Teach English in Tsunami villages and temple schools and help poor children to develop their ability to speak English.
Sri Lanka’s education system is pretty impressive for a developing country of its size. Universal public education is available from the age of 6 to the age of 18. However, many government schools, particularly in rural areas, receive minimal government funding – especially considering the size of the communities they are expected to serve. The facilities at the schools are very basic, particularly the classrooms that get extremely cramped as average class sizes are around 40 to 60 children.
The ability to speak English is becoming of growing importance in Sri Lanka. The two main sources of income in Sri Lanka come from tourism and migrant workers going to the Middle East. Both occupations require the ability to speak English – the world’s global language. However, the level of English teaching in government schools is limited. Class sizes are large and the teachers’ English speaking skills are by no means perfect. It is only the middle and upper class children who can afford private English lessons. Therefore it is no surprise that children from most low-income families speak little or no English. Our aim is to give the poorer children of Ambalangoda, the same opportunities as their more wealthy peers so they too have the chance to develop their ability to speak English.
The PMGY English Teaching Volunteer Programme in Sri Lanka enables you to teach English in two different types of placement: our own after-school education programme that works in communities displaced by the 2004 Tsunami – known as Tsunami villages and temple schools where you have the amazing opportunity to teach to Buddhist monks!
You should arrive into Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo (airport code CMB) on the selected Saturday start date. Programmes start on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month. You will be met at the airport by one of our local staff or an appointed driver who will be holding a named sign. They will take you to your accommodation where you will spend the rest of your day at leisure.
The programme ends on the Saturday of your final week and you should depart the accommodation on this day.
Can I use this program as part of a university or college placement?
It is certainly possible to use one of PMGY’s programmes as part of your university or college placement. Project staff can sign off any paperwork required by your course tutors. PMGY regularly receives medical, childcare, psychology and nursing placement students at our projects around the world and we have ties with some of the leading universities.
If you’re a course tutor and would like further information about how one of PMGY’s programmes could meet the placement requirements for your degree course then please contact us.
Is it safe to travel to PMGY destinations?
Although our volunteers work in the developing world, we always ensure our host locations are safe. Each programme has been extensively researched and has passed our strict vetting process. Our UK team undergo an extensive routine when establishing our in-country infrastructures and we continue to monitor our safety procedures on a regular basis. Furthermore, we monitor the stability of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis. Through our constant contact with consulates and embassies and our reports from our overseas teams, we are able to ensure that our volunteers are never placed in unstable regions.
The PMGY team have visited and participated in every programme we offer and verified them based on our own independent criteria. We carefully inspect every little detail of our set-up. From inspecting the living conditions, checking out the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, to tasting the food you’ll be eating – each and every programme we establish has gone through a lengthy and rigorous vetting process. Risk assessments have been written for all areas in which PMGY operate and our experienced local coordinators are always on-hand to manage any emergencies that may occur. Our UK team are always on the road reviewing our risk management procedures in the field and monitoring local conditions.
In emergency situations we have the necessary protocols and equipment in place and we are able to evacuate our volunteers from potential dangers. Our local coordinators are trained to deal with emergency circumstances.
When you join PMGY we will send you a Volunteer Handbook. This document addresses a range of issues such as health, safety, visa issues etc. Furthermore, our UK team are only ever a phone call away should you wish to discuss any aspect of your upcoming programme. When you arrive in-country, you’ll be given a comprehensive safety briefing during your orientation course by our local coordinators. We will go through everything from emergency procedures, how to use local transport and cultural differences. You’ll also be given the opportunity to purchase a local SIM card, something we strongly suggest, so you’re contactable at all times. We will provide you with a full list of the important contact numbers that you’ll need to know.
All our local teams are experienced development professionals who have years of experience in hosting international volunteers. They are our representatives on the ground and will assist you 24/7 throughout your stay. Whether you need to call home, travel at the weekend or require urgent assistance – they are there to support you.
While we cannot guarantee your volunteer experience to be 100% trouble free we have taken all the necessary precautions to make sure each programme is as safe as possible.
Tsunami Village Project – The Tsunami Village Project is an after-school education programme initiated by PMGY and is the main teaching project our volunteers take part in. We work in a number of Tsunami villages, which are a community of houses that were donated by the government and international charities to accommodate families who lost their homes after the Tsunami. The majority of the men in the village are fishermen who earn very little income.
The children attend local government schools during the mornings. Our aim is to further their English language development by providing free after-school English lessons in the afternoons. These projects will take place in a makeshift classroom or community centre. We encourage volunteers to make lessons as engaging and interactive as possible by being creative and proactive when preparing lessons! The presence of volunteers gives the children an insight into different cultures; a global perspective they greatly benefit from. Use your creativity and knowledge to help these eager young minds reach their true potential.
The after-school education programme runs from 15:00 to 18:00 each afternoon from Monday to Friday. The first two hours are spent teaching English and the last hour is allocated for games and activities. Volunteers lead their own classes, usually working in pairs. We usually run three to six classes in each community, depending on the number of volunteers. Each class is divided based on the children’s level of English. The class sizes vary from 6 to 12 children per class.
PMGY has a local coordinator at the project each day who supports volunteers with their work and can help with overcoming the language barrier. We have also created a computer classroom at our original Tsunami Village Project and would appreciate volunteers help in teaching basic computer skills to the children.
Temple Schools – Volunteers can also join our Temple School project teaching English to Buddhist monks. Many of the Buddhist monks speak very little English. The classes run in the morning, usually from 08:30 to 10:30. In return for your contribution, you will find the monks keen to invite you to learn more about their religion and way of life. The temple schools also welcome poor children from the community to come and learn English. There tends to be 15 to 18 students in each class, aged from 6 to 18 years of age.
