I am back in Germany for nearly one week but my thoughts are still in Camp Veria. They are with the all the boys I played soccer with, they are with the girls I saw smiling when getting the first barbie of their lives, they are with the women cooking an amazing new years dinner for the whole camp, they are with the two old and wise men inviting me to the first shisha of my life. And they are with Sarah and Sam who make all these experiences possible.
There is no alternative than immediately feeling sympathy with Sarah and Sam when meeting them for the first time. Their warm-heartedness and their sense of humor made me feel like working together with old friends.
The way they work is highly professional and highly demand-oriented. Everything they do follows their highest principles: to respect anybody´s beliefes and to guarantee anybody´s dignity! Acting like this they developed an amazing and trustful relation to all refugees actually living in Camp Veria.
I can dearly recommend volunteering with Bridge2 to anybody. Working together with Sam ans Sarah means helping disadvantaged people in a sustainable way while having a lot of fun. And it means learning for your own life in many ways!
Thank you Sarah, Thank you Sam – meeting you and working together with you was a great pleasure and I am really looking forward to come back soon!
Jonas Ermes - Germany
On Wednesday I came back from my trip to Veria..
Usually I was supposed to stay one week and then leave. But when I was there, at first with the best room mates ever: Kuba Kaliszewski and Lauren Smith and with an organisation I became a fan of: Bridge2, I decided to stay longer.
Stay longer to just be there and do whatever is needed and to get in touch with the usual life in the camp.
I absolutely fell in love with it, with everybody living there, the children and also the persons who are responsible at the place: Sarah Griffith and Sam James.
I'm still impressed by all the love you give, and all the organisation! It was an honour for me to have these experiences and I wish to come back as soon as possible!
I also want to thank the Refugees Foundation!
Without you I've would never been there and especially not that long! Thank you for your support and all your effort!
I’ve recently returned from Greece where I spent 10 days volunteering for Bridge2 with a small group of friends. We worked alongside Sarah and her son Sam in a refugee camp near Veria in Northern Greece.
After having followed the situation with the refugee crisis in the media for over a year, it was great to get a first-hand perspective on this issue; to be able to talk to the actual people and learn a little more about what they’re going through. Having been a refugee myself (during the Yugoslav wars in the 90’s), I remember how it feels to depend on the help and kindness of strangers. To be able to give something back, however little, was a very rewarding experience for me.
I had the chance to meet and work with some genuinely amazing people. Most of our efforts in the camp were focused on sorting and distributing of food and clothes, all which was done in a very organised and dignified way (and we had so much fun in the process). During this time Sarah served as a real inspiration to us - the devotion, determination and energy she puts into her work is truly remarkable.
I am really grateful for having had this opportunity to work with Bridge2 and I’m definitely looking forward to coming back in the near future.
Volunteering with Bridge2 I learned a few things. I learned that by simply going out there and just doing it you can get a lot of things done. Without bureaucracy and a business hierarchy it is much simpler for a NGO to have an impact on the people you want to help. Sarah and Sam are great in raising funds and donations so it was easy for us volunteers to give out useful items to the ones who needed it the most. I stayed for four weeks in Camp Veria and it was a time I don't want to miss. Everything from the shop to distribution was well organized and fair. As a volunteer you will get clear instructions on how the job's done. But don't worry because fun is also a major part in both the work and inside the team. Soon we had full rein in specific tasks and could feel that we are being trusted in the work we do. Personally I had a great time in the camp in general and also with Sam, Sarah and the other volunteers. If I find the time I will definitely pay another visit to Veria. Thanks for your work
Working as a Bridge2 volunteer in Northern Greece
A little more than a year ago I didn't know in what different places I would find myself and what projects I would be part of. Since then I saw several places and was lucky to meet a lot of people who worked all for the same aim: helping people who were struggling with inhuman conditions of all kinds.
Bridge2 is definitely one of the most organized and target-aimed organization I worked with. It is obvious that Sarah Griffith can rely a lot of experience in setting up a structure exactly meeting the needs of the people. Since I worked with her in two camps in Greece (Alexandria & Veria) I witnessed her acting not only very effectively but at the same time with the appropriate tact.
It is not only her aim to supply the things that are needed most - but doing this in a way no person has to give up on the last thing that is left of a former life: their dignity. In order to achieve that she treats everyone equally and builds up a simple but fair system. The first step is to create spaces where the goods can be offered.
The "Supermarket" for food and hygienic items, and the "Clothing store" and "Shoe Shop" for clothing. After the rooms are all set up there is a social system installed which allows every person to be treated equally. Once it is running on regular base you can see the difference in the communication to the Refugees. Although there are no "special treatments" just for pleasure, Sarah has an open ear and a good sense for special needs. If that is the case she moves heaven and hell to solve the problem or to relieve the person in need.
To give a complete picture of what it is like to work with Sarah, I need to mention her great sense of what are the volunteers' strengths and wishes. Knowing that anybody works the best if he/ she likes what they do, she always tries to employ every volunteer according to his/ her interests and skills. Last but not least: in addition to all these essential qualities I have to mention her great sense of humour.
Working with the Bridge2-Team is absolutely targeted, satisfying and last but not least a lot of fun!
Everybody can make a difference. And Bridge2 enables the people to do so.
Thanks for everything, it was a great pleasure to work with you and I'm looking forward to come back soon. As promised;)
In October 2016 I have been able to work with Bridge2 in Camp Veria, northern Greece. It has been one of the most impressing experiences in my life.
Sarah and Sam are doing their job with the most dignity as well as humanity and fun and they know exactly, what they are doing. It was a pleasure to meet them and a lot of other lovely people.
It is awesome to see, what can be achieved (in seemingly no time) when you work together so co-ordinated!
I would love to go back as soon as time allows it.
I volunteered in Greece at the Veria refugee camp for two weeks. It's the best thing I've done in a long while, I'm grateful for the experience and would recommend it. Getting outside your bubble and meeting real refugees gives you a unique and worthwhile perspective.
Sarah and Sam offer an authentic experience of camp life, they have plenty of knowledge and many years working in different humanitarian crisis. They run a reliable and lean operation, which is more human than working for a big corporate charity.
I always felt safe and met some amazing people on camp. I'm hoping to go back as soon as I can.
First we have to say THANK YOU again that you do what you do to make this world a better place.
Working with you guys was motivating, as you could tell how quickly change can be made when everyone is working together.
You are a great planner and an organizing talent and also you are very focused on what you are doing.
That is what we find very inspiring - this high focused personality definitely helps to get things done and therefore you work in the interest of all the people you want to help - that is how it should be.
We are glad you’ve always had the vision of getting to better results as quickly as possible to make all the people feel a little better in those difficult situations.
Bridge2 is a beautiful example of how the world could work if everyone helped each other just because there is the need of help and not because there is something to get out of.
To us it is also a very important thing to realize that there is a huge need of helpers, not only in terms of logistics and donations etc. but also people they can talk to, people who listen and meet them as human beings. We all need to get closer together to realize that we all have the same wishes in life - we want to be happy.
And that some people don’t have the same possibilities as we do is just not fair. As long as we can’t stop the wars, we need to stop hatred in our inner circles and get involved into actions of compassion.
We are grateful for meeting people like you who won’t give up doing good just because there are rocks in the way. You are a good example of how you can take those rocks and build a house.
Keep building those little houses of hope. You are a great builder
Peace starts in our hearts. Thank you for living it.
Esther & Sam
Esther & Sam Welticke
With Bridge2 you are working with a very professional , humanity organisation .
Sarah Griffith and Sam James are two wonderful experts with very big hearts and you can work save, efficient and successful with them .
We need more of these kind of persons .
Change a lot !
Just do it !
Any time again !!
As an experienced German volunteer group who worked on several places along the refugee trail, I highly recommend this organisation. They are outstanding with their sense of humanity compared with professionalism. We've seen so many well motivated people, who got the wrong/not ideal leadership and ended up in overwhelming and wearing situations.
