My time volunteering
When accepted by VSO asked where would be preferred destination, West Indies my response. Paperwork arrived stating you are going as an Agricultural Cadet to Ceylon, to to KII Farm in Talwatte just outside Kandy. The plan was to get involved with the livestock on the farm managing a group of boys teaching them the ins and outs of keeping livestock . The farm has a dairy of eleven cows which were British Friesians and an Ayrshire bull. The cows were milked by hand withlight from hurricane lamps at 4.00 in the morning prior to starting of in an old Ford Pop to sell milk out of churns to the public. Over my time their we set up a piggery, and a layers and broiler unit. Chicken, eggs and pork as well as milk was sold to hotels, restaurants and the general public in Kandy. It was a real hands on project , we eventually slaughtered our own pigs jointed the and sold the meat as well as sell and making pork sausages. The sausage recipes coming from a MAFF wartime booklet a farmer gave me before leaving for the project.
During my time in SriLanka I was invited to go to Government Agricultural projects to talk to farmers and workers across the country. This I did and made some amazing friends.
The impact of my placement
As a twenty year old who had to look at a map to find out where Ceylon was I realised I was blissfully ignorant to the ways of the world. SriLankan people are some of the most friendly in the world and I met many kind and generous people during my time there. Learning about the production of the rice crop was a wonderful experience and seeing how quickly any crop would grow in the tropics with warmth and moisture. One day on the farm I was planting groundnut with a dozen boys, it was only two weeks later that I realised the rows I had planted came up perfectly and the rest on the plot was very thin , it was then I realised the boys were eating the nuts which was a real treat for them.
Of the friends I met I persuaded one man on the farm to come to the UK, VOSA paid for his education at Northamptonshire College of Agricultural where he attended for two years. He returned to SriLanka which was part of the sponsorship and became Farm Manager at one of the biggest multi stock farms on the island. I still keep in touch with the family and visited the last November. I have been lucky to visit the island six times and always meet up with SriLankans who are genuine friends even being invited to weddings.
During my time I also spent time at an orphanage,called The Paynter Homes in Nuwara Eliya in the hill country. Since returning to the UK with friends and family had raised money for them and it is always good when visiting them again to see the impact of money raised. We were welcomed again when there last November
My unforgettable moments
I had requested the West Indies for my project because I enjoyed cricket so much, little was I to know the SriLankan enthusiasm for cricket was outstanding. They loved any sport and I was lucky to play soccer all over the country with a team called Kandy Young Stars and we won the premier league.
At times my work took me to locations in jungle areas and there was always a friendly reaction to seeing a white man, in fact I had seven marriage proposals from various families I met, I did not succumb. Unfortunately whilst I had been there just over two months I was put in hospital after being butted in the groin by the farm bull. Having arrived at Kandy General hospital I was immediately seen by surgeons who stitched me up and dressed the area. Clearly I caused much interest particularly by nurses who constantly needed to observe a Europeans undercarriage. I recovered over next couple of months and back to playing sport again.. It was quite emotional experience as all the farm workers walked three miles to the hospital and brought me half a pint of milk in a glass bottle. After two days I discharged myself as I was given a bed in the hospital only because the man in the bed was placed on a thin mattress under my bed, the hospital was grossly over crowded
The impact my placement has had on me
On return to the UK I returned to Agricultural College for three years further study. At the end of the courses I completed I was offered several jobs and without any doubt being a VSO had triggered any offers.
As mentioned I have still many friends in SriLanka and those SriLankans who have moved here My family is close to themand indeed my three children have been to SriLanka and met many of them. It has enabled them to value all we have here compared to those in SriLanka.
Having visited last year I could not believe how there was very little rubbish, and the black exhaust fumes had gone. The UK now has more litter than the island does. I have on several occasions been asked to talk to schools over the years and this was particularly the case after the devastation of the tusammi.