No teaching experience is required to join this programme although it is an advantage. You will always have a syllabus to follow and our local team will support you in planning your lessons, so this is really something that anyone can get involved in. We expect volunteers to spend an hour or two each day preparing for the following days lessons.
PMGY volunteers are based in Ambalangoda, which is a lively oceanside town situated on the South West Coast.
It is traditionally a fishing community but is famous for being the major production centre for demonic wooden masks. The traditional masks were originally designed to be worn by performers in kolam and other southern Sri Lankan dances, but are now mainly used as souvenirs. Many families hang a mask on their front door to ward off evil spirits.
The town has all the amenities you could require such as banks, hospitals and shops including a very popular ice cream shop. There is also a central bus and train station, which has good links to all the major destinations you are likely to go to. Plus, the beach is only a 5 minute tuk tuk ride from the Volunteer House.
Hikkaduwa has long been among the most popular of Sri Lanka’s beach spots. It has a lively and fun vibe – definitely a backpacker town. It is also your best bet for evening drinks and meals out during your time with us. Furthermore, the surfing in the Hikkaduwa region is quite well known and gets the best surf during its dry season, November to March.
Bentota is a good option for those looking for a relaxing weekend by the beach. It is one of the more established beach resorts on the west coast of Sri Lanka with a number of activities available to you. You can go on a river cruise, visit a turtle hatchery, check out Sri Lanka’s tallest Buddha statue or try out some of the many water sports available. There are also plenty of affordable guesthouses as well as beachside bars and restaurants to keep you entertained at night.
Galle is always a favourite of ours. The UNESCO World Heritage protected Galle Fort is an 18th-century Dutch walled town with chic shops, grand colonial houses and beautiful beaches. Unawatuna beach is the place to be for a lazy weekend by the sea. There are plenty of places to stay, of differing price and quality. Unawatuna has a good nightlife and a number of activities you can get up to – jet skiing, scuba diving, glass boat cruises and even surfing (although you may need to head a little further up the coast for this to the town of Habaraduwa or Ahangama).
Located in the centre of the island, surrounded by green hills and full of cultural significance – Kandy is the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. The city hosts the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha), which is a famous pilgrimage site. The picturesque central lake on the other side of town offers a more relaxed feel than the busy town centre.
Kandy has quite a lot to do. The cultural dance shows are worth seeing particularly combined with an evening view of the Temple of the Tooth Relic. There is also a huge botanic garden just 15 minutes out of town by bus.
YALA NATIONAL PARK
If you’re looking to witness some wildlife during your time in Sri Lanka then we recommend heading over to Yala National Park, on the southeast coast.
You will be met on-arrival by a member of the PMGY Sri Lanka team who will be wearing a PMGY T-shirt and holding a PMGY sign. We advise all volunteers to wear their PMGY t-shirt (if they’ve purchased one) as this helps us identify you at the airport.
Once you’ve met up with our local team you will be driven to our Volunteer House in Ambalangoda. The journey takes around 2.5 hours.
During your time with PMGY in Sri Lanka you will live in our Volunteer House/s. The accommodation is basic but comfortable. You’ll be living with other PMGY volunteers from around the world, so you’ll make plenty of friends along the way.
The majority of our projects are NOT within walking distance of our Volunteer House. PMGY will take you to and from the project each day. This will either be by tuk tuk or minivan; in most cases it will be tuk tuk. The cost of this service is included in your Programme Fee.
The Volunteer House is located just outside of central Ambalangoda, in a peaceful part of town. Each room has bunk beds, up to 9 people per room (same-sex rooms only, unless a couple). Volunteers are provided with fans in the room and their own mosquito net and bed linen. You will have cupboard space to store clothes and accessories; we encourage you to bring some small padlocks and/or store any valuables with Ashika in the safe located at his house.
Bathrooms are shared. Each bathroom has a shower and western style toilet. The water is cold but this shouldn’t be a problem as Sri Lanka is hot and humid all year round! The house has Wi-Fi (although intermittent) and a communal area for volunteers to hang out. There is also a kitchen with a refrigerator to store any items you need to keep chilled.
A member of our local team will also live at the house. This ensures you have round the clock support and security.
Please note that in the summer months we do use extra accommodation to cope with the extra number of volunteers when the main volunteer house reaches capacity. Such accommodation is again basic but comfortable with a western bathroom and located a short distance away from the main volunteer house. You will be sure to mix with volunteers as a whole at projects as well!
You will be served three meals per day at the Volunteer House. Most meals are traditional Sri Lankan dishes that can be typically quite spicy. Sri Lankan cuisine consists of a lot of rice and the meat is mainly fish or chicken – vegetarian options are always available. A weekly menu has been introduced that blends Sri Lanka cuisine with Western cuisine so you will know in advance what is on the menu for that day! Below is an example of the meals we serve our volunteers:
Breakfast – Egg, toast, fruit with tea.
Lunch – Dhal and spinach curry, poppadums, paprika tofu and rice.
Dinner – Mixed vegetable noodles, tomato curry, omelette and poppadoms.
All meals are freshly prepared each day. If you fancy some western comforts, you will find plenty of restaurants serving western meals in the nearby town of Hikkaduwa. Hikkaduwa is a 20 minute journey from Ambalangoda and the cost to get there by tuk tuk is around £3 per way. This is a popular place that volunteers go to in the evening, as it is a trendy backpackers town.
* Please inform us in your application if you have any dietary requirements. Couples, families and older volunteers will be accommodated to suit their needs.