For Global village volunteers

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Sri Lanka orientation manual


Global village volunteers

Table of contents

Section 1: Letter of welcome Page: 03

Section 2: Country Description Page: 04-05

Section 3: Basic Vocabulary Sinhalese & Tamil Page: 06-07

Section 4: H F H I Principals Page: 08

Save & Build

Family Selection

No discrimination

Section 5: Sri Lanka House & G V Statistics Page: 09

Section 6: G V Volunteer Quotes Page: 09

Section 7: Safety on construction site Page: 09-11

Section 8: Health and Safety Page: 11-12

Section 9: Packing List Page: 12-15

Section 10; Frequently asked Questions Page: 16-17


Welcome to Sri Lanka “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean”

We are really grateful that you have shown interest and initiative to come to Sri Lanka not only just to work with Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka, its local Affiliates and families but to enjoy the culture and the scenic beauty of our beautiful island.

We hope that this trip will be a life changing experience for you as you build houses hand in hand with our homeowners, their children, the group members and the neighbors. This will be important for our home partners and staff members as well to broaden their relationships with you and cherish the friendship throughout.

This manual is designed to give you a general idea of our country, its people and what Habitat does in Sri Lanka. While helping to build a new home you will interact with both the chosen Habitat family as well as the local community . Habitat prides itself on building not only houses but communities and your interaction with the local people is part of that process.

We try our best to complete the house that you are working on so that we can dedicate it before you leave. However, in cases where this does not occur we will try to make arrangements for you to participate in the dedication of another Habitat house. The house dedication is an important moment in the life of our partner families and Habitat Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is a land like no other. We will do everything in our power to make your experience a truly memorable one. Come with an open mind and heart and feel the warmth and friendliness of our people. Our local customs and ways of doing things may well contrast with your own. It is not that they are better or worse than yours, just different. We are happy to have you in our land and will be glad to help you in any way we can.

Please accept our grateful thanks for coming to Sri Lanka and sharing your talent, time and treasure with us.

In Habitat Spirit,

Tony Senewiratne,

National Director-Sri Lanka

Section 2: Country Description: Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka is shaped like a teardrop falling from the south eastern tip of India. It is 430 km long from north to south and only 225 km at its widest point. This island nation’s highest mountain, Piduratalagala, is located in the beautiful central hill country region and rises to 2524 meters. The best beaches of the island are found on the southwest, south and east coasts.


In general, Sri Lanka can be classified as a tropical country in that there are distinct dry and wet seasons. (Although to many foreigners, this just translates to hot all the time….sometimes hot and dry, sometimes hot and humid) The climate is somewhat complicated in that Sri Lanka is subject to two monsoon seasons. From May to August the southwest monsoon brings rain to the southern and western coastal regions and the central hill country. The dry season for these same regions is from December to March. The northeast monsoon blows from October to January, bringing rain to the north and east of the island. These monsoon schedules are only a guideline. As with the rest of the world, Sri Lanka’s weather has not been as predictable as it once was in the past.

In the low-lying coastal regions, the temperature is uniformly high year round. (27 C or 80 F) In the hill country (Hatton, Kurunegala), due to the elevation, it can be considerably cooler (20 C or 68 F) and may be a bit chilly in the evenings. The hottest time of year is generally April to August (35 C or 95F). The coolest time (although it’s still not “cool” by most foreigners’ standards) is November through January.

Flora and Fauna

The island of Sri Lanka has a variety of natural environments. The south-western Wet Zone is tropical rainforest with characteristic dense undergrowth and a tall canopy of hardwood trees. Spectacular orchids can be found in this area and also many of the plants used in the Ayurvedic (traditional) medicine. The central Hill Zone, such as Horton Plains, is a typical grassland area. The remainder of the island forms the arid Dry Zone, with a sparser cover of trees with shrubs and grasslands that lay dormant until the first rains.

