when you arrived at the orphanage, and being able to cuddle and play with them led you to feel you were making a difference in some small way. The teenage girls were keen to learn crafts and most would engage in the basic English classes we ran. The elders were a delight, and enjoyed the chats and the memory card games we played with them (they beat us hollow most of the time!)

Janaka and his family are wonderful, so too are his hard working staff. They work tirelessly to improve the lives of those less fortunate. We enjoyed lovely home cooked Sri Lankan meals, and we were even invited to Janaka’s mother-in-law’s 91st birthday celebrations, which was a real treat!

For our last couple of days, we left Galle for a trip to Kandy, again arranged in conjunction with Janaka. We had a wonderful time, visiting an Elephant Sanctuary, the Temple of the Tooth, and Sigiriya (the Lion Rock). Our driver also stopped for us at a tea factory and herb garden, before finally driving us back to Colombo for our journey home.

If you are thinking of volunteering, and want a taste of real Sri Lankan life on a project where everyone is passionate about making things better for children and the elderly alike, you would do well to choose to volunteer with Janaka. Thank you for a wonderful experience, we hope to see you again one day.

Violet & Phoebe

I just wanted to say a huge thank you for having us over the past four weeks, we have had the most wonderful and stimulating time with you. The work ‘VSL’ is doing is truly rmarkable and touches so many people’s lives. We were so touched by the work you do here and you can see how much it pays off really making a difference in making of the local lives. We have learnt so much from the experience and we are intensively grateful for that. We are sad to be leaving but will definitely come back in the future fter our amazing trip. Thank you again for your amazing hosppitality in your beautiful home.

Fions Poland

I don’t even know where to start, my time here at ‘VSL’ has been unbeleievebly speacial – I will treasure the memories for the rest of my life.

The projects have been so inspirational and have all touched my heart in different ways. The excitement and willngness of the children at the Muslim school to learn was great. I have never tought before I come here, and having the opportunity to teach has been very eye-opening. Teaching and spending time with the lovely girls at the teenage girls home was very special too, I will miss their smiles and I hope that I can see/hear about their progress at some point in the future. I feel that I have learnt so many valuable things from the people I have interacted with at the projects over the last few weeks and I fee extremely fortunate to have been given this wonderful opportunity.

Janaka, you are a truly inspirational person and the work that you do makes a massive difference to so many peoples lives. I feel very lucky to have spent time with you and your beautiful family and to have made a small contribution to your work and the local community in Galle.

Jessica Clarke

Thank you so much for the opportunity! You never know who you may meet along lifes journey and those who will have an impact upon your life. If you open up enough to new possibilites & people life will be more beautiful and full of incredible moments. Having the opportunity to work with the bakery girls, special needs kids, elderly and experirnce the hospital here has given me growth in my heart. Life is a blessing and should be treated as one. Make the difference in your life, in someone elses and your communinty. I love that I was able to meet so many people frp, diferent backgrounds. Thank you so much for making the world a better place.

Helen Weeks, Newcastle, England

Thank you again for an amazing and truly unforgettable experience with Volunteer Sri Lanka in June this year.

I was initially nervous travelling alone and arriving in an unknown country, but right from my arrival to my very last day I could not have felt more at home. This was all thanks to you and your family as well as all the staff especially Douglas and Siri and the night staff, who were not only welcoming but caring, kind, funny (especially Siri!) and willing to help with any problems. Your staff are a real credit to the project and I will recommend my stay and the Volunteer Sri Lanka project to many.

The many projects I took part in gave me an insight into other cultures and religions as well as gaining more experience working with children and children with special needs in which I hope to continue in the future. I especially enjoyed volunteering at the orphanage and Sacred Heart School with the special needs girls class. The staff at the projects really appreciate the volunteers and their time and make it incredibly hard to leave! The children themselves are so inspirational despite their hard times - the orphanage babies will forever be in my memory for smiling, laughing and playing like any other child.

I cannot thank you enough for the 4 weeks I was able to be a part of volunteer Sri lanka - I have not stopped talking about it since I came home! Sri Lanka itself is a truly beautiful country and I aim to return again soon with my family and friends.

I hope that the project continues to thrive and that many more volunteers are able to replicate my experience and appreciate the amazing and inspirational work that you do. Let me know how things are going and I look forward to organising another trip with you hopefully next year or early 2015.

Lian Koerkamp

To my Sri Lankan Family, after some weeks I have to say goodbye to my home in Sri Lanka. Your kindness, sweet words, inspirational talks and great country will always feel like a home to me. I loved coming back to you guys after a weekend trip, you made this experience so much more meaniingful. Now I am going back to Holland with a backpack full of love, friends and experiences. A special thanks to the special needs project as well. It was a challenge, but working there made my stay so much meaningful. I’m going to miss those kids and teachers. The experinece made me challenge myself and I can say that I’ve grown as a person. You are forever in my Heart!