With Sarah Griffith you can be sure that this wouldn't happened. They look very strict at their volunteers and keep an eye on everything. Nevertheless you will fell into bed every evening like a dead ant, but feel like you moved the whole world. Don't think twice-JUST GO!
Chairwomen of Refugees Foundation e.V.
"Volunteering with a charity that is helping refugees is a big step for inexperienced people to take.
There are many organisations that will accept people regardless of their capabilities or experience as they are desperate to recruit at any cost. This is not only dangerous but also means that you is more likely to have a negative and frustrating experience.
Not so with Bridge2 and the indomitable Sarah Griffith.
I have worked in Calais and also in Greece and whilst I have witnessed a lot of good being done, I was always left feeling that a lot more could have been achieved if volunteers were more supported and organised with clear directions and goals. Many groups state they are experienced but it is not always clear exactly in what area that expertise lies once you start working with them.
Working with Sarah is an experience you won't forget. She quickly judges strengths in personalities and directs people to reach their full potential. She is quick thinking and quick witted with a wicked sense of humour and a generous and loving nature.
Everyone who is lucky enough to work with Sarah and her organisation will end each day more tired than they imagined but with a sense of accomplishment and a renewed resolve to make tomorrow better still.
Sarah is energetic, organised, motivational and completely dedicated to helping people less able and less fortunate.
She is trustworthy and dependable and has a clear vision of her goals. However she is always ready to listen and incorporate others' ideas into the plan which adds to the volunteers having a more direct impact on the refugee crisis.
I am pleased to say that I had the most positive experience of my volunteering career since starting to volunteer a year ago and I can't wait to return and work with Sarah and Bridge2 again.
Thank you Sarah... the world needs more of you.
Bridge2Philippines & Bridge2Refugees
Two years ago, on a tiny Philippine fishing raft, crowded by a team of volunteers from all over the World, I met Sarah Griffith. We were heading to a tiny island, some of us to build houses, and others to bring them food supplies and medical support. An island that hadn’t received any other help from the big NGOs apart from a few tents - this being 4 months after the typhoon Yolanda! When doing these kind of missions, you often meet new people - everyone very kind and openminded, but also many people being very busy telling what they do, how they do it and for how long time they have been doing it!!... Sarah was NOT one of them - but I got her details as she seemed to be a woman I would like to learn from - and follow - she just had that special aura around her, that made me wanna know more.
Ever since, I have been following Sarah and Bridge2 here on Facebook, and I have been impressed by everything she has done around the World. One thing is to see what Bridge2 does when IN the disaster areas - another thing is to realize how much very hard work, Sarah does from Guernsey - or from wherever she is - to keep the fundraising going. I have done a bit of it myself and am totally aware, how much time and energy one has to put into it, to be able to raise money for different projects. It is only possible to do that if you’re doing a very professional job, if transparency is everywhere, and nobody can be in any doubt of where the money goes to. I am impressed by the professionalism and creativity Sarah puts into this part of the job - and therefor I am not surprised, she is able to keep this going.
By beginning of November 15, I did a one week job in Serbia - working for a Danish NGO, providing first aid to the refugees on their way through Europe. I met people in bare feet and flip flops - in minus 7 degrees celcius - families travelling with babies, disabled children, old grandparents etc. - all carrying their belongings in a small schoolbag or likewise. Everyone smiled and were thankful for our help, but I felt ill, wearing a uniform and not being allowed to do anything else for them due to bureaurcacy and mandate etc.. and I knew I was to do more for these people on my own.
When I first saw that Bridge2 was now in Calais - only 12 hours from my home, I asked Sarah, for some contacts, and made my way to the camp by end of November 15. Here I helped in Kitchen in Calais, run by the wonderful Sofinee Haurun - and built by Bridge2. I fell in love with the people there and I saw with my own eyes, what I pretty much knew ahead, but now got to feel as well - how much these fellow human beings, forced to live in the camp, needed help. Due to financial issues I only stayed for 4 days, but still I had a feeling, I was making a difference in many peoples lives by just being there.
Soon after my first visit, Sarah invited me to join her and her group for Christmas. I felt honored to receive this invitation but i had to tell Sarah, I wouldn’t be able to do anything else than show up - work hard and cover my own costs, as I wasn’t in a place or time to do any fundraising before going there. Again, knowing how much effort it takes to do that, I felt lucky to be allowed on this mission - under the wing of Bridge2. Everyone pays their own costs but here I just needed to show up and all building materials had been bought, lots of donated items to be distributed and projects to just “jump in on”..
As soon as I got off work on dec. 24th, I got on the first plane to Brussels plus 3 trains towards Calais. Here I was happy to hear the voice I immediately recognised - of this happy loudspeaking woman, entering the budget highway hotel at 10 pm. coming straight from a 12 hour working day in the camp with her crew. Happy reunion with Sarah and soon I was introduced to her crew. When i went to bed that night - even before having been to the camp - it was with a big smile on my face. There is a certain feeling amongst people who are all there for the same reason. Everyone determined to work hard and do as much as possible to help these fellow human beings in any possible way. I knew from that very first meeting, that the spirit in this group was strong - and that I had met my fellow humanitarians.
The group had been working for a couple of days, and I joined in next morning. It felt soooo good to be back in the camp despite the terrible conditions these people live in. Walking around the camp, people will stop and talk to you - they smile at you, offer you half their apple!! - that is these people, having NOTHING!!! - but knowing you are there to help them, means so much to them.. (Coming home afterwards, walking through my own village, with everyone looking down and not smiling at you - THAT IS TOUGH!!)... And walking back into Kitchen in Calais, where we were to help out again, was another moment of reunion and feeling like coming home!
I was teamed up with this lovely man, who had just been around - and had been very helpful for Bridge2, so he was now one of the crew. Sarah knows people - and this team got right on it - and kept working together for the rest of the days. Everyone was busy, doing everything from building a fence, peeling potatoes, doing the dishes, building shelves and make new flooring - and Sarah always leading by example - running around, doing the logistics while using the drill or digging a hole (read: never sitting down!) - plus being the “mum” for all of us, making sure everyone was happy, remembering to drink water and eat etc.
Having done relief work various times within the last 11 years on my own and being “my own boss”, I was a bit anxious, what it would be like to be volunteering for someone else - and even wearing a “uniform”... I knew, the uniform is also meant to show people, we are a professional team, and it was clear to see the residents of the camp, recognising us - and that with big smiles on their faces. This time I didn’t feel this uniform put any kind of strings on me. Sarah is always open to new ideas, personal reasons or relationships that the volunteers bring to the group. When we were given a project or “found one ourselves”, Sarah would guide us if needed, but she would also give us responsibility of getting things done and she would always support our way of doing things. For me, that was very important, to not feel restricted in any ways.
I can recommend everyone who is ready to work hard, smile a lot despite the challenging surroundings, to volunteer for Bridge2.
I will be pleased and feel VERY proud - to put on that blue uniform again - and go help this professional team help our fellow human beings.. So please everyone out there - keep supporting Sarah Griffith and Bridge2.
Louise Woetmann, Denmark
I recently drove over to Calais with my girlfriend and my brother, a little uncertain as to what we were letting ourselves in for having read contradictory reports from facebook and mainstream media (as usual!) When we drove into the camp most people smiled or waved and generally seemed very welcoming. The media would have you believe that these people are all economic migrants and terrorists.
We spoke to various residents in the camp and found that the majority were fleeing war, and that some of them had escaped directly from the clutches of ISIL/ISIS recruiters. These people are incorrectly being labeled as migrants. They are refugees looking to protect themselves and their families. They are very proud and were all relatively well dressed which is an incredible feat in the circumstances.
We targeted the delivery of most of the donated items, usually finding out some background first to be sure the right things were ending up in the right hands or on the right feet! This is something fairly unique about Bridge2… the aid donations go directly to those who need them the most and the volunteers are unpaid and are asked to cover their own expenses. There is absolute transparency.
Days were long and everyone worked extremely hard to help out in and around the Calais kitchen. Some of the camp's residents assisted with building work and kitchen duties and despite their living conditions still managed to maintain high spirits, which was great to see. The team of volunteers that were involved are an amazing bunch of caring, hard working people.
