Posted by Rotarians, Hans and Helena Dahlin on Feb 24, 2017
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Global Grant for Early Childhood Education in Rural Sri Lanka
presented by Hans and Helena Dahlin
The Rotary Club of Goleta Noontime is sponsoring – as International Partner – a Global Grant for helping preschool teachers in Rural Sri Lanka to get them the needed education that will lead to a diploma in early childhood education.

We are proud to have been asked to take the lead on this project for the last three years, and are working closely with past district governor Dharshan John (Sri Lanka D-3220) and Colombo East as the Host Club.

Since the project start, D-5240 together with three other districts has helped educate 2,000 teachers with a total budget of $220,000. This will benefit 40,000 children annually.
The Sri Lankan Civil War was an ongoing armed conflict that lasted for over 25 years. The war caused significant hardships for the population, environment and the economy. The war ended in 2009. The vast majority of the fighting took place in the North and the East Coast.
On top of that, the country was also hit by the devastating Tsunami in 2004 killing more than 35,000 people and leaving many more homeless. This is why poverty is more obvious in the Eastern part of the country and the most help is needed.

Being part of this project and building bridges between the West and the East coast makes us feel like peace builders.
Sri Lanka is located in South East Asia, south of India. Sri Lanka has typically a tropical climate and there are no real marked seasons. The weather is very hot and humid. Sri Lanka sees a lot of rainfall. The monsoon brings rain from May to July to the western, southern and central regions of the island. The north-east monsoon causes rains in the northern and eastern regions in December and January.
This project started several years ago when the government in Sri Lanka passed a law requiring that all preschool teachers must have a valid diploma to be able to teach.
Goleta Noontime and many other clubs in district 5240 (including the E-Club of One World) parted in several grants pushed by DG Dharshan John (D-3320) and DG Frank Ortiz (D-5240).
The project was running in 2012-13 to support preschool teachers in rural Sri Lanka and made an impact on early childhood education. The rural area did not meet the same educational level and standard as the Capital town (Colombo) of Sri Lanka.
Travel to Sri Lanka
Together as a family and Rotarians, I (Hans) and Helena who is a former Kindergarten teacher and our daughters who were studying to become teachers, thought it would be interesting to follow up and continue on this project and see what the status was.
In the summer of 2014 we collected some school material from the Santa Barbara area. This collection of school materials was just a side project to be able to do some more hands-on work while we decided to go to Sri Lanka.
We collected four big moving boxes with different school materials such as:
educational materials, books, aluminum water bottles, and ten Unite-to-light lamps.  We also brought a doll crib and some stuffed animals together with four books that we bought for the teachers with classroom pedagogy tips.
The purpose of the trip to Sri Lanka was to check and support the current project but also develop a future sustainable project on the same path by carefully addressing their needs.
When we came to Sri Lanka, we visited three pre-schools (that were part of the original project), near Batticaloa area on the East Coast. We were helped by a member of the Batticaloa Club (Mr. Parthipachutan), who drove us to the different sites (for video, see link at the end of the presentation!).
While we visited the schools, we talked to the teachers to give them tips on how to use the materials, different teaching styles, and examples of curriculum.
Our material came to good use and we saw that they were really happy and thankful for the material they received. The areas surrounding the schools were extremely poor and many of the students had neither electricity nor water at their home.  Some of the schools did not have any water while some did not have electricity.
The first school we visited had 75 students. The other two had 45 and 25 children.  The teachers had a minimum wage that was paid by some of the parents. Keep in mind their low income and think about how they would afford an education to get them the approved diploma.  The cost for one teacher is about $130 and the training is approximately one year. They will have classes each weekend while still working their regular job during the week.
While being on location in Sri Lanka, we were contacted by past district governor Dharshan John from district 3220 (Sri Lanka). He is a member of the Rotary Club of Colombo East.  He asked us if we were willing to take on another grant. We accepted.
Continuation of project
Back in California we (Goleta Noontime) wrote a new global grant that was approved in 2015 and 10 clubs got together to help the preschool teachers again. The funding reached $45,500.  The teachers that were selected to participate in the teachers training from this grant started their education in the spring of 2016. The grant is currently helping 375 teachers to get their diploma. This will benefit 7,500 children annually.
The training centers (red spots) are spread throughout the whole country.

Our last grant is concentrating on the East Coast.
Our contact in Sri Lanka, PDG Dharshan John visited Goleta Noontime in May last year, and held a presentation and thanked everyone involved in this. He mentioned that there are still 15,000 preschool teachers that need a diploma.
The Rotary Club of Goleta Noontime has now submitted a follow up grant because of the success with the previous one. We need commitment from clubs in District 5240 to reach a minimum of $10,000 in cash.

Our club believes that this is a project worthy of our support, as it focuses on educating children in hard to reach rural areas so that they have opportunities similar to those available to children in cities as they grow.
Also, the project already has local Rotary partners that are prepared to work with us all to ensure the ongoing success of the project year after year. We hope that you agree with us and will join us in supporting this project once again.
Helena was also invited to a Rotary District Conference in South East Sweden in the fall of 2015 as a keynote speaker to talk about this project.
She was in Sweden for five weeks and held presentations at ten different Rotary Clubs. It received a great response.
Meeting with past RI president 2015-16,  K.R “Ravi” Ravindran from Sri Lanka.
Here is a video from our visit in 2014. After the school visits, we continued to explore other parts of Sri Lanka. You can see these places together with the school visits in this video clip.
This 17 minute clip includes:

•    School visits in Pasikudah and Batticaloa
•    Sigiriya (Lion Rock)
•    Elephant Safari
•    Elephant bathing

(If you cannot see the video below on your device, click here).

Your fellow Rotarians, Hans and Helena Dahlin
Note:  Our International Service Committee is considering a contribution from our E-Club to this Global Grant.
Please share your thoughts or comments below.

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