Danielle & Debby

We are so grateful for this unforgettable experience. We cannot express it in words. We really enjoyed it, even in every moment. You have a great family and amazing staff. Everyone is hospitable here. We feel a lot and learnt a lot. Something has changed in our minds. Thank you for everything you have done for us and offered us. The lovely room, the delicious and yummy food and then lovely driver who picked us from the airport. It is meaningful and memorable in our first sight in Sri Lanka, we will never forget this journey. Thanks a lot.

Lisa, Chelsea, Kiona, Sanne, Junice and Tessa

We want to thank you all for your hospitality. This place really was our home. We are a big experience richer. We have learnt a lot, not only our English has improved we also learned a lot on a personal level. We are so thankful that we got this opportunity to come here and help the girls of the teenage girls home who didn’t always had an opportunity.

We never thought that this experience would be so impressive and beautiful as it was. We think that the girls of the bakery school really want to learn something and want to have a better future. We have been to amazing places, did amazing things and met amazing people.

Tori Cookson

The six weeks I spent in Sri Lanka have been the most fulfilling weeks of my life. Never before have I felt like I made such a difference in other people’s lives. I feel so lucky that I found this project and that I was able to meet and make a friend in Janaka, along with feeling very close to his family.

I always knew I wanted to volunteer in Sri Lanka, as after a family holiday to the country in 2003, I felt instantly attached. I arrived on September 1st, 2012, and, as this was my first volunteering experience, I didn’t know what to expect. I was immediately put at ease when meeting the other volunteers and meeting Janaka and his family. Staying with Janaka in his family home is such a positive aspect of VSL as you become close with the other volunteers and feel very safe and never alone. Not to mention the food provided is great and its a good opportunity to experience real Sri Lankan cooking. I would describe Janaka’s house as a home from home for me. I was lucky enough to form a great relationship with his children, most notably his youngest daughter Koeli who I still miss everyday!

There are many rewarding projects one can choose from with VSL; I worked closely with the street children and in Ruhunu Orphanage, both very different projects, but both as worth while. The children are all beautiful and I had so much fun with them all. They are all so bright and have a lot to give the world. I certainly learned how rewards come from working hard.

I know I will return to Janaka’s home very soon as it has been an experience I will find impossible to forget. I have certainly changed for the better from participating in this amazing project, appreciating the small things in life and being aware of what I can offer to help others. I feel honored I was part of this project.

Alexandra, Hazel & Bria

Thank you for opening your home upto me and my friends and making every part of it homely and welcoming. I have truly enjoyed stayying in your beaujtiful homeand will forever remember the expences and lessons I have learnt being here.

This experience have had an ever lasting effects on us and has in some ways changed both our actions and views on life. Both the girls home and the children orphange really opened our eyes to how greatful we should be for the things that we get so easy, and the things that they don’t get. It is amazing that within the projects we have seen other human beings who have practically nothing but still find a way to be positive and have a smile on their face and for that we admire them deeply. The indipendency and self-sufficiency we have gained from the trip will always be there to serve us through our later life to help us grow as a person. It has been a once in a life time opportunity and it is an experinece we will never forget.

Christa Mohr, USA

How nice it was to be able to come back! i think it has been about 3 years give or take, which is too long. Being back here is like my 02nd home and family. It was especially nice for you to fit me in, even when there wasn’t really any room. It just woulnd’t be the same any where else. It was so very wonderful to see you and your family again, my Sri Lakan family and the people I connect within my work from last time. This time I also helped my Sri Lankan family at the Temple to serve food. You know my sensitivities, I cried happy tears to do that. I will shed more bitter/sweet tears as I return home. It was nice to see the growth, and changes with VSL and this area, but once a again bitter/sweet as I enjoyed the quaint homeeyeness of a smaller, more intimate crowd. I have given my address to those who have asked. I can continue to helpwith English even from America. With these types of interactions, I believe we can become closer as a world. Keep up the food work.

Anke Eggink and Tineke Holst, Holland

We have worked twice as volunteers for the project of Janaka de Silva in the city of Galle, Sri Lanka. Working there you can choose between different projects, work that suites you and/or where you were trained or educated for. More details of the projects you can find on the website. In 2012 we worked in the Ruhuni Orphanage, the Home for Elderly and with the streetkids of Galle.

In the orphanage you work together with volunteers from all over the world and with local women who work there for a living. It is nice to build up a relation with these women because this makes the work more enjoyable. We experienced that being there for the second time we were better prepared for what was coming. When we went there for the second time in september 2012 we were quite involved with the children in the orphanage (there are young babies and small children up to 2 and a half years). We also spend some time with the elderly and streetchildren and gave swimming lessons to deaf girls.

