The Special Needs Program
Sri Lanka's border is currently closed to international arrivals and this program can't get the assistance it needs right now.
Volunteers provide much-needed support and assistance to children based at a centre in Badulla. The vocational training center offers formalized classes that aim to improve the skills of children with disabilities. The centre is in desperate need of willing volunteers to help with all types of roles and tasks at the center. Suffering from a severe shortage of resourcing and staff, the centre welcome volunteers from different backgrounds with valuable skills they can impart - whether it’s artistic, technical, or any other kind of vocation. Volunteers can share their enthusiasm, skills and experience, working alongside youngsters for whom free formal vocational training is often not available. For volunteers who truly want to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children, this program serves to protect and care for those who need it most.
Goals of this Project:
- Provide essential childcare to vulnerable children in Sri Lanka
- Improve the future prospects of disabled children in Sri Lanka
- Give impoverished children quality care, compassion and a sense of hope
- Enable inter-cultural exchange which benefits both locals and international volunteers alike.
How You Can Help
Volunteers play an essential role in helping to teach these disabled children, as unfortunately the school is severely understaffed and underfunded and in urgent need of additional help. Volunteers will help greatly on day to day care for the children, including feeding and attending to their daily needs. They will also help greatly by simply spending time with the children – giving them one on one attention – something the children greatly appreciate. Reading to, playing with and socializing with the children would be time extremely well spent with these amazing children. To get to the centre, which is based in Badulla, volunteers will need to take a 12 hour scenic train ride from the country’s capital, Colombo.
Volunteers will contribute in a number of ways on this program and can expect to undertake the following tasks:
- Help to teach disabled children
- Attend to and interact with disabled children
- Create activities and entertain the children with games and songs, etc
- Spend time socializing with the children and boosting their confidence
- Helping with other activities as skills allow at the center – from admin to maintenance
See the Additional Info. section for more information on how to support disabled children.
Love Volunteers welcomes all those 18 years and over who wish to assist in the support and development of some of Sri Lanka's most marginalized children and young adults. While this highly rewarding project does not require participants to have a background in the field of special needs care, as there are many ways you can assist, volunteers with suitable education, qualifications or experience are highly sought after. Regardless, a volunteer’s individual role can often be tailored to suit their particular skills and interests. Ideally, volunteers on this project will have at least a basic knowledge of the local language in order to communicate effectively with staff and students, though this is not a pre-requisite. All applicants must of course display a genuine willingness to help, show drive, initiative and compassion, and bring a positive 'can-do' attitude. If this sounds like you, we want you on the team!
Additionally, volunteers applying to join this program will be required to supply to following documentation:
- Emergency contact
- Police check
Volunteers on this incredibly worthwhile program are based in Badulla, a historically significant town located in the southern central hill country region, high above sea level but still dwarfed by nearby mountain ranges. Both the Portuguese and British left their mark but very little remains of that era and the Sri Lankan spirit and jungle atmosphere have successfully reverted the town almost to it's original state. Popular as an eco-tourism base and surrounded by tea plantations, Badulla is a restful and authentic place to spend time.
Volunteers arrive into Colombo and spend the first night in the Volunteer Centre there before being assisted onto the train to Badulla the following day. The train journeys through some of the most amazing scenery this beautiful country has to offer, and is highly recommended!
Start Dates & Duration
This project is available year-round and programs start every SATURDAY. Volunteers can choose to participate for periods ranging from 1 week to 12 weeks. Longer stays can be arranged directly with the local team, but will be subject to availability and individual visa conditions.
Spaces on this project are limited and therefore subject to availability. Early booking is recommended.
For current available start dates please check the calendar on the right.
Arrival & Orientation
Upon arrival into Colombo you will be met at the airport by our local team and taken to the Volunteer Centre in Wattala where you will stay until being assisted onto the early morning train to Badulla on Sunday. An orientation session will take place as and when time permits to cover local and regional customs, basic words and phrases, transport and, of course, what to expect from your volunteering experience.
On Sunday you will take the scenic 12 hour train journey inland to Badulla. Be sure to ask for a window seat and try to sit on the right hand side as you face forward from Colombo to Kandy as this will give you the best views once you get past Rambukkana. Vendors ply the train with refreshments (drinks, fruit, spicy snacks) at reasonable prices.
