What progress does BOOKBRIDGE as an organization make? Do we achieve our goals and vision? Or does reality prove to be different from what we expected? During our leadership weeks we gather together with the whole team from Asia and Europe as well as our foundation board to reflect on our goals, vision and impact and to grow together as a team. This year, we met in Sri Lanka as 3rd BOOKBRIDGE country.
During our leadership week two years ago, we agreed on a vision for 2020 and decided to review it after two years. This June, the time had come to gather again. So we travelled to Sri Lanka where we operate since the opening of our first Sri Lankan learning center in June 2016. Besides revising our goals and vision, we also wanted to visit our learning centers in Sri Lanka – Bandarawela and Kekirawa.
So, thanks to the efforts of Monika who had prepared travels and the agenda, we met on Sunday, June 12 in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. Eranda Ginige from our partner Social Enterprise Lanka and Janaprith Fernando, Deputy Chief Commissioner of our partner Sri Lankan Scouts Association took us out for dinner to get the taste of Sri Lankans delicious and spicy cuisine. It was a great time to meet each other and have a moment of relax after the long travels.
Impact Assessment: is our impact chain still valid?
From Monday to Sunday, the leadership week took us to different topics about vision 2020 and various regions of Sri Lanka. Our first day started with an intense workshop on impact assessment. The goal was to take a look at our impact asessment and impact chain and to decide whether it was still valid or had to be adjusted. After discussing it in three groups, we agreed on the concept itself still being valid but needing to be concretized. In order to not only be a fifth NGO offering English courses in rural areas, our learning centers need to focus more on providing students with life skills and special skills. This means that an integrated curriculum needs to be worked out and Community Heroes have to be enabled (via trainings and material supplies) to implement it in their learning centers.
A big challenge to switching their offers from English and IT courses is that they are the main selling point and income source for the learning centers. Parents in Mongolia and Cambodia want their kids to learn good English and expect them to come home with homework – they don´t want them to take part in field trips or projects but rather in pure classroom-based classes.
This will mean that the Community Heroes will also need support by our Global Support Team to communicate the positive aspects of the new learning approach and to work on ways to implement it.
Business ideas for the local communities: Kekirawa Learning Center
After lunch, we got on a big pink bus and rode the 160km to our second learning center established in Sri Lanka: Kekirawa Learning Center. Situated in one of the hottest regions of Sri Lanka, Kekirawa Learning Center opened this March. Community Hero Sampath Senawatte welcomed us to the newly renovated building. Besides a small library with a meeting corner, the house hosts an IT room and two classrooms. Despite having opened only three months ago, Sampath has a already executed a row of classes and has connected students from Kekirawa community with local businesses. This shows his vision: to enable people to help themselves by providing practical knowledge and business skills.
A first result is a mushroom-growing business. Kenti, a woman from the community and one of the local participants in our Capability Program, presented the business approach: woman from the community grow mushrooms and sell them to restaurants and markets under the same branding. It was very interesting to talk to her and Sampath and to learn more about their very clear business ideas.
To explore the region of Kekirawa Learning Center, we visited the archeological site of Sigiriya. At 35° Celsius, we enjoyed the vast palace complex in the middle of the jungle built around an impressive rock with world-famous rock graffiti. For some of us it was challenging to follow the guide’s explanations on details of Sri Lankan history but we were grateful to be introduced to the great deeds of King Carshipper – a misunderstanding that led to many laughs and us grow together even tighter as a team. After a refreshing swim in our hotel’s pool, we gathered for another savoury dinner with many chats about our vision, challenges and personal anecdotes.
Bus rides are good for working!
Wednesday was filled with a hot yet impressive visit to the biggest archeological site of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura. To become active and experience Sri Lanka’s buzzling streets, the entire team rode there by bike. Going left on the road was a major challenge for all of us but thanks to the patience of the Sri Lankan car and tuk-tuk drivers, we always ended up on the right side on the street. After meeting one of the applicants for our next learning center during lunch, we got on the bus to go to Bandarawela in the Eastern Hill Country of Sri Lanka. It was a very long ride taking us from the hot North and its swamp lands to the much cooler and greener highlands.
Student-centered teaching at its best: Bandarawela Learning Center
Thursday was the day of reuniting with Sujitha Miranda, Community Hero in Bandarawela. Together with the participants of our 2nd Global Social Entrepreneurship program, she opened her learning center exactly one year ago. Sujitha and her assistant and teacher Sateesh welcomed us to a very clean and neat building in the center of the town. The learning center’s rooms are carefully equipped and decorated and provide a welcoming and positive learning atmosphere.
Students started to drop in, curiously looked at us but then went immediately to the IT room to do learning games. We had the opportunity to attended a couple of classes and were impressed about the politeness and engagement of the students and Sujitha’s ambitious teaching approach. Sujitha has a very structured and focused way of teaching combining English lessons with life skills learnings. Her teaching is very well prepared and full of practical exercises based on daily situations.
To improve the career chances of her students, she has created a unique class offering, the “Find yourself” course. Find out more about it in this blog article as it is a big step forward in reaching our vision 2020.
Intense workshops: Governance, transfer projects and recruiting processes
Friday was very intense as we worked the entire day on important topics like governance, aspects of the Capability Program and recruiting processes. After Rasheed, our foundation board’s president, had joined us and the BOOKBRIDGE foundation board was complete, Barbara worked us through the important topic governance and the relations between the legal entities of BOOKBRIDGE. As professional attorney, Barbara guided us to a better definition of the relations between BOOKBRIDGE Foundation, BOOKBRIDGE GmbH and the Country organizations. Though some team members had stomach problems we managed to take important steps on this journey.
After a heavy thunderstorm and a late lunch break, the foundation board gathered for the first time in person with all members – not an easy thing with Maledives, Swiss and Germans! The country management teams together with Monika and Jella discussed how the processes of recruiting our Community Heroes can be improved. The emotional discussions showed clearly that this was a very important topic that had long be underestimated.