Especially with the streetchildren we experienced that it gave pleasure that we were recognised by them from the previous time. For these kids things were significantly better than the first time in 2011. These children go to school now and in the afternoon there is a proper program for them. Every day clean clothes and food and drinks. They even watch tele for half an hour.

Of course there are many opportunities for improvement on all levels but it was very nice to experience that circumstances are improving, also due to the work of the volunteers. So we can strongly recommend this project to you.

Janaka de Silva provides good housing and food facilities with him and his family, he has an open mind for your questions and provides a good support while working there. The type of project(s) you work for is chosen in good harmony. You live in a safe neighbourhood where you meet other people from all over the world who share most of their views on what’s important in life. There remains time to visit the surroundings of Galle.

Sri Lankans are friendly and polite people: the temperature of the land is high so you must be able to cope with that.

If you are interested you are welcome to email us for questions about this worthwhile project. Anke and Tineke, tienholst@hotmail.com

Chloe Edmonds, St.Dominic school – Australia

Thank you sincerely for welcoming us into your home with open arms and and open heart. The past week has most certainly been the most amazing week of my life, a week which has shaped the person I am and want to be. The countless life lessons learnt are all due to the oppetunities you have granted me in volunteering at the elder’s home, girls home, disabled people home and muslim school. I certainly wish to use there skills I have gained in my future volunteering endeavors. You have made a foot print in my heart too, and I hope that our paths will cross again in the near future.

Samantha Strongman – England:

Two months of my volunteering has been one of the most wonderful months in my life and time will never forget. Thank you so much for making this so wonderful, for being so welcoming, generous and kindness and especially for all the yummy food.

I think the work you do is so fantastic and it has been an absolute honour to be part of it and I feel so lucky to have met so many beautiful people along the way. Sri lanka has been a complete surprise for me, it was never on my ‘Must visit’ list until your project came along, but without its colour, flavours and beauty, I feel I would have a huge gap missing in my life – I am so happy to have discovered it and you.

Ella, St.Dominic School – Australia

Thank you for showing me a better side of life, your perspective upon life is so positive and truly inspiring. Over our short week together you have become a great father figure for me and for all the girls. The work you do for your community and volunteers is amazing. The dedication and passion you show is incredible.

Sophie Xinchen Xu - China

My name is Xinchen Xu (Sophie) and I’m from China. I spent 3 weeks in Sri Lanka; this period of time is quite unforgettable and has become one of the best experiences that would never fade in my memory.

Janaka provides a range of voluntary opportunities which is perfect for people who want to help the children in need, the old and the poor. He is such a good manager that he would provides us great care and in that way we volunteers can focus on our voluntary work without the worries behind.

My voluntary work includes taking street children to school, playing with the kids in the community center, helping the staff in the orphanage and so on. I really enjoy the time with the lovely and vivacious children. Before I started my work, I was not sure whether I can do my job successfully as a non- native speaker of English and whether the children would like me. However, I found that there is no need to worry about these because the children were incredibly friendly and I felt very sweet when they smile at me and hugged me. I really like the feeling to be needed by someone.

Aside from volunteering, there are many things to do. Swimming in the India Ocean, walking on the beach, watching sunset in Galle Fort……it is the most amazing time I’ve ever had in my life! Besides, I am so lucky that I attended the party celebrating 2 year birthday of volunteer project. We wear traditional clothes of Sri Lanka, listened to music and talked about the volunteering and anything else just like family.

In addition, I enjoy working with the other volunteers who were always helpful and nice; we had a wonderful time together. For instance, we discussed what we were going to do in the community center, played games with the girls in girls’ home and everything else.

My accommodation, is a lovely apartment near Janaka’s house, is surrounded by beautiful garden with trees and flowers. I could always see the energetic monkey neighbors jumping up and down and hear them chattering. This is an entirely new experience because in my hometown I can only see monkeys in zoo.

My three weeks stay is definitely too short, however, although I cannot pull anyone out of poverty in three weeks, I did bring happiness to the children and the old. Confucius said: Do not give up good things though they may be minor matters. So don’t be hesitated if you are still worry about what you can offer because even a little thing can make a difference.

Nhu Phan, St.Dominic school

Although we have only stayed with you and have known you for a week, it felt like you have been with us for so long. The fact that you can remember all our names and faces within this short period of time. I am nothing more than feeling admirable towards you. The other night, I asked myself “how does Janaka continue to be the compassionate person he is every single day?”. It has like God answered my prayers because the day after, you spoke to us about your 5 values in life. The value that struck me the most, is that you try to never hurt anyone or anything, not even an ant for someone who lives in a country where ants roam the streets, I see you as a shelter for all, sent down from Heaven. I will come back one day with my university degree and job and family to give back to you the same love and kindness you have given me. You are more than an embedded footprint on my heart, you are a piece of my Heart!