Sri Lanka is home to some of the first Natural Wildlife Sanctuaries of the World, created by King Devanampiya Tissa in the 3rd century BC. The wildlife of Sri Lanka is diverse. It is the home to 86 mammal species including a unique subspecies of elephant (can be seen at all National Parks and the Elephant Orphanage), leopard, deer, monkeys; sloth, bear, and giant flying fox. 450 species of birds have been recorded. 21 of these are unique to Sri Lanka. Many fish, amphibians and reptiles are also native to Sri Lanka. Watch out for 2 species of crocodiles and the 83 species of snakes. (Cobra, Russell’s viper, Indian and Sri Lankan krait and the saw-scaled viper are of the poisonous variety, but python’s are also around)



Archaeologists believe that the aboriginal inhabitants of Sri Lanka, the Veddahs, were late Stone Age people who arrived around 16,000 BC. Today only a few groups of their descendants survive mainly in the eastern part of the country. The first Sinhalese king dates back to the 6th century BC and over the next two thousand years (543BC to 1815 AD) Sri Lanka boasted some one hundred and eighty nine monarchs. However, only a few of these kings ever reigned over the entire country.

In 1505 the Portuguese explorer Francisco de Almeida landed on the island. Sri Lanka had three main kingdoms at that time: the Tamil kingdom of Jaffna, and the Sinhalese kingdoms in Kandy and Kotte (near present day Colombo). The Portuguese founded a fort at Colombo and gradually extended their control over much of the coast.

The Portuguese called the island Ceilao, The Dutch altered this to Ceylan and when the British occupied the coast in 1796 they transliterated that to Ceylon. On Feb. 4, 1948 the country gained independence as the Dominion of Ceylon. Ceylon became a republic in 1972, adopted a new constitution, and changed the name to Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese had always known the area as Lanka and the Tamils had called it Llankai.

The British developed a large tea industry in the 19th century and Ceylon Tea became a world commodity. In WWII Ceylon was an important Allied military base and many citizens of the island distinguished themselves in the British Commonwealth Forces.

In the early 1950’s ethnic conflicts were fueled when Sinhala , the language of the majority, was designated the only official language. Mobilization of the Tamil community followed and from 1983 to 2009 a civil war raged off and on.

Today Sri Lanka is a democratic socialist republic with a President who is the head of state and the commander and chief of the military. There is a parliament of 225 members elected for six year terms and the cabinet of ministers is drawn from this group of elected officials. Sri Lanka is a member of both the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations.

Sri Lanka, with a population approaching 19 million, is divided into nine provinces with 25 districts. Each province is governed by a provincial council. Eight of the provinces support a population of one to two million citizens. The Western Province contains over five million citizens with Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, home to over 700,000 residents.


Sri Lanka has one of the highest per capita incomes in South Asia - $1972 per year. However, nearly 15% of its population survives on a little over a dollar a day. Tourism plays an important role in the economy of Sri Lanka and the drawn out civil and ethnic conflict has taken its toll on this revenue stream. Sri Lanka exports coconut, textiles, tea, rubber, and fish.


Sinhalese and Tamil are the two official languages of Sri Lanka. However, because of the long British presence English is widely used in education and commerce. Sri Lanka’s literacy rate exceeds 90% with more than 80% of the population attaining some secondary education. Most of the public schools are modeled after the British system. Urban schools are predominantly single sex institutions whereas rural provincial schools are often coeducational.

74% of the population is Sinhalese and most of these adhere to Buddhism. The Tamil constitute 18% of the population and they are predominantly Hindu. There are two distinct groups of Tamils. One group traces its origin to the southern Indian kingdoms over one thousand years ago during the conflict between the Sinhalese and southern India. They mainly reside in the north and east coasts of the island. The other group , known as the “Hill Country” or “ Plantation” Tamils, trace their ancestry back to the 19th century when the British brought them from India to work the tea plantations.

