Hi, I’m Clarrie Lee Gaik Li from LC Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). I chose to join Aqua 4.0 project in LC Colombo South, Sri Lanka from 4th July to 16th August 2016 during my semester break as I was looking for personal development and broadening my horizons through AIESEC exchange programme.
I remember the very first night as I stepped into the international airport of Sri Lanka. It was past midnight when I reached. I met my project leader outside of the airport as he came to pick me. I was totally blanked out after the three hours flight and it was hard for me to search for him in the crowd of Sri Lankans outside who looked similar to me. I was expecting someone to hold up a paper that wrote “AIESEC” though so it’s easier for me to find. Somehow thankfully he managed to find me and brought me to the accommodation place. On the way to the house, it was dark and the car window was open. I was curious and new to the whole new environment of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan air smells different from Malaysia. There was an incense smell everywhere and I think it took me around three days to get used to the smell.
Adapting here took me almost two weeks. I was crying and missed home so much on the first week. I was so confident that I could adapt within a day or two back then as I am used to being out alone. Then, I realized that I had 5 more weeks to survive here in Sri Lanka and got worried. Thinking back, I can laugh at my previous self for that. As time goes by, it’s not about “surviving” anymore but learning how to maximize the best experience I want it to be as well as to learn about the culture of Sri Lanka.
We have 9 EPs for this project. I am very happy to know each of them and they gave me support and care throughout the whole project. We also have the opportunity to travel together to many beautiful places of Sri Lanka and it was memorable. I thought that I will have a less good experience with people of my race and I was wrong. It taught me not to jump to conclusion so quickly. Besides, I have the chance to meet EPs from other projects that live in the same house or during some field trips and had a great time with them too.
Aqua 4.0 turned out to be an amazing and impactful project and I never regret that I chose it as soon as I read about it. We attended several field trips to laboratories and water treatment plants to have an idea about water quality analysis and treatment. We also did several talks and activities on water conservation to the school children and orphanages. As I was researching on water related issues and chronic kidney disease (CKD) for the upcoming school session which we had to present, the search brings me to a current issue in Sri Lanka where people are suffering from that disease because of drinking polluted water which contained ions and heavy metals. Our project managed to supply three water filters to three different schools in Anuradhapura which is one of the top places in Sri Lanka that is affected by CKD. Seeing the children refilling their water bottles with the filtered water really warms my heart. There is a feeling I could not explain through words but I am thankful to be part of the impact.
I love all the trips and holidays organized by the project’s OC. I enjoyed walking and trekking through the nature of Sri Lanka which some of it are part of the project. It gave us time to get to know each other better and once I know the OCs, I found that they are very nice people and fun to have around. They are more than happy to tell me more about Sri Lanka and are very helpful when I needed them. There are always OC around when we go to school sessions or field trips but I only really know them better after the trip to Anuradhapura where we stayed together for 3 days. I wished I had known them better earlier and have more fun time together. I’m not sure if I will be able to meet them again after my exchange here but I hope to see them again.
I learnt a lot more about the life in Sri Lanka and also myself after my 6 weeks here. I would like to say that I’m grateful that I have a whole bunch of energetic and supportive people who go through with me in this voluntary programme. A great appreciation to the OC for working very hard and putting everything together to make this project a successful one and giving me an unforgettable experience here. Thank you and I will miss everyone I met here.