Sophie Xinchen Xu - China

Our volunteer journey began with a holiday to Sri Lanka last year. We loved the country, met some great people and came home desperate to go back. When the usual holiday blues didn’t go I knew something had to be done, and going completely against my normal instincts I found myself (a quiet, unadventurous, non-risk taking, 40 year old single mum) taking my son out of school, asking for 8 weeks off work and heading back to Sri Lanka to live with strangers and volunteer for 5 weeks. Had I gone mad! Absolutely not! Without a doubt it has been the best thing I have ever done. To be able to spend 5 weeks getting up in the morning and going to work with beautiful and amazing children in a beautiful country has been a real privilege. One of the benefits of VSL has to be the variety of projects you can get involved in. We worked with the Street children and at the orphanage, at times great fun, at times heartbreaking. We were there to help, but until you are there you don’t realise how much you too will get back, and how your life will be enriched by spending time there. We also spent time at the local Yasodara nursery school and community centre, assisting the teacher in the mornings and running activities for older children in the afternoons. The children are keen and lively and so welcoming. You become part of their community for the brief time you are there and feel like you never want to go home. After our 5 weeks volunteering we returned to last years hotel as planned for a ‘holiday’ . It was just as perfect as last year in every way, but we would have done anything to go back to Janaka’s and spend more time there instead, and now home we are already planning ways of going back.

Janaka and his family are perhaps the most friendly and welcoming people you will ever meet. So generous – nothing is too much trouble. In Sandali, Seth and Koeli, Sam has had a brother and sisters for the first time in his life and he misses them terribly. Living with them and all the other volunteers you are part of a large but wonderfully happy and supportive family, in a beautiful house in an amazing country.

Our five weeks flew by so quickly. I would say that if you only have 2-3 weeks you will undoubtedly be of use, but don’t be scared of going for longer if you have the time. I expected a challenge and hoped I would enjoy it. What I got was an experience that will stay with me for ever and probably the happiest and most rewarding five weeks of my life. I would be back there without hesitation if the opportunity arose again. And for those of you wondering if taking a teenager is the right thing to do? – Do it! We were lucky that the school fully supported my decision, but Sam as you can see has had the best time and it has been such a privilege to be able to share an experience like this together. If in doubt call me – you can get my details from Janaka.

Jo Jo

Hello Janaka,

What a great pleasure that is to be filled and fill love in everyone’s heart in Sri Lanka. No words have been enough to express my heartfelt gratitude. Thank you so much for having us here and we greatly appreciate all your heartfelt stories that you have shared with us. Thank you once again for all your time and efforts for organizing each and every event for us. You might not have mentioned all the hard work you have placed from the back stage, but we just want to let you know how much this means to us. Please continue planting seedings in more and more people’s hearts, it may not be always smooth and simple but all the good deeds you have done will always be greatly appreciated with respect. May all of us continue to follow your footsteps and pass along our love in every corners of the world. From the bottom of my heart, thank you once again Janaka! It was an amazing trip.

Gemma and John Anderson from the UK:

We both had a fantastic time volunteering in Sri Lanka. We always wanted to do something like this and now we are so glad we did. We enjoyed the variety of work and the fact that we had the freedom to choose what we wanted to do. The work we did ranged from painting a mural at an orphanage, to teaching English and IT in schools, to helping out at a local old people’s home. Gemma’s work donated two laptops to the project, one of which we gave to the boys’ home in Wanduramba. We taught English there and started IT training with the older boys. It was really rewarding to work with such friendly and enthusiastic kids and amazing to see their English and IT skills improve during our time here. We will really miss them. The other laptop will be donated to the Skills Training Centre that the Project is setting up in the near future. We raised funds from our friends, families and colleagues before we came out to Sri Lanka. This has been really worthwhile and rewarding. During our work at various placements we have been able to see what people really need, and it has been great to have funds to dip into to help those who need it the most. We spent most of the money we raised rebuilding a house in the village for a very poor family. The re-build cost in total was 140,000 rupees which is about £820. You can see the pictures and plans here:

To See More Photos

Our accommodation at the project was lovely and is just a short bus ride away to the shops and Fort in Galle and the beautiful beach at Unawatuna. Thanks so much to Janaka and his family for making us so welcome in their home and for all their hospitality. We will miss the all the people we met during out trip.

Shannon Admiraal, Holland

This is my last morning after staying here for eight weeks. Those weeks have been incredible. I have enjoyed every single minute. The girls home touched my heart, they have given me so much love. Staying here was wonderful, I felt like home. The food is amazing, my room really nice, the view gorgeous, you are an inspiring and kind-hearted man. I only have good words for this project, I have learnt and loved here so much.