About 7% of the population is Muslim. Most of these are descendants of Arab and Muslim traders who thrived during Portuguese times. They are the “Sri Lankan Moors” and are mostly Sunni. Another group arrived from Java during the Dutch occupation and are the “Malays.” The most recent group came from India and Pakistan and they are referred to as the “Indian Moors.”

Christians make up a tiny fraction of the population. Catholicism was introduced by the Portuguese whereas the Dutch brought Protestantism.

Section 3: Basic Vocabulary (Sinhalese & Tamil)


Hello Ayubowan vanakkam

Goodbye Ayubowan vanakkam

Thank you Bohoma istuti nandri

Yes Ow ama

No Naa illai

Please Karunakara thayavu seidu

What is your name? Obe nama mokakdha? Umadu peyar enna

My name is… Mage nama….. en peyar……..

Delicious Rasai nalla russi

How much? Keeyada? ewwalawu

Toilet Vasikiliya malasala koodam

Help! Udaukararanna udavi seiyunga

Cement Simenthi semanthi

Sand Vali manal

Water Watura thanni

Mortar badama kaaram/kdram

Trowel Masan Handa mesan karandi

Hammer Mitiya ambarr

Block/ Cement Block Gadol / Block gal sengal/semanthi kal

Tile/ Roof tile Ulu / Vahale ulu ordu

Men Pirimi arn

Women Gahanu pen

Children Lamai siruwarhal

rice Bath/sahal soru/arisi

Tea The theneer

Bread Pann paan

1 Eka onru

2 Deka rendu

3 Thuna moonru

4 Hathra nalu

5 Paha aindu

6 Haya aru

7 Hatha elu

8 Atta ettu

9 Namya onbadu

10 Dahaya paththu

Monday Sanduda thingal

Tuesday Angaharuwada sewwai

Wednesday Badada pudan

Thursday Brahaspathinda viyalan

Friday Sikurada velli

Saturday Senasurada sanni

Sunday Irida gnairu

Morning Udee kaalai

Afternoon Daval pahal

Evening/Night Hawasa / Raa maalai/irawu

Today Ada inru

Tomorrow Heta nalaikku

Yesterday Eiya nettru

Snake Naya paambu

Mosquito Maduruwa nulambu

Elephant Aliya yaanai

Section 4: Habitat for Humanity Principles.


A world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

Mission Statement

Habitat for Humanity works in partnership with God and people

everywhere from all walks of life, to develop communities with

people in need by building and renovating houses so that there

are decent houses in decent communities in which every person

can experience God's love and can live and grow into all that

God intends.

Mission Methods

Habitat for Humanity mobilizes local leadership and resources to expand access for all people to decent, affordable shelter. Typically, volunteer’s and home partners work together through Habitat for Humanity affiliates to build or renovate houses. In this process Habitat forgoes making a profit on loans through interest, putting value instead on meeting human need. Long term housing security for a family- typically Homeownership-is the expected results. Payments made by the new home partner go into a local Fund for Humanity to build or renovate more houses, giving home partners the opportunity to give as well as to receive. Habitat home partners are selected on the basis of need and willingness to partner, regardless of race, religion gender or ethnic background. Valuing innovation and staying open to the possibility of the Holy Spirit leading into new directions, Habitat for Humanity International Welcomes exploring new methods to increase our impact while staying true to our Mission Principles.

Save and Build system.

Through Save and Build, homeowners are organized into groups of 12 families. Each family saves the equivalent of 15 cents (USD) per day for six months. During this time, homeowners also collect rocks and sand- both freely available throughout the countryside-and make their own bricks.

At the end of six months, the group’s savings are sufficient to build one house, consisting of a single room with an attached kitchen and bathroom area. Within 27 months all 12 families complete their houses. If they choose to continue with the save and build program, the families can add an additional room to their houses by beginning the savings and brick-making process again.

Family Selection

Since we have adopted the Save and Build system we allow the team to select the members to build the first houses. The team members select the families by considering the need. There is no discrimination in family selections as team members are given the responsibility and there is no religious based family selection policy.

