English Camp : Ratnapura, Sri Lanka-

January 16-18, 2004

I informed Tucker McCravy, President of Serendib, that I was visiting Sri Lanka on vacation in January 2004 and that I would be interested in observing a mini English Immersion Camp.  The English Camp Foundation in Sri Lanka organized a 3-day mini English Immersion Camp.  The camp was held at Ferguson Girls School organized in conjunction with the English Department of the school.  Ms. Champika Weerasinghe, Secretary of the English Camp Foundation was mainly responsible for organizing this camp with the other members of the Foundation and the English teachers of Serendib. 

I was able to participate only on the Sunday, January 18.  When we arrived at 8:00 am, the students were busy with their warm up exercises for the day.  They were divided into teams and stayed within these teams throughout the camp.  I was very impressed by the enthusiasm and energy with which the teachers continued to interact with the students throughout the day, considering the fact that this was the third day of the camp.  The teachers had built a rapport with the students and there was enthusiastic participation from the students, even the quiet ones.  There were no barriers for these children,

The different activities planned for the day also encouraged the students to participate by taking on different roles and acting out these roles.  The outdoor activities were also planned to help each one to speak the language, follow instructions and provide an opportunity for each one to fully participate in the program. 

The meals were organized upstairs in the school building and this was also a time when they had fun.  Mr. Wijendra led the students to sing camp songs and there was a competition among the teams to select the best team.  The teachers assigned to the teams were very enthusiastic, encouraging their teams to give of their best.

Later in the afternoon we had a game outdoors with everyone participating including myself and Asanka Fernando who accompanied me.  This was such fun with a balloon filled with water that had to be thrown across to your partner.  If the balloon burst you were out of the game.  At this time parents and sibling of the students had arrived and they too were able to witness this activity at the camp.

The final item on the program was the concert and the chief guest was the Principal of Ferguson High School.   I was very impressed by the ideas behind the items.  There was participation from all team members.  They expressed themselves very well and there was a strong sense of humor built into the events.  The teams were given two hours to practice and organize props, etc.  The teachers assigned to the teams spent a lot of time working with them and encouraging the students to be creative.

On behalf of the English Foundation, Teachers and the students Mr. Jayawardena thanked the Board members and supporters of Serendib for the organizing the fund raising event which provided the resources to cover the cost of  the August 2003 English camp.  He also thanked me for making the trip to Ratnapura to observe the camp. 

This was a tremendous experience for me as I had been a Board member of Serendib for almost two years but did not have an opportunity to observe a camp until this visit.  This experience brought home to me the crucial role these camps can and will play into improving the capabilities of the rural children.  Developing their English skills and giving them greater learning opportunities will empower them with more choices for their future education.