Sean Corcoran from the USA:

My volunteer experience was great. To summarize this in a few paragraphs is difficult. I volunteered for three weeks starting in May 2010. Having never previously volunteered and having no prior experience I originally questioned if I would succeed in a teaching environment. However, Janaka and everyone at the schools were extremely generous and helpful, the Sri Lankan people in general are the friendliest people I have ever met; they go out of their way to help you. Staying with Janaka and his family at their home was excellent. It is a very nice home and everyone in his family are very nice. I instantly felt included as part of the household. It honestly felt like a second home. My room was very nice. It was huge with its own ensuite bathroom, and had its own fan and mosquito net. Janaka makes sure everything goes well at the volunteering locations and is extremely helpful with any problems or ideas pertaining to volunteering. He makes sure the experience is amazing! I really cannot say thanks enough.

Siri was one of the most upbeat and happy people I have ever met. Just coming downstairs for breakfast in the morning and talking with Siri for a few minutes could put you in a good mood for the rest of the day. Having the chance to meet Siri’s family before I left was excellent as they all share his traits!

My experience definitely changed me as a person for the better. Prior to volunteering I had never been anywhere where the people were so genuine and grateful for seemingly small things. It really opened my eyes and makes me want volunteer again in the near future. You don’t need any special qualifications to make a difference just an earnest interest to help and try some new things.

Most of my time volunteering was spent teaching English at Ananda School and the Muslim School to primary school children, and also participating in sports and activities with children. I looked forward to volunteering everyday because everyone was very grateful and the children were always just as excited as I was. It was quite difficult to leave. My only regret is that I could not stay longer. I definitely want to come back sometime in the future!

Ellie & Max Fewester, England

Thank you for the most wonderful 3 weeks and for making Max & I feel so welcome and at home from the minute we arrived. The love and kindness of your family is truly amazing, thank you for being so hospitable from the offset of our trip, both of us felt at home despite being so far from it!

We have learnt so much during our stay here – lessons about myself, others and life in general. Both the girls home and the orphanage really opened my eyes, touched my heart and made me feel more grateful for the things I have in my life. We have enjoyed working at all of the projects and meeting so many people so many kind and loving people.

All of you have such wonderful unique traits that make each of you so special to us individually. However one special trait that we admire most is resillience.

Janaka, you have done more than pick yourself back up, you have picked your family up and established ‘VSL’ “The silver wing to the cloud”. “Planes takes off to the wind” and this project is a representation of that. Your work, kindness and orientation to your family and your community has gained my utmost respect and makes you a truly remarkable man. Thank you again for your hospitality, you are such a charitable man and I (alone with many others) have learnt so much from you.

Michael Spranger from Austria:

It all started with a vague idea to go somewhere and to do something. However, volunteering in Sri Lanka turned out to be one of the most interesting experiences of my life.

Before volunteering I thought about how I could be of help and considered the skills I had that would be of value. I asked myself many questions.

  • I am 44 years old – is volunteering for younger people?
  • I am not a teacher. How can I teach English when it is not my mother tongue?
  • Will I be able to contribute as a social worker?
  • I can only take three weeks holiday from my job in Europe. What can I achieve in only three weeks?

Despite my reservations Janaka motivated me by saying that I would be welcome to do whatever I was able. So I prepared a small project from the social workers point of view (kind of social work at school). I received great support and appreciation while preparing it and this encouraged me to be confident at the prospect of implementing my ideas. I finally made the decision to volunteer at the project.

It was the best decision I could possibly have made. I don't want to describe all the activities I participated in, as they are described on the homepage. Instead I will explain to you how the experience affected me. Let me tell you about my trip to Yala national park, during one of my weekends. We went to see crocodiles and elephants but something of much more importance happened on this day. It was the beginning of a friendship with a family which I invited to come with me. As almost all of the experiences I made in Sri Lanka, it happened partly by chance. I expected that other volunteers would join me but for various reasons they didn’t. I decided to ask Janaka if it would be a good idea to invite a poor Sri Lankan family to come with me. I was sure there were thousands of families in Galle who have never been to Yala because they couldn’t afford it, even though it is only a day trip. So I spent a day with this family and through this adventure we became good friends.

Some experiences cannot be described in words. You have to have the experience yourself to understand its meaning; its importance. By making friends with this family and sharing other volunteering experiences in Sri Lanka I recognise that my life is different now. I have found answers from escaping my every-day life in Europe and volunteering abroad. Three weeks were enough to find my way.