Section 05: Sri Lanka House Statistics and Global Village Statistics.

Houses Build up to April 2012 = 16000

Global Village Teams hosted from 1997- 2012 April = 102 Teams.

Tsunami Teams 2005-2006 = 99 Teams

Section 06: Global Village Members’ Quotes

“With a waterfall crashing in the distance, we continue to sweat under the Sri Lankan sun, moving several houses worth of cement blocks down the line. No one wants stop. What our team is doing in hours would have taken the tea pickers weeks to move. Women coming from picking tea leaves join us, then the school children come and then-for the first time ever- the managers of the estate stop their jeeps remove their leather gloves and join in the line! Something has happened that only the smiles behind the eyes can convey.”

Aileen Pistone - GV team leader from USA September 2000 Hatton Affiliate

“I spent the happiest time in my life in Sri Lanka for 13 days. It was the first time that I had such a exciting mind. I want to live there. I wanna talk how I had a good time. And I think I will go to Sri Lanka again next spring, because there are some incomplete houses which we was building under construction. And I wanna see the complete houses and I wanna celebrate new homeowner.

No words could express our great Joy.

Kurokawa -A student from Kawansei Gakuin University Visited Matale affiliate in March 2004.

“I think we all felt that our experience in Sri Lanka was the life changing, world-rocking, house-building kind of stuff that dreams and kittens are made of”

Laura Ochs- A Jet Team Member visited Monaragala Affiliate in April-May 2004

Section 07: Safety on Construction Site

The safety of team members is one of Habitat’s primary concerns especially on the construction site. Team members are often not familiar with the hazards of construction. On the first day on site the construction supervisor will provide a safety orientation. The team leader often serves as the ongoing safety officer on site.

Here are a few simple rules that will go a long way towards keeping you and the rest of the team free of injury:

  1. Keep a clean workplace. This should be the first and last task of the day on site. Pick up nails and remove lumber, bricks, etc. that people could step on or trip over.

  2. Don’t do anything that you are not comfortable with. If you are not used to lifting then don’t volunteer to help lift heavy objects. If you are not used to climbing or feel unsteady on heights then stay off of ladders and scaffolding.

  3. Know your physical limitations. If you are tired, take a break. If you are overheated stop and drink plenty of liquids.

  4. If you are injured in any way, even a minor scratch, see the team leader immediately. Sri Lanka has a tropical climate and small cuts or punctures do not heal readily. It is important to have even minor cuts cleaned and dressed as soon as possible. The team leader has a first-aid kit on site.

  5. Be aware of potential hazards on site and inform the team leader as soon as possible so it can be remedied.

At some affiliates asbestos roofing sheets are used. Habitat employs trained personnel to handle these and Global Village team members are not allowed to handle these materials. Habitat is currently investigating other roofing materials with the goal of eliminating all asbestos products.

Heat and Sun Safety:

Sri Lanka is a tropical island. It is imperative that every team member drink plenty of liquids. Dehydration is a serious condition. If you are not urinating you are probably not drinking enough water. It is recommended that team members bring their own water bottle and fill with bottled water that is provided on site. Never hesitate to take a break and cool down with water. Powdered mixes like Gatorade are recommended as they help replenish electrolytes.

Heat exhaustion is another serious condition that should be avoided at all costs. If you feel overheated or dizzy, stop working, sit in the shade and drink water. Be aware of your team mates working near you and if you sense they are overheated suggest that both of you take a break.

Bring a good sunscreen and apply it often. Also a wide brimmed hat is recommended. Some people like scarves that protect the neck from the sun.

Finally, the team leader may well tell you to take a break, drink water, or apply sunscreen. The team leader is always in charge so listen and follow directions accordingly.

Medical Insurance:

Part of the fee you pay for the Global Village trip to Habitat for Humanity International goes toward providing excellent health insurance in case professional services are needed. The team leader has the documents necessary and will accompany you for any off site medical services required. If an injury occurs during the Habitat build that requires additional medical attention after you return home this insurance covers costs not covered by your primary policy.