Sarah leads by example and gets fully stuck in, not just with the planning but also the physical graft.
Everybody went above and beyond the call of duty and I hope that I get the pleasure of working alongside them all again in the not too distant future.
"I had the privileged experience of being able to work with Sarah and her incredible Charity Bridge 2 for the first time in Calais, over Christmas 2015 for several days. It was one of the most challenging and life-altering experiences I have ever had. It was incredibly hard work and there is always something to do, hours can be long and fierce.
At one point I hit an emotional wall after watching Sarah provide aid for a Syrian refugee in the evening that had travelled more than 40 hours on foot and who was so tired he could barely eat. It made me despair at the severity of the situation, especially considering that this humanitarian crisis is man-made, however the experience made me stronger and more determined.
Part of these existential challenges is that there is not always an immediate solution, it is not easy to see your place in events; you just have to hope for the best, show kindness to a fellow human being and provide dignity to those who have nothing under limited time restraints.
I have quite honestly never experienced the sheer kindness and sense of community spirit with those I served; those I worked with in our own team, and with other outside volunteers. Working in these conditions helps to forge incredible bonds and I met some amazing people who I will never forget and would be more than happy to call my friends.
This experience challenged and changed my perception of the world first hand, and will no doubt influence the decisions I make from herein.
I cannot recommend Sarah's charity enough, aid goes directly to those who need it, nothing is wasted, and we all worked hard as a team together to get the goals achieved in as little time as possible.
Everybody mucks in and gets on with the task at hand. I would not hesitate to volunteer again for Bridge 2 and look forward to working with Sarah again.
Lucir Graphic Design
It was just a kid when i started to study nursing but my goal was very clear. I wanted to use my medical skills to help other people who had not the opportunity or money to receive medical cares.
Some people thought it was only birds on my head, that going abroad and working with disadvantage people in a developing country would not be possible for me...that all my wishes and dreams would disappear with time. They were wrong, I’m a stubborn person and I work hard to get what I want.
Sarah, for all of that I want to say thank you. For give me the chance to make my dreams true and to be part of "this". I feel like I would met you a long time ago...really, so comfortable working with this team.
For your patience, for your love..the love with which you work.
I hope we meet again, I would be delighted to return to Dadagaun with the team.
A huge hug mum Sarah.
NURSE ALBI ;)
Alba Adega Pico
My name is Silvia Pozuelo Sánchez, I'm a nurse and I did my master in Emergency SAMU in Seville. Thanks to them I have not only learned my professional happens also my lifestyle.
On 25th April 2015 a terrible misfortune occurred. Nepal suffered a terrible earthquake. As usually happens in these situations the most disadvantaged people were severy affected. This earthquake killed 8500 people, injured about 18000 and destroyed around 550000 homes.
SAMU gave me the chance to go and help these people. I will always be thankful.
On May 13th, we arrived Nepal, just a day later a second earthquake hit. Sarah Griffith was there, waiting with the rest of her team, BRIDGE2, with everything ready to start working. At that time I was not aware that this experience was going to be tough and that people who knew nothing about would become my family for the next 30 days.
When we got to Dolakha, SAMU and BRIDGE2, began to set up our living area, with bamboo tents (a structure that seemed very stable at first), and built a small clinic to treat patients.
Everything was ready to work, and we did. Every day two groups were made, which were sent on medical missions to areas where assistance hadn´t reached, and two people stayed in the clinic to treat patients. That was our work routine. Always supporting each other, for the benefit of people who had suffered this terrible misfortune.
Missions to orphanages with children were great, all of them were glad to see us, and thanked us for the help, and their joy with the BRIDGE2 toys was wonderful.
Bridge 2 supported an orphanage in Kathmandu, which had been completely devastated by the earthquake. Today, after great efforts, the children have a roof to sleep.
As a professional experience, I can say that the work done by the two companies (BRIDGE2 and SAMU) was amazing. Sara and Borja´s capacity to resolve conflicts in favor of the disadvantaged was impressive.
As a personal experience, I can only say that it was unique. I remember the nights in the tent with my amazing partner and friend Marta Molero, waking up with the earthquakes and strong winds and storms. How could I forget the night when the house next door collapsed in one of the replicas, forcing us to leave our tents. And as Pablo Simón and Sam, son of Sarah, at night and in the middle of a storm, they held the bamboo structure that had been destroyed, so that Marta and I could leave the tent. On another stormy night, I remember Sarah screaming at us to leave our tents, the wind had torn our living area apart and everything had flown away.
I can say that my experience during this mission has given me training, and most importantly, human formation.
Many people are exposed to natural disasters, but not all countries have the same resources. Therefore, I thank health professionals, SAMU or BRIDGE 2, which offer help to the needy.
I must thank my experience SAMU, and especially my workmates, Borja Gonzalez, Oscar Martin, Jose Antonio Soriano, Pablo Simón and Marta Molero. And of course, Sara and her team, to whom I wish well and hope they keep doing the great work they do and rewarding.
Silvia Pozuelo Sánchez
“I’m still struggling to put into words the value of the experience I had from volunteering with Bridge2.
So many people put so much effort into raising funds for these projects and there has been so much interest that to go and be part of making it happen on the ground in Nepal has overwhelmed me.
We were fortunate to be part of such a great team that pulled together and overcome difficult logistics, it was hard work and challenging but as a volunteer group we also made it enjoyable.
A large part of the enjoyment came from working directly with the people we were there to offer support to and that helped me come to a better understanding of what they have endured and what support I could offer with my skills.
Also being part of a multidisciplinary team meant that we also got to see other professionals at work and it was great to be part of that.”
When Borja told me the day before going to Nepal you were a Super-women, a machine, he wasn't wrong!
I've never met someone so passionate with the life and the hard work to help other people.
Your passion is contagious, and it has been a great opportunity be part of your team!
You are an example in how doctors/nurses and builders/architects can work hand-in-hand for the benefit of all the community wherever you are.
We have to promote health and offer protection from preventable diseases and conditions, and this only can be possible working together with a common objective to improve the welfare of the community.
I feel privileged and truly grateful for this opportunity.
Whatever you need,I'll be pleased to help you!!!
Dr Macarena Montesinos Bonilla
Some people run the other way when asked to do charity work and god knows I was once that person! Nobody wants to spend an afternoon, day, or weekend away from his or her everyday routine. They’re either too busy, or just don’t want to dedicate time to something that isn’t going to benefit them in some way.
Just because you aren’t being paid for the work you’re doing, does not mean that there aren’t any benefits.
A few years ago I spent an entire 2 weeks volunteering for the London 2012 Olympics / Paralympics Games and it seriously changed the way I felt about voluntary work. It's not easy giving your all and working 12 hr shifts treating patients like a normal days work when you know there is no benefit. But you see the cause and the way it brings out the best in people! It's a hard hit when you fit back into reality and realise lives revolve around money and personal gain.
I decided to go and volunteer with Sarah Griffith's charity "Bridge 2" quiet early this year when she asked to join her team. I was delighted but didn't realise what I was getting myself into or what I was about to see in a disaster zone.
I volunteered in my capacity as a Nurse, a Charity run from Guernsey island where I also incidentally co founded the Guernsey Gaels Gaelic football club when I lived out there.
The charity trip was to Bantayan Island off Cebu in The Philippines and was devastated in Typhoon Yolanda, which hit on the 8th Nov 2013.
We ran lots of food drops – distributing rice/toothpaste and soap and also ran medical field clinics. I saw patient’s everyday, ranging from dressings to a baby who was in respiratory distress, to a lady who needed an urgent blood transfusion.
The clinics were successful and most days were spent in the local hospital afterwards making sure the patients got their treatments.
There is currently what looks like a potential TB crisis, which will slowly get worse. In one case, on a small remote island where we were doing a food drop and Medical clinic, I identified a boy and a girl with a fever with an unknown cause.
