The 10 year journey of Lucy & Mr Neil
2005: How it all started
It has been ten years since I first stepped foot in Sri Lanka and since then I have had the constant support of someone I met in my first week in the country, Mr Neil Kathriachchi.
I first met Mr Neil at a building that has since become my second home, the National Youth Services Council Building, in Maharagama. I was put in touch with him by the organisation I was volunteering with in the hope that I could start spoken English Classes for the students undertaking vocational training at the NYSC. I was made to feel instantly welcomed by Mr Neil, a NYSC Youth worker, and the students that I began to teach.
After teaching a few sessions at the NYSC, I expressed an interest to teach more classes. In less than a week Mr Neil had arranged for me to start teaching at a Youth Club in a place called Homagama. This was the same youth club that a young Yasintha was once a member of. I loved these classes as, to my delight, the conversations between teachers and students often continued at a small cramped cafe at the back of the Youth club after the full hour of teaching concluded.
In my first month of being in Sri Lanka, Mr Neil gave me advice for living in the country and even took me on my first bumpy tuk-tuk ride to his family home for dinner. His family were so welcoming and the food was so delicious that even to this day I will stand by the fact that Mr Neil's mum makes the best dahl in Sri Lanka, if not the world!
2010: The start of SLV
After graduating university I wanted to return to Sri Lanka to continue the work I had started so many years before. It was Mr Neil that I got back in touch with to explore the possibility of coming back to volunteer along with some of my friends who were also recent graduates. For Mr Neil anything is possible and I knew he would be able to make it happen.
When I arrived in 2010, Mr Neil had a number of projects lined up for me to visit that he thought would benefit from foreign volunteers. As a well known person in the community, Mr Neil also had many families willing to open up their houses to host volunteers.
For the first 2 years of us working together in Sri Lanka we had great support from the NYSC; they offered us places to train volunteers, connected us with projects and offered great advice when we needed it. In 2012 we were officially partnered with the NYSC and the MOU signing made headline news. Since then the NYSC have continued to support our work, ensuring our volunteers have the relevant visas to work here and there is a plan for NYSC member to come to the UK to work with our SLV team there.
2015: Onwards & Upwards
Since we founded SLV, Mr Neil and I both cannot believe its growth. From just 50 people joining us in 2010 to 2015, where we will have 800 volunteers come out to Sri Lanka and work at many of those first projects Mr. Neil originally sourced. Though Mr Neil might not always be visible to volunteers, without his hard work behind the scenes, SLV would not be as successful without his tireless dedication and support. I look forward to another 10 years of working together and friendship.