Embassy Registration:

The team leader will normally register all US citizens with the American embassy in Colombo. This is done for safety and security reasons. In case of an emergency the embassy has your passport information and knows that you are in the country. The team leader receives updates from the embassy in case of anything occurring in the country that needs attention (e.g. natural disasters, riots, etc. ).

If you hold a passport from another country you should register with your embassy or High Commission. You can normally do this online but if not then the National Office of Habitat Sri Lanka will assist you by providing the necessary registration forms once you arrive.

Section 08: HEALTH & SAFETY


Please refer to the CDC pages for recommendations.

World Health Organization

Mosquito Bite Prevention

24-hour mosquito protection is necessary in Sri Lanka. Malaria and Dengue Fever are both threats. The malaria “danger zones” within the Habitat affiliates are restricted to the Polonnaruwa affiliate and the Kurunegala affiliate. 8.2% of all malaria cases were in the Polonnaruwa area. 7.1% of all malaria cases were in the Kurunegala area. (Anti-malaria campaign)

Dengue is prevalent across the island.

Dengue mosquitoes (Aedes) are prevalent during the day and are usually found near human dwellings and are often present indoors. Malaria mosquitoes (Anopheles) are most prevalent in the evenings.

Dengue is a viral disease and there is no vaccine for Dengue, however, Malaria is prevented with Anti malarial drugs. Consult with your physician to find what is most appropriate for you.

Bug spray or lotion-containing DEET (30-35%) is recommended by the CDC. Citronella and peppermint oils are natural alternatives, although effectiveness is not guaranteed. Mosquito coils will be provided, but mosquito netting is not.

Snake Safety

There are 5 species if poisonous snakes in Sri Lanka, plus pythons. Rural areas are more of a concern than the urban center of Colombo, but theoretically, snakes could be found anywhere on the island. Sri Lanka’s most rural affiliate is Polonnaruwa, where a common snake habitat is the rice paddy. The most common snake in this area is Russel’s Viper, but there were only 7 snakebites in the Polonnaruwa area in 1998. (General Hospital, Poison’s Department) For this reason, it is advised that you don’t wander into paddy fields, and that sandals not be worn while in the affiliate construction area. Walk loudly in wooded and grassy areas, and don’t stick hands under objects (rocks, concrete blocks, and timber piles) without first observing the area. If a snake is seen, notify the staff supervisor immediately. If snakebite occurs, have the victim sit quietly and apply a tourniquet between the bite and the heart. Transport the victim immediately to a hospital. Every Habitat affiliate has identified its closest medical care center, hospital and/or clinic. Identification of the snake will be necessary for proper treatment, and rural hospitals will have the necessary anti-venoms at hand.

(This is not meant to scare anyone away. Snakes have never been a threat at any of the Habitat for Humanity work sites. We only wish that every participant be aware of his or her surroundings.)

Personal Safety in Sri Lanka

Although Sri Lanka is involved in a long-standing ethnic conflict, tourists are not targets. You may even find that military personnel are only curious about where you came from if you happen to be stopped at a security checkpoint. The “danger zones” are concentrated in the north and east coasts of the island. Habitat for Humanity Global Village teams will not be traveling to these areas.

Your biggest safety concern will likely be public transportation. To a foreigner, it may seem as though there is no order or rules for driving, but indeed there are a few. Whoever is biggest gets to go wherever he wants. Whoever has least to lose (such as the trishaw) goes first. Everyone else just has to get a sense as to which part of the road he belongs on.

If you plan on traveling by trishaw on your own, it would be wise to check with affiliate staff first to see approximately how much you should be paying to get to your destination, and also the approximate route that should be taken. Trishaw drivers are notorious for “taking tourists for a ride”. Often the most indirect route will be taken since they assume you don’t know where you are going. ALWAYS agree on a fare BEFORE getting into the trishaw. If the driver doesn’t seem to know where it is you want to go, find another trishaw. This will save you a hassle when you arrive at your destination when your driver demands more money because he’s driven “too far and too long” to get you there. (There are Metered Trishaws in some parts and it is better to use bthem if available)

Public buses are generally not recommended for foreign travelers; however, some of the private bus lines are a more pleasant and safe way to travel. Again, driving skills are a little crazy.