We got them back to the main island to make a grim discovery that the boy was suspected TB. We did try and get them to stay in hospital but were unsuccessful, this has ramifications for the future tracking of the disease. I have attached an extract from my diary;
"Yesterday was an extremely challenging day for me personally and had a lump in my throat for dawn to dusk. The island is reviving but far from healing post the typhoon. It's evident that buildings are structurally unsafe. The day started extremely early. We all set off to see the mayor so that Sarah could discuss vital issues that are causing concern on this island & also to get our hands on oxygen. They are no infectious diseases on the island at present except of the odd dengue fever as checked with local authority prior to conducting field hospitals but lots of wounds, croup, Cardiac, bronchestasis and Htn, stress and trauma. Post traumatic stress from typhoon and very sick babies & children, cardiac and respiratory arrests. As we drove to the mayor’s office Randy noticed a homeless boy sitting outside a shop covered in dirt. It's hard to describe but this child just had no light in his eyes and was so quiet, which always sets alarm bells ringing!! We quickly jumped out the van and asked the shopkeeper if we could take a look at him out the back of her shop. To my horror he was cover in nasty wounds from been bitten by Mosquitoes which were infected from him itching with dirty nails. He was covered in lice and teeth were rotting and very malnourished. This child was not well and homeless. I quickly cleaned and dressed wounds and my team got him food and water. We gave him rehydrating salts, vitamins, pain relief etc. His story is extremely harrowing which I feel is not appropriate to mention on here. We are seeing him again over the next few days and trying to get something in place to get a continuation of care when we leave but it's not looking hopeful at present as some of the other charities are just don't have medical personal available and the local hospital ...
Well I'm not going to comment on that..."
This is all just a taster if the type of work that was carried out by our team and you can follow/read about the trip via bridge2.gg
It's unbelievable the work Sarah (charity Founder) does and she works extremely hard. I am amazed how well she copes with all of the horrific sights and stories she encounters. I still look back at the two weeks in October and get emotional. I have to thank a Guernsey sponsor who paid for my flights for the trip and allowed me to witness/help/ and be involved in the work that Bridge2 is doing in these countries. I only played a small part in Sarah's work but I can honesty say that no other charity does the work that Sarah does out there and inputs confidence that the monies are channelled to the people that need it the most.
I have recently returned from Sri Lanka where I was working for the Bridge 2 Sri Lanka charity. It was an amazing, heart melting and sometimes heart wrenching. I visited Sri Lanka last year on holiday and wanted to go back again as I fell in love with it's beauty and the people. I wanted to do something worthwhile with my time while I was out there and being from Guernsey I know Sarah Griffith and about all the amazing work she does for the Bridge 2 Sri Lanka.
It was amazing to experience first hand the work the charity does. The help they provide to families, children and people out there is hard to put into words, it really does take your breathe away. Sri Lankan people are very kind, big hearted people, I was lucky enough to work at the Franginpani pre school. Chaini the teacher there is an amazing individual and I was very moved by my time spent there. I was welcomed into a community and made to feel at home.
As well as working at the school there were always others that needed your help while you were there. Sarah Griffith is an amazing individual, I call her the 'mother Theresa' of Sri Lanka. I have been so moved by the work the charity does that I would like to go back again and help. It was a very life changing experience for me.
'Together we are strong'... This is the motto of the lovely Chaini's Pre School, The Frangipani and one which I feel encapsulates my trip with Sarah Griffith to Sri Lanka.
The purpose of my travel with the Bridge2 formed part one of my goals to achieve whilst on a sabbatical from my job as a primary school teacher at Vale School. I researched many voluntary organisations on the internet and became almost overwhelmed with the amount of choice of where to go and what to do. Many of these organisations required large payments for the experience and to be honest I wasn't entirely sure how much would be going towards the charity itself. That's when I decided to seek out Sarah and the Bridge2. I was familiar with her work through social media and events for fundraising. Being on the same island meant I could meet up and discuss her projects, which gave me a close insight to her work.
After meeting on a few occasions I immediately felt at ease in her company (and sense of humour!) and inspired by her stories of the families' lives she had touched and supported ongoing since the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka.
It was from here I planned my trip around her visits to Sri Lanka and later on to the Philippines.
On arrival to Colombo airport we were greeted by Prasad, not only a wonderful and reliable driver, but a kind and thoughtful man who is such an integral link with the Hikkaduwa community which has allowed the charity to support their needs.
The first couple of days were spent visiting the 2 Pre Schools that Bridge2 built after tsunami; The Siri Sudath run by Disna and Nihal and The Frangipani run by Chaini. Being a primary school teacher, it didn't take long for me to get involved with the mornings activities!! It was enlightening to see the children being so creative with their natural surroundings and the teachers do such a great job of planning the resources for such amazing art pieces to be created. I will definitely be taking a few ideas to use in my classroom!!!
It was also interested to see the Sewing Workshop in Frangipani school where this trips purpose was to make Pj’s to take home back to Guernsey to sell. Myself and Sarah went to choose a range of fabric and embroidery and then the girls created a range of styles using pattern templates - very impressive!!!
Local wood carvers and jewellers also benefited from trade whilst there. The quality items and such cheap prices can then be sold on in Guernsey with profit made going back into the charity.
One particular item that we had made out there was the wooden house plaque sign for Somalatha's new build in memory of Mary Thompson and Peter Root. It was wonderful to see their house finally built, painted and furnished whilst there, with a special and meaningful house plaque to mark the opening!
There were many objectives set out for the trip, ones which you could discuss so much about. And many that will always be ongoing. Each objective touched so many people's lives in so many ways...you really do only scratch the surface but the biggest achievement on this trip has to be the open heart surgery operation performed by London's 'Take Heart' team from The Children's Evelina hospital.
We took a few children along to be assessed at the Karypitya hospital, but only one of these children required the surgery; Sashaya, a nineteen month old whose parents at first were reluctant to go through with the surgery due to a prior sponsor and fundraising for their daughter to be carried out in Colombo on a yet unknown date.
With persuasion from the Bridge2 and her prior sponsor, we managed to convince and reassure Sashaya's parents that this would be the best time to do it, where she would be in the best capable hands of the London surgeon Conol Austin and John Simpson the Cardiologist.
The operation was a complete success and brought to light just how serious this little girls heart problem was and the fact it really was a matter of time before the heart stopped functioning properly had she not had the operation soon.
These surgeons are incredible people and it was lovely to spend time with them along with Gillingham football team to round up what had been a rewarding and successful medical trip that has changed so many young peoples lives.
On a different context, another highlight for me was meeting Poorna and Pornima, both without parents and currently living along. It was admirable to see how 16 year old Pornima is bringing up her little brother as well as going to school and doing all the household chores. She never once complained!!
This trip provided them with clothes and books from kind sponsors!! We all enjoyed a great day out to a water park along with the Frangipani Pre-school, a treat for all!!
It was a delight to meet Rasika and help set up his communications shop, help Irangani to continue her tuk tuk lessons, and provide food parcels and clothes for a variety of families, the list really does go on and it is impossible to do them all justice in a single testimonial.
Nilanthi and Sisira, Sarah’s Lawyer and husband, were so welcoming and accommodating whilst there, providing excellent advice and support where needed. They have a lovely family whom I wish to meet again one day.
And finally my main contribution to the children (and adults) of Sri Lanka was the introduction of loom bands! I can safely say they went down well!!! Hours were spent both teaching myself and others how to make the colourful bracelets that I had brought along with me!! I even had the nurses and doctors involved during their duties at the kerypitya hosptial.
Overall, I feel extremely lucky to have had such an insightful experience with Bridge2 Sri Lanka and have made many memories and friends that will always stay with me. Like I said earlier, only really scratched the surface on this trip and will definitely be a place I would love to visit and help to support again in the future to be a part of something that was so rewarding in just a couple of weeks.
I would strongly recommend others to experience what I have and build on what is already such a strong bridge to this amazing and worthwhile cause.
Anneka Le Tissier
Dèyè mon gen mon (Beyond the mountains, there are more mountains)
When I told friends and family I was going to Haiti, their initial reaction was generally two-‐fold. Firstly they’d ask why? Secondly, they would say wasn’t there an earthquake there? In many ways Haiti serves as a stark reminder of the throwaway, media-‐driven nature of British aid. Whilst the initial devastation caused by the January 2010 earthquake made for great news stories and was a sexy story for fundraisers, four years on Haiti has vanished from the forefront of the British psyche.
