For three weeks in July 2016, Jaffna College welcomed six Australian volunteers who came to contribute to the College’s English Language program. Some of the volunteers had Sri Lankan heritage and were able to use the visit as an opportunity to improve their Tamil language and grow their appreciation of their parents’ homeland. All six (three men and three women under thirty years of age) enjoyed their stay, finding it challenging, interesting and eye opening. Several of the volunteers plan to return to Sri Lanka for further volunteering in future.
The volunteer program was established in 2015 as a cooperative project between Jaffna College, an Australian Tamil School, and two of the College’s Australian mission co-workers.
All the volunteers attended detailed briefings in Australia on what to expect in Jaffna, their role in the College, and they had to have a valid Australian “Working with Children” certificate. One was a trained teacher, and all were passionate about assisting with supporting English language learning. They paid their own way including their own daily living and travel expenses. Jaffna College provide free accommodation of a good standard, including meals. Timetables included time off to explore Jaffna, and enjoy shopping and sight-seeing trips and visits to relatives and friends.
Some of the benefits for volunteers included gaining a new understanding of their parent’s home country, improving their Tamil vocabulary and fluency, rising to the daily challenges of the classroom situation, the importance of pre-planning and preparation, and learning to work together as a team. They developed new understandings of a country emerging from the isolation and tragedy of war. Having to adapt quickly to unfamiliar situations was also a valuable learning experience. They particularly enjoyed sharing fun games and activities from Australia with the students.
The volunteers also enjoyed the wonderful food and the novelty of their new surroundings. They made many new friendships amongst the students and teachers of Jaffna College. All are grateful to Principal Solomon and the many Jaffna College teachers and the English Department, who made them feel so welcome and helped them in so many ways.
Opportunities for Volunteering
If you are Australian, under 30, English-speaking, able to meet your own expenses and interested in volunteering, you can register your contact details with Principal Solomon from Jaffna College firstname.lastname@example.org . You will then be contacted with information about upcoming opportunities and requirements for volunteers.
Being able to speak some Tamil as well as English is a definite advantage, as would be teaching or training experience, teaching qualifications or experience in children’s or youth work.
You would need to be available for a period of at least three weeks and within Jaffna College term time. An up-to-date “Working with Children Check” or equivalent is essential.