You will be met off the train in Badulla and taken to the Volunteer Centre and your host family (if applicable). Local staff will provide a training session pertinent to your placement and provide an orientation to cover local amenities, transport and answer any questions you may have.
All transport and accommodation arrangements are made for you by the local team and included in the program free.
- Arrival Day: SATURDAY
- Departure Day: SATURDAY
- Arrival Airport: Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo, Sri Lanka (Code: CMB)
Accommodation & Meals
Volunteers on this wonderful program are accommodated with trusted local host families in Badulla.
The first night is spent at the Volunteer Centre in Wattala before travelling to Badulla the following day. Our local team makes all in-country transport and accommodation arrangements so it’s stress-free.
Host families are experienced at caring for our volunteers and make everyone feel welcome. Their homes may be basic by international standards but this is more than made up for by generosity of spirit. Wifi and laundry facilities may not be available in the host family home.
Three simple and delicious meals are provided daily by the host family. Sri Lankan cuisine is redolent of many neighbouring countries including Thailand, Vietnam and Indian. Full of flavoursome spices it is sure to delight every palate. Staples of rice and a wide range of curries are accompanied by divine vegetable dishes and condiments such as the chilli based sambal.
*In addition to the program fees listed above a Registration Fee is payable to secure your place. The registration fee is USD 299 for those volunteering with Love Volunteers for the first time or USD 149 for any subsequent volunteer placements. The registration fee includes: lifetime LV Alumni Membership, fundraising support & advice, dedicated pre-departure support, certificate of completion (on request), and exclusive access to the LV Trip Planner.
Some things are not included in the program fees listed above, such as flights, visas, vaccinations, travel insurance, additional foods and snacks, spending money, local transport, in-country trips and excursions, return airport transfer (unless mentioned above).
Please note that prices are subject to change without notice. Please ensure you have read the Love Volunteers Terms and Conditions & Refund Policy.
Volunteering With Children With Disabilities: How To Best Support Them
Between 93 million and 150 million children worldwide are diagnosed with a disability. In developing countries, children with disabilities rarely have access to the resources and facilities they need to help them reach their full potential. By volunteering to help children with disabilities, you can provide them with the best support possible and encourage them to blossom in their own time.
Communicate directly with the child
When you first meet a child with a disability, avoid making the all-too common mistake of not actually directly talking to them. Children with disabilities should be given encouragement and patience to answer questions and speak up in conversation. Adults often assume they don't understand or can't answer and soon switch to talking to their caregiver instead. So, when meeting for the first time, introduce yourself and explain who you are. Depending on the type of learning difficulty and its severity, you may need to place your hand on the child's shoulder or take their hand. You can then let them know what you'll be doing together, including explaining the activity step-by-step. It's important to use simple language, be patient, and make a lot of eye contact to build rapport and trust with the child.
Use nonverbal gestures
Using nonverbal communication and gestures like nodding, pointing, and eye contact will help children with disabilities understand you better. At first, you may need to exaggerate or draw out these gestures to aid the child's understanding. In fact, using these gestures is usually essential to ensure children with disabilities participate in the activities. However, if you still have a problem with a child not listening to you, you may also find it useful to clap, whistle, or sing. Additionally, tactile cues can help effectively engage children. For example, giving them a soft blanket or plasticine can capture their attention and help them focus.
When rules are implemented for the group, it's important all children abide by them. Consistency is key if you want children to feel safe, comfortable, and encouraged, as well as for teaching discipline. So, don't backtrack on rules already set or change them from one day to the next. For children with disabilities (especially those with autism or other cognitive or sensory impairments), consistency and discipline will help them thrive in learning environments. Remember, when working with children with disabilities, it's your job to give them dedicated attention they may not usually get. Focus on the individual and adjust your approach as needed. For example, if a child has poor motor skills making a certain activity difficult for them, you may need to work through the steps with them together. While it's good to encourage children to challenge themselves, you should also be aware of their limits.
Volunteering to help children with disabilities is a meaningful and rewarding experience. By being prepared to provide the best support possible, you can better help this vulnerable group succeed and thrive.
Source: Jennifer Orson