However, what I learnt very quickly was that one of the key principles of Bridge2 is maintaining a long-‐term commitment to the people they help, with many of the people I met on this visit having been helped by Sarah since 2010. The almost forgotten nature of Haiti formed a mysterious allure to me, which along with wanting to help Sarah, whose passion for her work is infectious, convinced me to join Sarah on what was her seventeenth trip.
Before leaving, whilst I read up on the history of the country and researched any vital social faux pas, I arrived with very few expectations and an open-‐mind. As an aside, I recommend any future volunteer to research Haiti’s fascinating history as it is irrevocably linked to the strong sense of (at times infuriating, but equally admirable) pride held by Haitians.
I arrived in Port-‐au-‐Prince during the mid-‐morning to stifling heat and a seemingly impassable sea of people. I quickly learnt that doing anything in Haiti isn’t easy, so getting out of the airport (minus one bag!) was an achievement. We were met by Christian Laplanche on our arrival. Whilst Christian drove and translated for us, he is so much more than that. He has a real understanding of what makes his people tick and possesses that rare ability to converse comfortably with paupers and princes. My respect for him was immediate and it wasn’t long before I considered him a real friend.
Upon leaving the airport, we drove to Marie’s home (quite literally) where upon getting out of the car, Sarah was immediately mobbed by smiling faces, cuddles and laugher. It took about 30 seconds for the kids to feel comfortable enough with me to receive a similar welcome! This really set the tone for the trip, which left me feeling overwhelmed at the affection the children craved. The majority of the children in the homes we visited will have had difficult, and sometimes tragic, histories however the homes are happy, joyful and delightfully chaotic places. From my experience, mainly based on anecdotal evidence, there is a distinction between an orphanage and a children’s home, with the two bringing up very different connotations. Having visited orphanages previously, my impression has always been one of expansive, soulless buildings with children crammed in like sardines. Children’s homes like Marie’s and the other home Sarah helps, run by Pasteur Vincent, are a big contradiction. They really are ‘homes’ in every sense of the word and seeing how content the children appeared to be was hugely reassuring.
I quickly learned that some things are universal, and football is truly the global sport. Haiti was wrapped up in world-‐cup fever with every car, bus and building emblazoned in either Argentinian or Brazilian colours (with some savvy proprietors opting for both!). Every boy over the age of five seemed to be football crazy, with me being involved in countless impromptu matches on dusty pitches or wherever there was space.
One of the things I loved most about my experience in Haiti is that I was taken a million miles from my comfort zone and life in London. I am notoriously bad at all forms of DIY and I would be the first to admit this. However, I was lucky enough to spend three days helping Mario the builder and his team build an extension to the school at Leogane. By the third day I was brick-‐laying and setting up the iron and reinforced concrete. It just goes to show it is worth leaving that comfort zone and trying new things, as you might just surprise yourself!
I met some remarkable people in Haiti, but few were more inspirational than Kenley. When Sarah first met him after the earthquake on ‘Camp Laska’, he had just had a full leg amputation up to his hip. Weeks after this he was back playing football and performing cartwheels with the other kids. Four years on and his passion for football continues to shine through, as evidenced by my first meeting with him. We arranged to meet him and his sister at a bar-‐resto near his home and the initial conversations were what you’d expect from a teenage boy – a bit shy and probably a bit embarrassed! However, as soon as talk turned to football he lit up. The next day we met him at the same place to have a kick-‐about with the new ball we’d got him. He arrived with two other friends and the ball, already battered and clearly well used. It wasn’t long before a game of keep-‐ball began and I’m not ashamed to admit Kenley embarrassed me on several occasions, nonchalantly flicking the ball over my head. It was clear from his cheeky grin that he knew he’d got the better of me! I loved watching him play with his friends, as they treated him like any other boy and they made no special dispensation for his disability. He’s fearless and is seemingly determined to continue to live his life exactly as he’d like, regardless of his injury. He is an inspiration whom many children (and adults) back home could learn from.
Whilst my time in Haiti was undoubtedly hard work, I had plenty of opportunities to savour the stunning natural beauty on show. One day during my last week there, Sarah and Christian took me to the southern town of Jacmel, renowned for it’s artisans and Parisian influence. The architecture was beautiful and the artisan shops were an Aladdin’s cave of veritable treasures, ranging from papier mache chickens and masks, to beautiful paintings. A further drive into the mountains allowed us to walk through to Bassin-‐Bleu – a selection of cool water basins, waterfalls and lush vegetation. This was undoubtedly one of the most outstanding examples of natural beauty I’ve seen and was an excellent way of recharging my batteries.
One of my favourites days in Haiti was when we took the children from Pasteur Vincent’s home to the beach. The beach itself was picture perfect, fitting the images emblazoned on postcards from the Caribbean. Great fun was had by all, playing and jumping around in the sea or collecting shells and rocks from the shore. It was a rare treat for them and it was a joy to see the pleasure it gave them.
What truly struck me about the children I met in Haiti was the vast potential they possess. So many of them had an amazing ability to learn new skills, or they held brilliant abilities of intuition. This is why I am so respectful of what Bridge2 are trying to achieve in Haiti, with such prevalence placed upon education, be that in the traditional or vocational sense. One day these children will be adults and they need a skill and the confidence to make a living and to also pass their skills on.
There is a famous Haitian proverb, Dèyè mon gen mon, which translated means beyond the mountains there are more mountains. Whilst this plays upon Haiti’s mountainous landscape, it alludes to the systemic problems, which have hindered the country. These are complex and there is no short fix, but giving children the chance to fulfil their potential is surely the best place to start.
Within three short weeks I fell in love with Haiti. With the culture, the food, the music, the landscape, the people, their resilience, their humour. I can only recommend others to do it. Leave your comfort zone and surprise yourself.
Thank you Sarah and Christian for your humour, kindness and ultimately, your friendship.
It is great pleasure I write to congratulate Mrs Sarah Elizabeth Griffith completing 10 years of valuble service to Republic of Sri Lanka. I have been working as Legal consultant to her Bridge 2 Sri Lanka since 2006. I met her 2006 when she wants to buy a piece of land for a very poor family who were suffering her help in my area .
I am very proud to inform that Mrs Sarah extended helping hands to the people who were face with various difficulties. After 2004 Tsunami catastrophe there were numerous NGO’s organized by various organization but Mrs Sarah and Bridge 2 Sri Lanka is still serving the country continuously for 10 years.
This organization has been helping the needy in various place specially southern coastal area some times building constructions houses some times helping for children for their education, some times helping poor children to get over their ailments.
It is with great pleasure I remember how Mrs. Sarah Elizabeth Griffth coordinated this work under going various difficulties. Rasika who had both legs amputed, Chaini who loss every thing due to Tsunami , Poorna and Poornima who had lost both parents, Thilini who is in medical faculty are some of the people who were benefited by this projects.
Mrs. Sarah is a talented lady who identifies the suffering of the others and who is every nearly to extend helping hands to those who were in need of help. When she was in Sri Lanka she was spending very simple life specially she is not staying even a hotel and she was living very little house like a normal Sri Lankan lady. I haven’t my vocabulary to write her humanity. All her accounts are very keen and she is not spending any Ruppee uselessly. I can’t imagine how she works like this. She had scarificed her full life for others. She is mum for her poor families and she is like a Queen to Sri Lanka specially Hikkaduwa area.
Those who have receive her kind attentions and helping hands will always be greatful to her. I wish all the best to Madam Sarah Elizabath Griffth and Bridge 2 Sri Lanka .
OUR QUEEN SARAH I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST.
NILANTHI GALLAGE, ATTORNEY AT LAW
I have had the good fortune to have known Sarah Griffith from the end of 2005. Since that time I have been to Sri Lanka with her on 5 trips and I have witnessed at first hand the most amazing work that she does there and how she is revered by all those many people she helps.
