The mass devastation wreaked by the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka inspired Wayne McRann, founder of Developing World Connections, to initiate a new project on the island and Janet McKelvey to embark on her first international volunteer trip.
Together they established the DWC – TRIP Canada Program to help with rebuilding efforts in Tangalle and create a unique opportunity for Canadians to get personally involved. In just 14 months, land was purchased, $250,000 raised, local labourers hired and 65 Canadians travelled to Sri Lanka to build a new village for 14 homeless families.
Over this time, Wayne and Janet became very involved with the surrounding community gaining a deep understanding of the people and their needs. So in 2006, a decision was made to return every year with volunteer teams and implement a variety of sustainable programs offering a ‘hand-up’ to these poor rural families.
This program is supported by a core group of donors and volunteers. At the beginning of each year, building projects are selected based on total donations generated and local need as defined by field officers who live in the community.
Then every year, usually the last two weeks of April, DWC’s TRIP Canada volunteer team heads to Sri Lanka to complete the projects. The volunteers ‘witness’ the difference they make in people’s lives and feel the impact on their own. There is nothing quite as meaningful as putting a donation into action – working alongside Sri Lankans and learning about their country and culture. TRIP Canada’s deep roots in the community and strong bonds with the local people create a very meaningful and intimate volunteer experience.
Through this program 45 families live in new homes and community infrastructure has significantly improved – schools, temples, medical clinics, playgrounds and an orphanage.
Understanding that education is the key to changing futures and understanding it is also very important to Sri Lankan families – equally for females and males – in 2006, DWC launched an education program as part of TRIP Canada.
It includes English classes, high-school enrichment, tutoring and post-secondary scholarships. Many lives have been touched by these programs and life opportunities improved. Through 2018, 17 young men and women have graduated from scholarship program and 15 are currently enrolled.
The teams that travel to Sri Lanka each year, including many loyal, repeat volunteers, leave something very meaningful behind and cherish the memories of working together and the new friendships with Sri Lankan workers and students. The feedback heard most often: “I went hoping to change lives and then realized the life that changed the most was my own.”
Children love when volunteers visit!
TRIP Canada program volunteers with Ishan and new accessible home in Sri Lanka.