I think this is what volunteering is about: People can change your life just by spending time together. The people I met do not know how important it was for me to meet them and how much they have influenced my life. I can only assume by the feedback I was given that this works the other way round as well. However I do know it is very important to send this message to the people of Sri Lanka: "I may live far away but please know ‘I am interested in your life, in your sorrows, in your success and in the health and well being of your family and the development of your country.“

By the way: the project I wanted to implement (social work at school) had no chance of coming true. This was obvious on the very first day at school and knowing this I did not even try to implement my ideas. Although most of my experiences came by fortune and some of my plans could not be realized, the benefit at the end was much more than I could ever have expected or hoped.

This is what the children said after every lesson: "Thank you teacher, please come again"
This is what I said to my friends when I left Sri Lanka: "I want to come again"

Fran & Martha Lamont, England

Thank you Janaka & family for welcoming us into your lives. Its been such a roller coaster of an experience, where every emotion has been felt. However, as my trip comes to an end, I feel so calm and accepting of such different world from my own – where judgement is held for these differences. I have felt so touched by the kindness of Sri Lankan peoples hearts, and I can only hope that they have felt touch by my own. One of the most special moments for me was massaging the feet of many of the elders. The fact that these elderly people were trusting of me so much to allow me to rub and touch and lay my hands on their feet felt as amazingly intimate and emotional experience. Every part of this will stay with me, but that simple human touch was the most humbling.

Pardeep from the United Kingdom:

My name is Pardeep and I am from England. I spent two and a half weeks in this placement and stayed with Janaka at his home. I had been interested in carrying out voluntary work for some time and decided upon Sri Lanka as it is a beautiful country, the range of work available and make a difference however big or small to the people there.

I found Janaka to be extremely helpful right from day one, he had been my first point of call for information and was very honest and direct. He has a big heart to help the people and us volunteers make the most of the assistance we bring. Staying at his place felt like it was a home away from home especially with the warmth from the family and fellow volunteers I was with at the time.

The accommodation was brilliant providing en-suite facilities and it was reassuring to know that it was very safe and secure. Meals were provided three times a day. Every meal was delicious and there was always a variety!

Throughout the period, I assisted in local schools teaching conversational English and sporting activities at the schools and in the playing ground with local children.

Although I am not a teacher, I found the project and schools to be very open to my own ideas and the chance to apply what I thought might work well. The time at the schools was quite demanding which made it all the more satisfying and enjoyable to be making a difference there.

Every moment had been a wonderful experience. Personally two and a half weeks is not enough to truly experience what Sri Lanka and the project has to offer.

Pauline Wayman, New Zealand

What can I say? This has been a wondeful experience for me on many levels. One of them has been simply being accepted despite being much older than most. Also its been nice just having myself to look after here and actually beling looked after by the wondeful staff and your family. I’ve loved every minute and will be sad to leave. To others I would say two things, ‘Expect the unexpected’ and ‘Pack an open mind and an open heart’

All the very best to you and your afforts to really make a different to other lives for the better.

Anne Morrow from the United Kingdom:

Sri Lanka – where do I begin.....I wasn’t sure what to expect before arriving there. The pictures in my head were all very romantic: swimming in the Indian Ocean, sun, smiling laughing children and wildlife like I’d never experienced before. The reality was better than that!

Janaka was a brilliant host right from the start and throughout my stay. He seems to have a great knack of involving the volunteers in everything from decision making to being part of the family. The family are fantastic. I’m putting Manel forward for “best cook in the world award”! Most mornings, I was greeted by a real smile and a hug from Janaka’s mother in law and always a “good morning” from Premisiri who helps around the house. Janaka and Manel's children were a big part of my stay there and are great fun to be around.

The projects that I took part in were all very different and I benefited in so many ways from that diversity. I worked in 2 nursery schools assisting the teachers with the most well behaved children that I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Assisting in a local primary/secondary school was another role. I held arts/crafts classes for the children and also taught some curriculum based English. Most afternoons I worked with children from Yasodarawatta village teaching English using Art – a brilliant experience and the children were exactly like the images in my head .... smiling, laughing, affectionate and so keen to learn. I also helped another 2 volunteers with English classes at the local Buddhist Temple – an honour to say the least. Discovering more about Theravada Buddhism gave me a better understanding of the culture that is the basis of Sri Lankan living. Finally, some manual labour!!! I helped put the roof on the new sanitary block at the Temple. Hard graft, but great to be part of creating something that will be a lasting benefit.

During my 3 month stay, I saw some of the Island, mainly the West and the centre of the South and a little bit of the East. Everywhere we went had something different to offer. I even tried surfing!!

I will leave you with the thought that Sri Lanka will see me return time and time again. My overwhelming memory is of the people that I came to know from the village – mainly the children I taught in the afternoons.

