Solidarity trip to Sri Lanka, September–October 2023
The UEFA Foundation for Children and UEFA’s HR team organised the fourth solidarity trip, this time to Sri Lanka.
In September, the UEFA Foundation for Children and UEFA’s HR team organised a fourth solidarity trip, this time to Sri Lanka. Six members of UEFA staff took time out of their busy lives to take part in the project and help renovate a primary school in Karagoda Uyangoda, a remote village in the jungle of Matara district, in the south of the island.
The aim of these trips is to offer a different kind of travel experience that involves engaging with and helping local communities. The organisation Unis Vers le Sport identified the project and organised host families in the village.
Our brief was to renovate the local school. We painted the inside walls of four classrooms and some of the outside walls. We had also planned to distribute surplus sports equipment from UEFA competitions and school supplies purchased in Sri Lanka. We were hoping to spend time with the schoolchildren too, and do sports activities and handicrafts with them.
Unfortunately, the weather did not play ball. The rainy season was unusually long and the school was closed when we arrived. We remained hopeful, however, and set to work paining the first classrooms.
We stayed with families in the village, with whom we shared breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our hosts were very welcoming. We also experienced life in the rainforest, seeing peacocks, monkeys and monitor lizards and hearing all sorts of other wild animals, especially at night. It was an incredible change of scenery and would have been perfect if had not been for the incessant rain, which flooded the area and cut off the village.
In the end, we decided to leave earlier than planned, without having met the schoolchildren. Morale was low that day, with a sense that we were abandoning our hosts without finishing the job. Since the village was surrounded by water, the Sri Lankan navy came to pick us up. The villagers accompanied us to the boat. It was a heartbreaking departure.
We relocated to Mirissa, a small town on the Indian Ocean. From there, we followed the coast up as far as Galle, where we visited Buddhist temples and the fortified old town that bears witness to the country’s colonial past.
For Paulo, one of the founders of Unis Vers le Sport, this was a solidarity trip like no other.
Our small team was fantastic and stuck together despite the challenges we faced, which seemed extreme to us but were nothing out of the ordinary for the locals. In the end, it was a many very positive personal and human experience that will remain etched in our memories.
Another team will finish renovating the little primary school in Karagoda Uyangoda in February, and who knows, perhaps some of our group will also return to meet the children and distribute materials on behalf of the foundation.