Being A Temple Instead Of Visiting Temples-My Visit To An Orphanage In Sri Lanka
For those of you who have followed along, you know that my visit to Sri Lanka has not been the greatest. It has been unsafe to travel here as a single woman, and many unfortunate things have happened to me along the way. This is a sad country with an even sadder government, and the people who I have met have talked about their feelings of repression, and how they envy my freedom as an American. The person with the most moving story was my driver, Michael.
Michael told me the story of how when he was 28 years old, he traveled to the Philippines. He happened to fall in love with a woman there, and came back and told his family. However, they wouldn’t allow him to marry her because he came from a high caste family and she wouldn’t have any money to bring into the family. This was a heartbreaking time in his life, and he had to respect their wishes, and felt like he had lost the great love of his life. Later, when he found another woman to marry, his family still didn’t feel like she had enough money, so he gave his family every bit of his life savings so that they would approve of the marriage. His heart yearned for freedom, and he told me never to take for granted the freedom that I have.
I had hired Michael to show me around Sri Lanka because I didn’t feel safe as a solo female traveler to walk on the streets and explore Sri Lanka on my own. I had met another solo female traveler, Wei, and we had decided to let Michael be our guide for the day. He first took us to a botanical garden which cost almost $10 to enter. Quite expensive, and there was still graffiti on the plants. There were some lovely bats, but I was lamenting the fact that we had hired a driver for a tour when I’m not usually apt to do the “touristy” activities.
Michael wanted to take us to see temples next, but Wai and I both objected. “Take us to something that’s not touristy.”, we begged. “Take us somewhere that you would take your friends.” Michael started telling us about his volunteer work with the orphanage. He told us they needed pampers, and asked if we would like to go buy some and take them to the orphanage. We gladly said yes.
Michael took us to the orphanage, and my heart kind of broke a little. There were too many children and not enough workers and volunteers. I think I may have saved a life, as one child was even running around with a plastic bag on her head which I quickly took away.
Within seconds, I found myself surrounded by babies in such need of attention and love, that I found myself so grateful that I had grown up in a home where there were constant hugs, loving arms around me anytime I wanted, laughter, songs sung to me every morning and night, and parents that I knew would always be there. I just came from Bali, and the way they treat their children, not letting their feet even touch the ground for the first few months, the babies always in someone’s arms, was such a sharp contrast to these little ones who seemed to have to fend for themselves. Other volunteers were there rocking and holding the babies, and I wondered what the babies lives would be like without these lovely women to help them.
I’ve had some traumatic experiences here in Sri Lanka, but being with these children at the orphanage in Sri Lanka made me realize how they paled in comparison to what these children were going through at such a young age. I thought I felt helpless here, but these babies were truly helpless. I realized that the true way to be healed is to help others yourself. When we help others, our problems fade. When we show love and compassion for one another, I truly feel we can help extinguish the darkness that is so present in this world. If moment by moment we can share our light, the world can be healed. I ended the day, grateful for this day. Grateful that I got to share love, grateful for the freedom that I have in my own life, and grateful for the loving home that I was fortunate to come from. Yes, we all have problems in our lives, but I think if instead of obsessing about them, we use the compassion we have gained from these problems to help others, we will find we have helped others and, at the same time, brought healing to ourselves. I hope that my travels in the future will lead me to more people who I can help along the way.
love this post<3
Thanks Hana Alwan!
Amazing story Val! My heart aches for those kids! I am so glad you could love on them!
Me too! One of the best parts of the whole trip…
Oh Val, this is a beautiful story! So glad you simply gave them love and that’s what is most needed!
Beautifully written! Beautiful the hands that love on those that need love! Being the temple of God showing His love to others much more valuable than visiting a temple.
Yes, they did for sure. Such sweet spirits.
Great post! We spent time in a Russian orphanage whenwe were adopting our daughter. It’s amazing how much one person, one smile, one hug or even just a wave can impact these kids. Those trips put alot of tihings in life into more perspective. and had a similar experience.
Oh, that is awesome. Yeah, my heart really went out to these kids!
It’s so true, isn’t it? I’m glad that I got to spend the time I did with them.
oh those babies. i love that photo of you on the floor with them all over you. oh. my heart. thank you for sharing more than just pretty beaches love. gab
Yes, they were so sweet. I felt so blessed to be with them.
oh i want to be in that room with those babies. what an incredible experience – i’m SO happy you found michael – and he was brave enough to share this heartbreak, so you could help change lives, if even for a moment. LOVE .
Yes, it really was an amazing day. It makes me want to look for more opportunities where I can give back when I travel!
The babies are adorable — fingers crossed for all of them. But I’m not sure those bats are “lovely.”
Ha ha!! I had the opportunity to watch some bats really close up in Bali. I used to be scared of them, but once I saw them close up, I found them cute and fascinating!
Beautiful story… those babies are little heartbreakers.
One thing I’m learning about travel is that the largest change that seems to happen to people is an acceptance of just how good many of us have it back home, that we’ve been taking things for granted.
I’m glad you could do something to help, something genuine & without a large ‘donation’ up front like so many other volunteering projects.
What was it that made you feel unsafe traveling in Sri Lanka on your own ?
If you read the previous posts on my blog, you will read that I had a hotel owner put his hands down my shirt, a tuk tuk driver flash me, etc. Other solo women also had men on the street flashing them. Politicians often rape women there but suffer no consequences by paying bribes. Government officials are even talking of giving all solo women travelers pepper spray when they arrive at the airport. After going through all of this, I also found Sri Lanka very expensive and underwhelming. The worst place I’ve ever traveled to!
What a wonderful experience Val. I wish I could be there. It’s got to be gratifying even if it is a bit sad.
My boyfriend is a military pilot who often spends his free time in Djibouti (he’s part of the anti-piratig missions) at a nearby orphanage. The stories he tells me are heartbreaking. As a teacher in a country where kids are treated like royalty, I seem to never be able to give out enough hugs and compliments, and it’s always so easy to pick out the child who doesn’t get enough of it from their parents. I’m glad that your driver took you to a place where you could safely help other, and not just with tourist dollars.
So glad you were able help. Those precious little babies need all the hugs and loving they can get. I sure your bright smile and warm hugs made them all feel a little better. Very nice post, I really enjoyed reading it.
Lovely. Where in Sri Lanka was this?
Alyson, it was in Kandy.
[…] that changed my ideas of life, spent time giving toys at Christmas to the kids in Cuba, and volunteered at the orphanage in Sri Lanka. I have come to realize, all of this travel has really been a desire to connect more deeply with […]