“A sobering and emotional experience”
Amalie Bruun has travelled on every volunteer trip to build in Sri Lanka since her first time in 2009. Her contribution is incredible and so is her love for the work we do and the people of Sri Lanka. Amalie’s full-time job is managing all the logistical and financial aspects of the production of a commercial or other content. As part of a recent assignment, she visited Sri Lanka and wrote this blog for us.
Thanks for asking me to share a few words on my July trip.
My love and commitment to this special country is based on my 11 volunteer trips. My experiences working with local and Canadian volunteers is what keeps me coming back every year. Sri Lanka is truly such a special and unique country, that even after so many years, I still find new things, places and people to fall in love with. Being there in April when the Easter attacks happened was heartbreaking – for those whose lives were lost or otherwise affected, for a country that keeps getting kicked and gets back up.
The work we were hired to do in July was a dream project, in a dream country. We were a small crew of 4 who were commissioned to create content for a faith-based network on the aftermath of the Easter attacks, along with a documentary short for our own use. We landed, cleared customs on tourist visas and breathed a collective sigh of relief. I was back and couldn’t be happier.
We were based mostly out of Colombo, staying at a fairly new hotel south of the Galle Face on the Galle Road. Muslim owned and operated, it was a great find and a great price.
The majority of our locations were in Colombo, including St Anthony’s Shrine, site of the Colombo church bombing. To enter the church, which has been completely refurbished, one must pass through airport type security to this day and all bags and packages checked. This was one of the stark reminders of the attack. Beyond that though, and apart from added police presence in general, it all appears to be business as usual.
What a sobering and emotional experience to spend a full Sunday there, attending and filming the service, meeting parishioners, Rev Jude who runs the church and many associates, children security guards and more. I mention this as it was an eye-opening experience and a good lesson in forgiveness on the events of April 21st.
Most hotels also have scanners at their entrances and bag checks but I think we all are comforted by this. Not once in the two weeks I was there did I feel unsafe. The same friendly smiles greet you everywhere you go and the famous Sri Lankan hospitality made me even prouder than I already am of this little island country.
We drove across the island to Batticaloa – a first for me – and again, felt no unease about doing so. By this time we had Deepal, who drives for TRIP Canada every year, with us which was great – the team loved him AND his driving.
At no point prior to, or after accepting this project, did I consider safety being a factor. I am sure much of this comes from (now) 12 trips to Sri Lanka. But we all found the Sri Lankans firmly committed to making sure that nothing like the bombings, to the best of their ability, happens again and ensuring safety for visitors or residents.
People are slowly returning, but not fast enough to undo the fiscal, emotional and spiritual damage these attacks inflicted. Go. See its beauty and meet its amazing people. It is still such a special place – perhaps more so than ever.
I hope to return in April 2020 with TRIP Canada’s 16th team of volunteers. I can’t imagine not going.
Thanks Amalie. Please follow this link for another perspective on all the good reasons to return to Sri Lanka.