Sarah is without doubt the most extraordinary person I have ever met. She is a modern day Mother Teresa and she combines her incredible compassion, commitment and energy with a dynamic willpower to get things done.
Any donor to Bridge2 can be absolutely certain that their money will be very wisely spent with nothing wasted on inappropriate expenditure. Indeed the strength of Bridge 2 is that Sarah spends every Pound as if it were her own. In addition she gives all of her donors photographic evidence to prove where and how their money has been spent.
The fact that Sarah has been honoured with an MBE bears testimony to the amazing charitable work that she does.
“Both my husband Shaun, and myself have just returned from a life changing experience in the Philippines, helping those recovering from Typhoon Yolanda that hit the area with 235 mph winds, battering the islands and destroying so many people's homes and livelihoods, not to mention the lives it took in its force. The island we visited was Bantayan near to Cebu where almost 100 per cent of families were affected. Now almost 4 months later although the immediate devastation has been cleared, families are still needing ShelterBox to live in whilst they struggle to rebuild their lives. I worked alongside some SAMU volunteers (Spanish Medical team) as a qualified nurse setting up medical clinics whilst Shaun helped deliver rice and basic food parcels as well as entertaining the children and doing odd jobs that he could help with. Everyone was so appreciative of what little we could do to help them, and the children were always there with big smiles to welcome us. It was a truly unforgettable experience and we would love to be able to do this again one day, thank you Sarah for this opportunity to share these experiences with you. Also a big thank-you to Randy and Red for their translation skills, without them we would have been unable to do the things we did successfully. We have truly met some wonderful people we will never forget.”
Sue and Shaun Mosley
“My role here in bridge2philippines is to serve as driver and interpreter. I also help with distribution of relief goods and help fix the damage ceiling of the classroom in Bantayan. Everyday I feel so fulfilled and happy after we help so many people who were terribly affected by Typhoon Yolanda. Nothing beats the smiles that I see from the people who we have helped. They come to us hungry and weary but they leave smiling and feeling more hopeful about the future. We are truly making a big difference in their lives. I feel that we are giving them a chance to get back on their feet and make them believe that they are not alone in their struggle to survive. I am so thankful to be a part of bridge2philippines and would like to thank all of you for helping the people in Bantayan..”
“It's been 4 months, since I became a part of Bridge2Philippines - their mission was to touch the heart of every Filipinos that there is hope to continue living after such calamities, the Bridge2 helped in various ways like providing medical needs and food to people, I was one of the living testimony of that, I am very happy that bridge 2 arrived in Philippines particularly in Cebu and helped changed some people lives. My role in Bridge2 was a guide to the volunteers. I make sure that we don't get lost basically and keeping them in a safe place, I always look for the welfare of our trips and make sure nothing is left behind and checking that our relief goods will be distributed properly and evenly to some families.But aside from all that - Bridge2 helped mould my life towards my personal goals, to be a motivated individual that ready to offer help to someone, so many learnings and realization as I go with Bridge2 along the way and I am grateful and inspired to them always. Bridge 2 for me is a Bridge2compassion. A sincere group of people that are really and truly helps the grassroots here in our country the Philippines, thanks Bridge2 I am very proud to be a part of the team. Hoping for more projects in the future.”
Randy Galacio Barrientos
“On my return to Sri Lanka I wasn't sure quite what to expect. This time I was working in the Frangipani School and instead of working on the build I was to be a member of the teaching staff! When I left two years ago the foundations were in and the workshop next door was mere weeks away from opening, this time I arrived on site to a completely different situation. It was amazing to see the difference that had been made to the community, not only to the children and I was taken under the wing once again by Chaini, my Sri Lanka mummy. Working in the school for a month meant so much to me, I was able to connect with the children in a way that I didn't ever believe I could and the language barrier was overcome within days once we had all realised that running around at playtime and having tickling fights was a great way to have fun! I also had great fun trying to teach the kids some new nursery songs although I think they taught me more than I was able to teach them. Once school was out I had the afternoons free and I used my time to paint murals on the walls to fill up the white space in the hall. One morning we watched the lion king and then that afternoon I got to painting and the it was great to see the children recognising the characters that I had drawn on their walls! I also painted the alphabet in the classroom and the children were teaching me their Sinhalese alphabet as I was painting it, I think I mastered 4 of the 35 odd letters which made me feel a bit stupid in comparison to the 3-5 year olds that could count, sing and say a few words in English! All in all it was an amazing experience and I was really glad that I was given the opportunity to return to such a wonderful country and community. I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering the trip and Sarah definitely has made a difference to so many people's lives both in Sri Lanka and back in Guernsey!.”
“In 2006 I took 9 months off work and did some voluntary work abroad. One of the countries I visited was Sri Lanka and I worked on 2 Bridge2srilanka projects – building 2 houses. I met Sarah briefly and then visited her in Guernsey. Since 2006 I have wanted to go back to Sri Lanka to volunteer again – in March/April I made that journey!!It has been 6 years since I have seen Sarah but when I met her at Heathrow Airport it was as if we had met yesterday!During my time in Sri Lanka we visited lots of people who have been helped by the charity. One of the houses I worked on in 2006 was for Pooja’s family – the little girl who had survived the Tsunami train disaster. It was very emotional seeing the family settled in a house I had helped to build (in a very small way). Pooja’s mum recognised me – there were a few tears!I was also lucky to be at the beginning of another building project. A lovely family who are in great need of a house. Some of the builders I had worked with in 2006 were on site and it was great to see them again. Moving blocks and cement in the heat is very draining but the builders just get on with it!!It was lovely to visit the children in the Siri Siduath and Frangipani pre-schools. The teachers and children made us very welcome. We joined in Sports Day at the Frangipani pre-school – what a laugh. It was great seeing the children, mums, dads, grandparents etc having fun. A day I will remember for a long time.There are lots and lots of memorable moments from my trip and if anybody is thinking of volunteering I would highly recommend it..”
I recently holidayed in Sri Lanka with our Sri Lankan friend from UK who was visiting his family in Colombo. Knowing we were going to stay in Hikkaduwa for a while and having been involved with Bridge2SriLanka in Guernsey, I arranged with Sarah to visit the Siri Siduhath School there. Sarah’s delightful lawyer friend, Nilanthi, and her husband kindly took us there and we were greeted like royalty, with flowers and, most of all, smiles. This was a Saturday, but all the pupils had turned out in their beautiful uniforms with their parents to greet us. They put on a wonderful dance display, where all the children looked so expert and happy. I will never forget the very happy atmosphere at the school. We were looked after so warmly by Nihal and Disna. We then visited some of the homes which have been built by B2S on the nearby land. This place is a testament to the inspiration of Sarah and to all the fundraising which is taking place and this visit brought it all to life for me. Having been in Sri Lanka myself at the time of tsunami (but still in Colombo) this visit made me realise more than ever how important Bridge2’s ventures are. Thank you..”
“My name is Neil Gregory I live in rural Scotland & the nature of my work being seasonal means that I have extended periods of free time during the winter months which I spend traveling & exploring in warmer climes. I had for many years been keen to "put something back" but I had become very disheartened by the mainstream charity providers as I had on too many occasions seen brand new air conditioned charity VIP carrying 4x4s heading too or from comfortable western hotels whilst the people who really needed help were totally ignored. Also it seemed that there were often many conditions attached to the giving of assistance on political or religious grounds so it was really a breath of fresh air for me to find out about B2S & how Sarah has created such a wonderful direct action organisation. I met with Sarah in the autumn of 2011 & subsequently worked for a month in feb 2012 on Alis house & allotment project near Hikkaduwa. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, at times it was hard work but it was extremely rewarding. In the process I met some of the kindest & most humbling people I have ever known. I did put something back & I'm grateful to Sarah & the charity for giving me the chance to do it. Would i do it again yes 100% You may as I was be asking yourself one or all of the 3 questions below. The three following quotes answered those questions for me.
