It was the 14th of December and members from all clubs rallied together at Racecourse at 5: 30 AM (In the morning :D), way past the time they were asked to come( 4:30 AM). Anyway, after all the members came, we left for the school in Chillaw. Half the bus was sleeping at 6:30 AM and the guys got their phones out to take some decent photos of the sleepyheads. I had brought sandwiches according to the plan, but I was betrayed by two of my fellow cluster members who said they would bring too. Anyway, the group enjoyed the sandwiches with some opting for another.
We finally reached the school at 9:30 and was greeted with milk rice and “Katta sambal”. The principal was overjoyed to see and so were the kids. The principal had previously asked some kids to come and help and as they saw us, they had a beaming smile over their face. The students rushed towards us and greeted us saying “Good Morning Aiya” and “Good Morning Aunty”. The female students hid with a shy smile.
After the very satisfying Milk rice, we decided to get to work. The Cluster representatives were allocated parts of the school to be in charge when painting. Each team had around 8 members with a mix of all clubs so that people would get to know each other mingle if needed. The members were decided at the discretion of the cluster reps and Hamdhan.
Buckets were brought by our “Baas” and so were paint brushes as asked. We, being amateurs at it, let the Baas mix the paint with water. According to him, we should put 2 liters of water with 1 liter of paint, so we did learn something new.
4 members from Rotaract Club of Chunnakam came soon afterward ready to play dirty. Buckets and Brushes were handed and they got to it without hesitation. This was the first time we, the other cluster representatives met the cluster representative from Chunnakam (Anojan) and was surprised when we saw the size of him( You can imagine a miniature hulk).
2 hours passed and we haven’t completed half of what we had planned to complete. The clubs reps met near the giant teak tree for a discussion.
Shenal says “Machan, my team has completed a lot, I’ve been coaching them on how to do it properly”
And Angelo follows by saying “Yeah same here” my guys needed a little push, but we are handling it”.
Then I say “ Well, our guys are really trying, the front wall was too dirty to paint so we had to clean and one coat isn’t enough we probably need to paint it thrice” and the guys say “Ok ok try to finish it quickly”
And Anuradha says “Ok so, the books will be arranged in the library later, we’ve started painting the walls, there’s a lot of dust but we will manage”.
Everybody goes back to their designated areas and start continuing until lunch.
Before lunch, I went and checked the walls and was surprised by the beauty of it. The guys had done an amazing job, and everybody wanted to perfect it. People were keen on painting every tiny part of the wall, without having and spots. They would paint and re-paint until they got it right. As I was passing the principal, I saw him look at the walls with pride and stared at the walls. The kids had brought their parents to show their new school and the parents blessed us with well wishes.
Then, at 1:30 we were called for lunch and everybody gathered at the classroom to enjoy food prepared by parents. The principal has assigned food for parents and one had brought “dhal curry” and one had a “fish ambul thiyal” and so on. The guys thoroughly enjoyed the meal with most opting for a re-serve. Then for dessert, we had pineapple slices and bananas and me being the fruit lover ate more fruits than the main meal.
After Lunch, we got back to the rest of the work. More people gathered at the gate wall to witness the beauty of it. It wasn’t complete but we felt the beauty it was going to be once it was completed. Then we got the problems. The paint was over and we needed more paint brushes and we needed more wire brushes. But luckily, there was a Hardware shop nearby and one of the parents had a bike. He and I rushed to the store and bought all the necessities and came back and distributed it to the guys.
In the evening we were able to cherish our childhood memories by having “Ice packets” which were bought at the boutique next to the school. The guys really loved, and it brought back some good school memories, although, for some of us, it was the first time.
Then at around 6pm, the work was almost over. The gate wall was over and so was the outer walls of one building. What was remaining was the re-painting the library and one more wall which the guys decided to do on another day. We left at 6:30 after donating all the books. It took a good 5 minutes for 5 guys to get all the books to the library. The principal and kids couldn’t believe their eyes. We had to keep most of the books on the floor because there wasn’t enough space.
Then near Kaduwela, Anuradha and Shenal agreed to honor the deal and decided to buy the guys some short eats. They bought rolls and patties for everyone from a Perera and Sons close by.
We finally reached Racecourse and the cluster team had to bid farewell with a heavy heart. It was the last time they would see each other for a long time. But we had to learn with only the fond memories.
For me, this cluster project had shown me how people are deep inside. Loyalty towards team members, perseverance, undying commitment and love to truly help ones in need.
Rtr. Hasitha Jayasuriya