On my last day we had a party, a really fun day with games and lots of laughter. When we had finished and were tidying up one little girl that I had taught came over to me and gave me a present, it was her teddy bear. This is a little girl who materially has nothing, but she insisted that I bring it home with me. I think in that moment I realised that in coming to this tiny little village I had afforded myself a huge privilege and that was to have experienced being part of something that was completely unconditional – for 3 months I had been living in a place where you are not measured by the size of your car or how big your belly is. You are quite simply welcomed in, nurtured and looked after by a giant sized family!!!!

If you need any more information about the project I would be happy to chat on email or phone – you can access my details through Janaka.

Toni Muntadas, Barcelona

I really would like to stay for a while in this magical place. This is because this house is special and what it makes it special is people…… The volunteets, Janaka & family and all the staff are great people. Is has been a pleasure to put my grain of sand in different projects and to know such beautiful persons. (Elderly home, Muslim school, Nursing school, somebody…) They have given me many unforgettable smiles. Finally I do not want to forget about the food, it has been great and spicy! An experience that I will remember all my life, I hope I could return in the near future.

All the very best to you and your afforts to really make a different to other lives for the better.

Gonçalo Figueiredo- from Portugal:

My name is Gonçalo Figueiredo. I'm from Portugal, and I'm a Commercial and Editorial Photographer.

I’ve always wished to work as a volunteer, to engage in the lives of people in need and help them improve their future. When I finally found the time to volunteer, I went on a quest to find the project that I thought would fulfil my requirements. I was looking for social impact, helping potential, commitment and, of course, a fair budget. The Volunteer Sri Lanka Project fitted these conditions, nicely.

Along with my wife, Catarina, I spent 2 months volunteering in the Volunteer Sri Lanka Project founded by Janaka de Silva. My work consisted of creating and lecturing an advanced photography course to Sri Lankan professional photographers and amateurs, teaching conversational English and working on the construction of a sanitary block.

It was an overwhelming experience, to say the least! I had some expectations regarding my ability to influence people’s lives, but I was not expecting to get and learn so much from them. The human values, the genuine friendship, the caring and generosity of these people transcend any concept we may have in the social reality of the Western World.

Living in Janaka's house was like being in an exotic palace surrounded by jungle. There are little ponds with colourful fish; big trees with playful monkeys; young princesses that will make sure you smile everyday (Koeli, Sandali and Samadhi); a mighty warrior to put you on alert and conquer your space (Seht); a gracious queen always around to make sure nothing is missing (Manel); and the king himself, a delightful host with a big sense of humour and a supersized heart (Janaka). If after all this you still don't feel like a knight, just wait for the buffet at the Unawatuna Beach Resort, the pool at the Lighthouse Hotel, the private tuk-tuk driver, or the coconut beaches nearby.

Sri Lanka is gorgeous and the people are unique. I never felt unsafe or insecure. On the contrary, I felt overprotected. As soon as you arrive, everyone will know who you are. Believe me, the word spreads fast. You will be part of the community... and you will be part of the family.

Getting back home is a mixture of feelings. It's the joy and happiness of meeting our friends and relatives, after such a long time, but also the sadness and frustration of leaving everyone else behind knowing that there is still so much to be done.

When José Martí, the hero of Cuban independence, named the things that every man should do before he dies, he said, “Plant a tree, write a book and have a son.” Today, I would add a fourth one to that: "volunteer – breed the help to those in need!"

Katie Twist

You know how I feel about the amazing work you do here and I have said everything in person. Last year was such an emotional trip for me, and you looked after me like part of your family. I have thrived here and truly grown and changed as a person due to this amazing experience you provided. I honestly think of ‘VSL’ and Sri Lanka in general as a second home and I will never tire of coming here, which I will be for a very long time.

I have made so many life long friends here, in your family, other volunteers & on the projects. I can’t say much more that I hanen’t said in person (or without crying!) So thank you! If when I am older I am half as successful , charitable and happy as you are, Janaka I will consider that a massive achievement. See you soon,

Nicky Axmann - from North Carolina, USA:

My name is Nicky Axmann from North Carolina, USA. I am 18 years old. I spent just over two weeks at Janaka’s place in Galle. My volunteer holiday has been nothing short of amazing. Sri Lanka is the perfect place to volunteer because of the dire need for volunteers as well as the excellent vacationing that can be enjoyed during the parts of the day not spent working.

JI worked at several schools and in the local village, coaching and coordinating soccer practices for kids between the ages of 11-18. The kids were incredible, so much so that I found it difficult to say goodbye when the time finally came around for me to leave. While the importance of teaching soccer to children is often underestimated I can vouch for its importance. Playing a sport that helps condition people physically and mentally is beneficial to everyone. Further, playing soccer helped the children establish and complete goals such as mastering soccer moves, passing exercises, and shooting. Not to mention the added benefit of improving their English considerably.

