Destinations
    Sri Lanka Photo Sri Lanka Photo Sri Lanka Photo Sri Lanka Photo Sri Lanka Photo Sri Lanka Photo India Photo India Photo India Photo India Photo India Photo

For now Schoolhouse placements are in beautiful Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu (South India). Separated by the narrow Palk Straits, the Tamil minority population of Sri Lanka and the people of Tamil Nadu share culture and language and although there are other similarities, there are also great differences between the two countries.

Itís relatively inexpensive to make the short flight from one to the other and Schoolhouse is happy to offer a placement combining both countries.

In the future Schoolhouse may develop placements elsewhere in South Asia.

Placements are located within a variety of landscapes and climates - from mountain villages and hill stations to provincial towns on the plains, from deep rural areas to ancient coastal towns or fishing villages.


Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, sometimes referred to as the pearl of the Indian Ocean, has been famed throughout the ages for its spices, gemstones and beauty. Within this small island there is a diverse landscape and climate. Towering mountains, terraced tea estates, cloud forests and parched plains stretch down to palm fringed tropical beaches where great rivers fed by cascading waterfalls end their journeys. Ancient ruined cities whisper of great civilizations that flourished long ago.

A patchwork of verdant green jungle, paddy and palm trees is scattered over the island and the coastline sparkles as the silver waves of the turquoise Indian Ocean roll onto golden sands. National Parks still support varied wildlife, such as bear, boar and leopard. Elephants, for now, continue to roam and bird life is plentiful.

The people of Sri Lanka reflect the natural beauty of their land. They walk with ease and grace, have ready smiles and the reputation of being among the friendliest people on earth. The languages are Sinhala and Tamil, reflecting the two main ethnic groups. There's a population of about 20 million and English is spoken by the middle classes and by many involved in tourism. The poorer and particularly rural communities have poor knowledge of spoken English although they will be able to read and write English to some extent.

Youíll probably arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport, 35 kms north of the capital, Colombo. You may well spend your first night in Negombo, a large fishing town and tourist resort close to the airport, but youíll probably pass through Colombo the next day, en route to your placement. Colombo is modernising fast and is a hub of commerce, with expanding harbour and tower blocks and hotels sitting alongside the grand, sometimes fading architecture of the British colonial period.

Western influences are beginning to make their mark, especially among the young and the middle classes. However, for much of the population, traditional lifestyles and values remain important. Religious influences are strong, with devout daily displays of worship from all the religions represented.

You may be volunteering in the south of the island, around the heritage town of Galle with its Dutch Fort and picturesque bay or you may be heading to the Central province, to the old capital of Kandy town, on the lake encircled by the rising hills that drift far off to the high country, where you may also be heading to take up a placement.

Sri Lanka has a good train network and train travel is cheap and accessible - though often slow. Buses are plentiful and cheap but not for the faint-hearted! The ubiquitous tuk-tuk is a convenient way to travel short distances.

Sri Lanka is a natural garden and treasure trove of tropical fruits, exotic spices, coconuts and an abundance of fish and seafood. Reflecting the abundance of fresh ingredients, food is tasty and varied, although traditional rice and curry is eaten daily.

Sri Lanka offers a wide range of activities, including whale watching, safaris, swimming, snorkelling, surfing, mountain biking, elephant-riding, and events such as literary festivals and many religious festivals throughout the year.

Schoolhouse has placements island-wide - in Galle, in Bandarawella, in Kandy and in the formerly war -affected east coast in Batticoloa.


India

Often referred to as Mother India, the sub continent is surely one of the most fascinating places on earth. Stepping into India is like stepping into another world. India is a feast for all the senses, sometimes overwhelming all the senses - the colours, noises, scents and smells, the food, the intensity and the immensity of life. Life pours past in all its vivid colours and all its glories, in all its beauty and in all its sorrow. Life is everywhere, unfolding like a ballet in the streets, the bazaars, the villages and the temples of this magnificent, unfathomable land.

Among the most spiritual countries on earth, it is impossible to disentangle religion from daily life. All religions are tolerated and festivals, rituals and feasts enrich and inform the rhythm of life here. The wonderful Indian rail system weaves its way through the whole country, bringing life and livelihoods to village and city alike and perhaps no visit to India is complete without at least one journey made on the tracks.

For making your way around India, the train is the best, cheapest, most exciting way of travelling. You can book a sleeper berth and travel vast distances by night and trundle along as India unfolds along the railway platforms, tracks and passing landscapes. It takes a bit of figuring out but once youíve got used to the booking system, youíll probably fall in love with Indian Railways.

Life here is full of extremes and surprising contrasts. Ancient temples rise up alongside modern tower blocks, some of the world's richest people walk the same streets as some of the world's poorest, teeming cities give way to villages and the highest mountains on earth rise up like frozen white palaces. Holy water tumbles from their heights creating the great rivers and waterfalls that bring life and legends to the plains and to the people.

In Tamil Nadu the main language is Tamil (said to be one of the oldest languages on earth!). English is widely spoken but many poor people and rural people have little of no English at all.

Tamil Nadu is the home of southern Indian culture. Its famous temples soar high above the cities and sleepy fishing villages line the coast. From seashore to the Western Ghats, from hill stations in the cool mountains to the baking bustle of Chennai, life is a teeming riot of colour, delicious sights and food, evocative music and dance and a culture that speaks of a proud and rich history. Many famous festivals have their homes here and pilgrims come from all over India to participate.

Within easy reach is the neighbouring state of Kerala, with many popular tourist attractions including the famous houseboats of the back waterways, beautiful beaches and diverse scenery from coast to high hills

The fascinating state of Tamil Nadu is a wonderful place to volunteer. As well as sight seeing, there are many activities to keep volunteers busy during free time, such as swimming, mountain biking, horse riding, hill walking, yoga and meditation. If youíre interested in Indian dance or puppetry, learning to cook or seeing wonderful sights, Tamil Nadu is a great state to be in!

There are placements in Pondicherri, Nilakottai, Kodaikanal and near Chennai.