Here I sit on my penultimate morning in this country I have made my home in some form or other over the past three months, with mixed feelings about my looming departure. I am looking forward to heading home, but part of me longs to stay, to continue to share further in the slow process of rebuilding a shattered people, of making whatever small positive contribution I am able to…
I have formed lifelong bonds, both with those who I have tried to help, sharing in the ups and downs of their communities as I have done so, along with those who I have worked with, shedding sweat and tears for our efforts. I have been welcomed into homes, shared moments of laughter and fun with the always smiling, always beautiful children. And I have learned. I have learned the resiliance of a people, I have seen their adaptability and perserverance under extreme situations. I have learned what the face of heartbreak and fear looks like, heartbreak at loved ones lost, fear of the never knowing if another tsunami will happen. And I have learned what difference one person can make.
And here I ask that question: So have I made such a big difference? Part of me wants to say an unequivocal “yes”, that I have had a significant positive impact during my time here, that I will be remembered for years to come for the part I played in helping to rebuild a small part of this beautiful island. But another part of me recognises that I am but one individual, and the shear size of the work required all but impossible to scale by one person alone.
However I have also come to realise that progress cannot always be measured in leaps and bounds, but is often made up of a series of small and almost insignificant advances here and there over a long period of time. A few temporary shelters erected, a sanitation block or two built, is not going to result in redemption from hardship for those who have lost everything. But multiply this by the hundreds… no, thousands of other individuals like myself who have also given of themselves, and maybe I can feel as though my small contribution is an essential part of something much larger, and far more significant.
Who knows? How do I measure the impact I have had just living in and being part of a small community for two months? How do I know which child I have laughed with, or helped win a volleyball or cricket match with, will take away a lasting impression that alters the way their life progresses?
So as I bid adieu to this island of Sri Lanka and head onto the next stage of my own life, I look forward to returning one day, renewing friendships, and hopefully seeing a coastal nation that is once again always smiling as it faces the joys that life has to offer in the face of occasional adversity.