Always be on the lookout for your “new best friend”. Touts are individuals looking for commission for bringing in tourists to a particular hotel, souvenir shop or restaurant. If it seems too good to be true, generally, it is. Touts have been known to travel great distances once they have latched onto a possible tourist that might take their bait. Your travels with the Global Village group will be safe from these attacks since you will have an affiliate staff member traveling with you at all times, but if you should decide to venture out on your own, use caution and good judgment with these individuals.



Pack lightly! The Sri Lankan homeowners you work with will not be expecting you to have a different outfit for every working day. In fact, this would just reinforce their views of the extravagance of foreigners. Only bring items that wouldn’t break your heart if they got dirty, destroyed, lost or stolen. Laundry services will be made available for the team’s work clothes. Any items you do not wish to take home with you can be left with affiliate staff for donation to those in need. Your name should be printed on EVERYTHING.

Work Clothes

women can wear long shorts at the work site. Men may wear shorts, but they must be long shorts. T-shirts would be most appropriate, but for those who wish to shade themselves from the sun, long-sleeved cotton shirts are also a good substitute. (Recommend Long pants to protect you from cuts and insect bites).

Sandals are not to be worn at the construction site. A comfortable outdoor/athletic shoe or lightweight hiking shoe/boot will be appropriate footwear. Just make sure they are well fitted, broken in, and comfortable.

Personal Items


  • Toiletries kit (biodegradable soaps would be appreciated)

  • Insect repellant

  • After-bite lotion

  • Personal medications with copies of prescriptions

  • Anti-diarrhea medication

  • Travel alarm clock

  • Extra pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses (if you wear them)

  • Plastic bags (ziplock bags can be used for an infinite number of purposes)

  • Camera, extra batteries and film

  • Notebook/journal and pens

  • Travel games

  • First-aid kit for personal use

  • Sun block

  • Towel

  • Sewing kit

  • Toilet paper

  • Laundry soap

  • Flashlight and a candle (electricity can fail frequently)

  • Bandana

  • Hat

  • Sunglasses

  • Backpack for day trips to construction site

  • Snacks (for yourself and local children)

  • Gatorade or other powdered drink mix

  • Bed sheets, liner or sleeping bag (this will depend on your location)

  • Self-supporting mosquito netting (optional)

  • Waterless hand sanitizer

  • Bathing suit – men may wear shorts for rural swimming, women should wear a sarong to cover themselves with, women may wear a bathing suit at resort areas

  • Sandals (something easy to put on and off – it is polite to remove shoes when entering a home)

  • Water shoes for shower, lake, or beach


Some basic tools are recommended for construction in Sri Lanka. These items would be wonderful donations to the affiliate if you do not wish to bring them home with you. Your name should be clearly printed on your tools to prevent loss and theft. We can purchase them from here if needed and would be cheaper as well. Tools can be bought in Sri Lanka



  • Digital Camera and Software

  • Spindle of CD-R blank CDS


  • Computer-Windows 98 or better

  • Printer Cartridges

Hp deskjet 3744 or hp deskjet 1180c

  • Microsoft Software

  • Zip disks

  • Photo Printer Paper

  • Extension Cords

  • Computer Projector

  • White board markers

  • Surge protector trip

  • Two prong adapters

  • Television with VCR

  • Answering Machine

  • Fax Machine

  • Printer

  • Computer Paper

  • Internet server and software

  • Overhead Projector

  • Fax/Phone

  • White/Cord Boards

  • Photocopier

  • Adding Machines

  • Typewriters

  • Zip Disk Drive


  • Mason’s hammer

  • Metric tape measure

  • Levels

  • Concrete Mixer

  • Mason’s Trowels

  • Cement Trowels

  • Work Gloves

  • Pointed Showels


  • Used Clothing

*Hint: If you are arriving as a member of a brigade/work team and want to donate a number of items, buy a cooler and fill it with your donations and check it as a piece of luggage. We’ll take it off your hands upon in-country arrival!


Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka

22/5. Station Road,


Sri Lanka


Tel: 00 94 11 2714274

00 94 11 2714275

Fax. 00 94 11 4202788


Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka

22/5. Station Road,


Sri Lanka


Tel: 00 94 11 2714274

00 94 11 2714275

Fax. 00 94 11 4202788

Most Reputable Hospitals in Colombo:

Apollo Hospitals Colombo

578, Elvitigala Mawatha,

Colombo 05.

Phone Numbers; 4530000,

Fax. No. 4511199

Nawaloka Hospitals Pvt Ltd,

23 Sri Saugathodaya Mawatha

Colombo 2

Phone number: 2546258, 2544444 /8


Asiri Hospitals Limited .

181 Kirula Road

Colombo 5

Phone number: 2500608, 2500612

Lab and Pharmacy are 24 hours

Osu Sala is the state owned pharmacy at Lipton Circus, Colombo

Phone number: 2694716

It is open 24 hours

Section 10: Frequently asked questions:

  • The departure tax now included in the ticket fare.

  • The current exchange rate is 1USD =110 Rupees (July 2010)

  • There is a Value added tax on almost everything and a 10% service charge at most restaurants, tipping is at your discretion. Trishaw drivers will not expect a tip, and due to the service charge, many people don’t tip at a restaurant either. If some one assists you at the airport, generally 10 Rupees per bag is sufficient.

  • You must have a valid passport (valid for 6 months beyond your visit to Sri Lanka) and evidence of onward travel. Everyone entering Sri Lanka will require tourist visas. In most cases, a 30-day visa will be issued upon arrival. Check with your local embassy for your specific requirements.

  • It is not necessary to bring gifts for the families or those you will be working with. In fact, this can lead to the perpetuation of the idea that all foreigners are a source of money and gifts, an idea that fosters the handout mentality and widens the gap between cultures. Giving of gifts to particular family or individuals could lead to jealousy and dissension among the group of Habitat homeowners. If your group feels like you wish to leave a small something of remembrance, the Sri Lanka Habitat staff would recommend a small picture frame with a group photo in it.

  • Complimenting or admiring items of the locals should be kept to a minimum. Sri Lankan people can be very giving, even when they have very little to give. They will even give you the shirt off their back if you like it a lot.

  • Women smoking and drinking in public is frowned upon. Please refrain from these activities when in the company of locals, especially in the more rural areas. The rural areas tend to be more conservative. It would not be wise to draw unwanted or negative attention to the Global Village group.

  • As a courtesy, please ask permission to take photographs of people, and also their homes, particularly a homeowner’s house prior to their Habitat house.

  • As mentioned above, the homeowners you will be working with don’t have much to offer, but when they do offer something, such as food or drink, please accept it. This is a custom in Sri Lanka and if you refuse, it may be construed as rudeness. (Homeowners will be instructed that foreigners cannot drink the water, so they may spend their money on juice, tea or other beverages for you.)

  • It is customary for visitors to take off their shoes when entering homes and temples. It is also a sign of respect.

  • Due to current situations in Sri Lanka, and the South Asian culture, please don’t engage in discussions of politics, economics or religion.

  • In the rural areas, you will most likely be eating with your fingers. This should be done with your right hand only. The left hand is considered to be unclean throughout South Asian cultures.

  • Guard your personal belongings closely. Keep your money next to your body as tourists are the obvious targets for pickpockets.

  • Public affection between the opposite sexes is not appropriate in Sri Lanka; however, it is quite common for members of the same sex, particularly men, to show affection by holding hands.


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