1) wether you should
(2) why you should
(3) when you should
"I shall pass through this life but once, any good therefore I can do let me do it now, let me not defer or neglect it for I shall never pass this way again"(Etienne De Grillet)
"The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit"(Nelson Henderson)
"The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the next best time is now"(Ancient Chinese proverb).”
"One week following my return from Sri Lanka, I realise that I am dreaming Sri Lankan, meaning that the people I met over there are now tangled with the people and the things that I do over here.I think I knew even before I left Guernsey that the experience in Sri Lanka would live with me for a long time, now I know that it will be part of me forever.Closing in on my 50th birthday I decided that I wanted to do something different this year, I asked Sarah if I could join her on one of her trips and that was the start of the most interesting time I’m likely to experience.There is no doubt most of the volunteers before me have seen some very grim scenes since the Tsunami, what was enlightening was the way that the Bride2SriLanka charity is still supporting those families that still need help and are continuing to find ways to make more people self sufficient.Everything about this charity is so transparent it is almost frightening when you look at some of the bigger ones and see how much money is lost in admin costs.Having done a fund raiser at the Captains and raised over £8000,00 it was very important for me to relay back to my customers exactly where their money went, I have the photographic evidence to show that is possible to build a house (well nearly, just the roof was missing) in just over 2 weeks.We also followed up on the families that continue to have support from the charity and those who are now on their own financially and doing a great job, visit the 2 schools that were funded by the charity, organise Rassika’s trip over for new legs in the UK, visit a couple of orphanages, meetings with Nilanthi, the lovely, lovely lawyer, who does so much work for B2S.It was a whirlwind of learning and a new experience for me, my head is full of vibrant colour and lovely smiles from people who have nothing and yet don’t think that way.”
li De La Mare
I am Anura of Hikkduwa, 31 years old. I have been working in Coral Sands Hotel as a steward for 07 years. I know Madam Sarah very much for last five years. She has stayed with us every time she visited Sri Lanka.
I was suffering from serious back njury for last few months. I had to stay on bed for whole day during that period. Actually I couldn’t afford my medical charges, I was so worried about it. Meantime Madam Sarah came to me and took me to a specialist doctor. The doctor advised me to get a MRI scan from Colombo. So Madam Sarah arranged everything for it. Now I am getting medicine and visiting the doctor every week. And doing exercises as per doctor’s advise. Madam Sarah looks after all the expenses. I feel much better now. I hope that I can get back to work very soon. Thank you very much Madam. I will never forget this great help.
Madam Sarah helped a lot for the poor people who live around here. I am one of them. I know she will help a lot more.
God bless her.
Firstly I would like to thank Sarah for giving me the opportunity to go out to Haiti and also Matt for putting my name forward to this fantastic cause, the trip has really opened my eyes to how the world really is, these kids have nothing and yet they can still melt your heart with a simple smile and and you can satisfy them with something as little as a hug. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the ups and the downs, NOT that there were many down and I know I will never forget the people we met and helped along the way much love to you all.
My time working in Haiti was an unforgettable experience, witnessing how people live their lives throughout all the pain they have suffered as a country in great need. The smiles and laughter the children have are so infectious they will stay in my memories forever. All I have to do is think of the words "Hey you" and it puts a smile on my face.
Working with Bridge 2 Haiti was the best thing I've ever done and the feeling knowing we have helped someone’s life out is more than words can describe, and I pray that everyone we left behind are safe and well.
I've never guided or fixed anybody before, as a matter of fact, I was just being a regular Haitian citizen minding my own business...
Then one day, out of the blue, I received a call from a friend, asking for my help and to guide some friends of his, who will need to go to different places in Haiti as he, wouldn’t be available...
At first, I almost declined: "Why do I need to bother? Am I up to the task?" But then I thought: "What the hell? Its only temporary and how hard can it really be?"
So I said: "Yes!" Well... I will spare you the details, and theprocess, this single worded answer has now become one of the most important personal decision I have made in years.
Personal, because it opened my eyes and made me see up-close, how some of my countrymen are actually living and realise how much of an impact one could have in their lives.
So I feel full-filled and happy to have been and continue to be part of Sarah's work here in Haiti. One of the most touching things that happened to me, while guiding her was when I had first arrived in Leogane to this little village called Signeau, was to see how the people, men, women and children were rushing to greet Sarah, chanting "Mamy Sarah, Mamy Sarah"...
Thinking to myself, in a very skeptical manner: "What is it that she does, for so many people to love her so much???" And, almost at the same time, the answer was being given by Sarah, as she pointed to the ShelterBox tents that these people have been so grateful for.
Any place that we went thereafter was just a series of emotions...
At Elsie's, I was angry.
At Josue's, the Head of the school in Fessard, I was very proud, mostly by his will to go on with a school in the middle of nowhere.
At Mami Kikine’s, upset and exhausted!
At Genesis, hopeful!
And that’s what makes Sarah work and mine respectively, all so important, because she's acting on a human/personal level with any of those people she's helped.
She takes it personally, because she understands that this business of charity, in essence is, and will always be personal to the one being helped. Its one's life that we're changing, and they will be impacted forever.
So Sarah, I want to thank you for your work here in Haiti, for having given me the opportunity to see the other half of my country, that half that's been forgotten more thenoften. Thank you, and now that I know, I don’t want to do anything else, but want to be more involved.
My name is Christian Laplanche and I'm with Sarah Griffith!
My time volunteering for Bridge 2 Sri Lanka has been the most worthwhile experience I have had in my life.
Before my time with Sarah I spent 2 weeks touring the country and as much as I saw poverty during that time we were kept well away from the people in real need. I helped with the painting of the pre-school but my most valuable memories are meeting with the people and taking food parcels to them.
When they see Sarah their eyes light up like you’ve just told someone they have won the lottery.
Foremost in my mind is meeting the family of the ‘plastic house’. While Sarah was talking business with the parents I spent a few minutes with the children just throwing around a small ball between us. Such a small gesture brought these 4 children so much joy; I was amazed. I will always hold that memory close to my heart. When we were ready to leave the father wanted to show his appreciation and although we said we didn’t want one, he eagerly climbed the coconut tree and cut us a King coconut. These people have barely a roof over their heads but they want to show their appreciation where they can which is very humbling.
Before the tsunami life must’ve been tough enough for them but to watch your home get washed away and not have the safe arms of a government to fall back on must have been very tough. The work Sarah and the team does is invaluable and although it is a small scale operation this charity gets to the people who need it, with a very personal touch. I feel very privileged to have been part of it and I will be going again, if Sarah will have me.
Working with Bridge2Haiti was a truly life changing and unforgettable experience and we managed to undertake so much in the way of helping our great Haitian friends each day. I have also kept in touch with them and eagerly await getting back out there ASAP. All I can say is that the devastation is breathtaking, but Haitians are strong, dignified and proud and our mates in Camp Laska and beyond are some of the best people I have had the leasure of meeting. With Haiti merely now mentioned in dispatches in the me dia the important thing is that it is not forgotten and that the aid continues as the need does not decrease overnight- it will be there for years to come, but a better future is entirely possible.
It is very apparent, after my New Year trip in 2010, that Bridge 2Sri Lanka are having a very positive influence on tsunami effected regions in the South of Sri Lanka. The 2 projects I worked on were extremely efficiently administered and they clearly dealt with the issues that mattered. It is also clear to see where the money is going and having experienced this first hand the positive impact is vast. For a volunteer Bridge 2 Sri Lanka ensures your time is productive and enjoyable and very effective. Full praise to Sarah and all who support the Bridge 2 Sri Lanka charity, financially and mentally.
What an amazing adventure! I went with Sarah in February 2010 and spent one month working with the Bridge2SriLanka.
I had three objectives:
1- to set up a computer centre in the school
2- to spend some time in the school with the children &
3- to investigate any possibilities of setting up a link with SW region Guiding possibly to build a new guide hut.
The computers were shipped to Sri Lanka by Generali & we very soon found a computer wiz who was happy to set up the computers & continue to maintain them for us. Next we needed a trainee computer teacher who we found in Naomy-a teacher at the pre-school. Even though Naomy spoke very little English & I spoke no Sinhala, we soon managed to get lessons on the go. The photo are of our first students and I am told lessons are continuing now-fab, in fact so fab I am going back next year to do the same at the new school.
