So a big part of the trip to Sri Lanka is to show us an area of the country where World Vision is on its way out after more than a decade of aid contrasted with an area of Sri Lanka where World Vision just arrived with a long-term plan.
Yesterday was the celebration and festival that the people of Willuwa put on for the staff of World Vision as they come to the conclusion of their fifteen year presence. There was a beautiful parade with a traditional Sri Lanka welcome dance, little school children waving balloons, and offerings of beetle leaves, a sign of hospitality.
I felt uncomfortable walking down the line along children cheering and singing. I don’t deserve such attention, I’m only here to observe. But we were representative, I guess, of the countless American faces who did participate in the transformation of this community.
After the beautiful welcome, we joined a caravan of cars and motorcycles that traveled slowly through the entire area affected by the project, stopping at each small neighborhood to greet and receive blessings from the people. At each stop they had arranged their own tribute, sometimes with tokens of appreciation (a small food item, or flowers, etc.), sometimes with dance or fireworks or ritual.
We went on like this for almost four hours. Stopping and meeting the people, watching their deep respect for Sudesh, World Vision’s project manager who has been there leading the way for years.
Each stop was so different. The area is a mix of Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian, and each religion - not to mention neighborhood - celebrated in their own way. After they greeted us, many joined the caravan, so we were growing as a parade. This weaving through the miles of people and their homes was one of the most special times of my life. We weren’t hearing their individual stories, verbal communication was almost nil. But you could read it on their faces and in their body language. This is a village that has been transformed.
I'm honored to be part of the World Vision blogger team traveling to Sri Lanka. I'll be posting, tweeting, facebooking and Instagramming my way across the globe this week, I'd love it if you'd follow along. To find out more about the trip or child sponsorship through World Vision, please click here.
all photos courtesy of our trip photographer Matthew Paul Turner.