Janaka was amazing in setting everything up and continued to support me throughout my work. The same goes for the schools, who were more than delighted to have volunteers and supported me with anything I needed to help the students. Their hospitality was so amazing that it was almost embarrassing.

Rest assured that if you chose to volunteer with Janaka your skills will be put to good use. It is incredible how Janaka manages to juggle his full time job as the manager of a local hotel with organizing everyone’s volunteer activities, and still managing to spend time with his family. Other positive aspects of the experience were the wonderful food cooked by Manel, Janaka’s wife, and being with their delightful children.

In closing, I would recommend spending more than three weeks volunteering, as I was only just getting started before I had to head home. Without a doubt, this is a great opportunity for anyone looking for a relatively cheap volunteer experience in a wonderful country. Overall, I had a wonderful time and cannot wait until I get another opportunity to go back to Sri Lanka.

Heather – England

Wow – here to begin….,
Firstly a massive thank you to everbody for welcoming us into such a loving and wlecoming home – it was such a pleasure to arrive on my 22nd birthday and be presented with a bouquet of colourful flowers, and later a huge pink birthday cake!

I have thotoughly enjoyed having indepence of being a ‘free’ volunteer at the same time as being held under the ‘Akeley wood school wing. There have been a few highlights for me during the projects. Firstly at the ‘Vanreeth elders’ homewhen I did a musical duet with a lovely gentleman (Newton) I was playing my flute whilst Newton tapped the rythem on his drum with a great smile on his face. Another highlight was the Girls home which I was a little nervous about, but made a strong bond with couple of girlswho I intend to make contact with from – expecially a birthday card.

I have had a great first experince of Sri Lanka and hope to come back.

Samatha Barsing, Australia

Wow! What an amazing time I have had at ‘VSL’. This is my first solo trip and three months away from my family and friends seemed very daunting, but I shouldn’t have worried! You and your family have welcomed me in to your home with open arms. The people I have met during my trip to SL have all touched my heart from the minute I stepped off the plane, people have been friendly. Janaka, you and your family & staff the other volunteers all the people on the projects specially the girls of girls home, the children at the nursery and of course the elders. I must say I finished my volunteering on a very high note. Taking the elders to the beach for the first time in 30 years for some was something very special. I also will remember my time with the girl of girls home. They are all such beautiful girls who thrive off the volunteers day after day. The bakery project is changing their lives tremendously and giving them all hope and a brighter future. To see their faces light up everyday to play game of Elle was just great.

What you are doing at VSL is truly fantastic, keep up the good work! I am positive the people of Galle are happier & safer because of you. It has been so lovely to meet you and hear all your inspiring stories. If I can take on some of your wise words, I know I will live a happier, more fulfilled life.

Elizabeth Cecelski, North Carolina, USA:

I spent three weeks in Sri Lanka in July 2009, mainly for my own professional work and also looking for a volunteer opportunity for my 18 year old son, Nicky.

I can vouch for the integrity and character of Janaka and the project. You can be sure that your efforts will be well used and you will be kept as busy as you want. Your donations will be well used also and you will be well taken care of. Janaka and his family are truly devoted to helping others in their community. The volunteer experience is wonderful. Our efforts were so much appreciated. I taught an adult education English class at the temple - 3 young girls, 3 housewives, 4 young monks, and the senior monk! Nicky taught soccer at a local school and the village football club. What I saw with all the volunteers' activities is that there was a lot of flexibility, adaptability, and creativity available to and demanded of all of us. The opportunities to use your creativity and ideas are great. So we certainly learned and gained as much from the experience as our students did.

The volunteer living situation at the de Silva home is very comfortable. The rooms are spacious clean and in a separate wing of the house so the volunteers do have some privacy, but you should enjoy having kids around the house - Janaka has 4 lovely children between ages of 3 and 11!

The volunteers eat their meals together in the family kitchen and there was a great social feeling in the group. The food is good and plentiful - Manel is an excellent cook. You can spend time with the family as you wish. We were also getting to know some of the families in the neighbourhood, the monks at the temple, and being invited in to tea. Sri Lanka is a fantastic country to visit but my son and I did not have much time for tourism due to my work commitments.

Unawatuna beach is a great one, and being able to use the Hotel pool and hang out on the beach there is a big plus as you can have some of the Sri Lanka vacation experience as well.

This is a great volunteer experience for creative, adaptable volunteers looking to make a real person-to-person difference in a Sri Lankan community.

Dinner with the other four volunteers who were there at the same time as us and with the family including Manel's mother who lives with them - second left from Janaka - and yes she is standing up! Samadhi, standing next to her is already almost a head taller and she is only 12 years old!