I took a Mary Poppins arts & crafts bag & had some really great days with the children at the school including a Red Indian Day, Party day including pass the parcel and a Butterfly day. The photo is our Red Indian day when the shiny Christmas selotape doubled up as friendship bracelets.
Sarah found a guide unit which is running in Galle & I was kindly allowed to go to meetings. The meeting I ran was on a Mount Everest theme & we talked about snow, Eskimos & igloos in 36 degrees heat!!! The favourite activity was making igloos out of marshmellows & biscuits.
I had an incredible adventure and enjoyed it so much that I am planning the next one in April 2011.
I had been expecting poverty, but no amount of photographs or reassuring phone calls from Sarah could have fully prepared me for the attitude of the Sri Lankans.
The flight was comfortable if long at eleven hours and Colombo airport spacious and grand in marble,which softened the shock of stepping out of the glass double doors. Smells, sounds and so many colours enveloped us as we were whisked into the reality of urban Sri Lanka. Intense humidity and lack of sleep made everything a blur. Somehow Sarah found Prasard, our driver, among all the identical white minivans. He loaded the extraordinarily large pile of bags we’d managed to accumulate whilst we clambered into the cool peacefulness, providing a haven after the bustle outside. From there during the long drive south to Hikkaduwa I was finally able to sit back and fully appreciate this busy new place that was to become home for the next three weeks.
Just by gazing outside I could sense the determination of these people. The Tsunami, which undeniably set them back had not been able to stop them, nor would the poverty that was evident all around. Even the few buildings built substantially were holding up their lean-to neighbours as if willing them to survive. It was this attitude towards life that is so different to the affluent western world and in particular Guernsey –we do not have the need to survive. I saw so many examples of it over the next few weeks and it has stayed with me; these people have so little but they don’t complain and are happy.
I felt honoured to be there converting the never-ending fundraising done preceding the trip into useful items that make a difference. I have no doubt that without ‘Bridge 2 Sri Lanka’ they would have still got on with their lives but found them harder, as that underlying determination is what sets Sri Lankans apart. So perhaps some of the best work I saw the charity do was enriching the community. Visiting the preschool in its new building with the garden so well cared for and the children respectful of the school belongings showed that. As did spending time with children of the poorest jungle families, providing fun with a rounders game on the beach, taking time to play with them. Time and attention are what ‘Bridge 2 Sri Lanka’ has in abundance for the families around Hikkaduwa and it was wonderful to be a part of it.
It was so difficult to leave, only made easier by taking with us Rasika; the young man spending two months in Guernsey having prosthetic legs fitted. The culture of Sri Lanka is so diverse and the people so friendly that I feel we only scratched the surface, but there will be a next time!
Having been unable to go to Sri Lanka to support b2sl on many occasions I finally managed to get over there two years ago in summer 07. Obviously this was several years after the tsunami had struck and I had no idea how much help the locals still needed. Upon travelling south towards Hikkaduwa it was evident that there were areas which seemed to be almost untouched since the devastation in 2004. Driving past the coastal ruins of buildings and seeing car and train wreckages inland really made it hit home how bad the situation was and how much help was needed. When I was out there I was told by several people that the estimated damage to the country was around $1.5 billion dollars… I was also told that the government had been given funding to aid in the recovery process, and that not much of it had been seen by the people who were worst affected.
Although I could only stay out there for 2 weeks we managed to get quite a lot of work done. I was involved in building a house from scratch, painting another project which had just been finished, carrying out visits and food drops to some of those most badly affected by the Tsunami and helping out with the clinics that were set up by Roger Allsopp and Jean Rouget.
Creating a new home for Mahathun’s was quite an experience. This family of four were living in a wooden shack about 10ft square which leaked horrendously in the rainy season. We tore the place down in about 5minutes and then set about building them a new place out of brick which would be much sturdier and large enough to contain more than one room!
Finishing off one of the other projects was also very enjoyable because we were able to move a very frail woman and her three daughters away from a 6ft square shack (which was located about a metre from the main railway tracks in the town) into a new place further inland which had separate beds and a kitchen and living area. The girls took to their new home straight away but their mother was completely overwhelmed and clearly found it hard to understand what was going on.
The various clinics that we arranged in several villages inland proved very successful. There were a few people who attended that were in need of serious help, however the majority of the locals were experiencing minor illnesses or injuries which were treated with paracetamol or cream rubs. Most of the people that attended seemed to almost instantly ‘feel better’ after having some cream rubbed on their shoulder etc. so I think that the clinics were more beneficial in the fact that they showed the locals that someone cared, and was trying to help them.
Along with the clinics we did several food drops to some families living in the worst conditions I have ever seen in my life. One family of about 8 were living in a tiny shack on a steep hillside miles away from anything. We built them a kitchen (which I’ve since been told they use as the main house as it is bigger than the original) onto the side of the shack and delivered them enough food to keep them going for a month. Amazingly, the son had been offered a place at Oxford uni because he showed such talent at school and his headmaster put him forward. He used to walk for hours every day to and from school after sleeping in this cramped shed and without much food at all.
We also bought bikes for some fisherman who had been relocated miles away from the coast after the tsunami and were unable to provide for their families because they couldn’t get to and from work.
Aside from the charity work there was plenty of time to relax in the evenings at the various beachside bars and restaurants. The food and drink was ridiculously cheap, as were the hostels and I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered an open air club 5mins down the road from where we were staying. And further south in Galle there were plenty of shops to suit those wanting to go home with cheap designer clothing or jewelry.
All in all I had a great time, the two weeks absolutely flew by and the only thing that was disappointing about the trip was that I could not stay longer.
Jack James (Nightclub Technician)
I was initially unaware of Sarah’s charity when I organised to partake in a community volunteer project in Sri Lanka for 3 weeks this summer. However, on finding out about her work, I got in contact with Sarah before I left and she kindly suggested that I perhaps meet up with her while in Sri Lanka as our dates of visit overlapped. I was lucky enough to spend a long weekend with her, Jack, Maire, Roger and Jean in Hikkaduwa, where I got a real taste for the sort of charity work Sarah undertakes.
The work she was doing in helping those who were indisputably desperate tsunami victims made me question the authenticity of the organisation I was travelling with. I was with a commercial organisation which in comparison appeared exploitative and not helping true tsunami victims. Consequently, having gained an insight into Sarah’s charity, me and 7 fellow volunteers who were disillusioned with our project were relocated further North to embark on the worthwhile and fantastic opportunity of building a girls’ orphanage.
What this comparison really highlighted to me was the genuineness of Sarah’s work in and around Hikkaduwa, and the fundamental role she provides in helping the local Sri Lankan community. She is helping better those who are poverty-stricken with scarce resources. It was a difficult sight to witness, and it certainly puts life into perspective when you meet people who have next to nothing and have lost loved ones and their homes in the tsunami. I was particularly moved and saddened by the story of the ‘Railway lady’ and her 3 small children who had lost their father. Sarah took me to see where there lived, which was simply a dark, claustrophobic, one-roomed shack so close to the railway line that the whole shack shook when a train passed. Sarah has managed to raise enough funds to relocate this destitute yet lovely little family and build a new house for them.
This form of work that Sarah undertakes is truly inspiring, and spending just a weekend with her and the others was simply not long enough! Roger and Jean were fantastic in providing medical care for the local villages, with all of the community loving Jean’s ‘magic’ cream and vitamins!
I would love to go back to Sri Lanka again; the people are lovely and so appreciative of the help provided, and their determination in light of their tragic situation is remarkable. If I do get the chance to visit again I would definitely want to go with Bridge 2 Sri Lanka. I am certainly entering the 2 week competition and I can’t stress enough how much I would encourage anybody else to do the same. I wish to thank Sarah again for letting me gain an insight into her work and also to Jack, Maire, Roger and Jean for making my weekend with them so enjoyable. They were great company and my short stay with them all was certainly my most rewarding time in Sri Lanka.