Cultural Immersion Volunteer Project in Sri Lanka
Intrigued by the idea of being a Cultural Immersion volunteer in Sri Lanka? International Volunteer HQ’s Cultural Immersion project gives volunteers the unique opportunity to live with an indigenous Vaddah family. The Vaddah are thought to be the first people to inhabit Sri Lanka and some still live in villages where they keep their particular traditions, language and culture alive. Volunteers will gain invaluable experience and insight into the Vaddah way of life while helping them with a wide range of tasks and projects that support them to sustain their community.
- Programs start every Monday
- Affordable fees from $315 for 1 week
- Includes accommodation, meals, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
- Experience daily life in a remote Vaddah community
- Discover Sri Lanka's diverse and beautiful landscapes
- Get out of your comfort zone in a simple homestay with a local family
Who is this program suited to?
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
The Vaddah people are thought to be the earliest inhabitants of Sri Lanka. They were hunter-gatherers who lived in caves, practised animism and had their own language. Today they face the challenge of finding a balance between trying to preserve their culture and traditions and surviving in the modern world.
As a Cultural Immersion volunteer you will gain a unique insight into the Vaddah way of life and help to actively improve the standard of living and wellbeing of the people who live there. You’ll be based in a Vaddah community in Dambana where you’ll stay with a local family, living life as they do and helping them as they go about their daily tasks, work and routines. You’ll develop a shared understanding as you learn from them and work with them to support the long term goals of the community. You could find yourself:
- Developing community buildings such as schools, temples and preschools
- Helping with English language lessons, childcare or education in general
The rural environment and nature of this project means that schedules and work can vary greatly, so it’s important to come with an open mind and a willingness to help where it’s most needed.
Why do Cultural Immersion volunteering in Sri Lanka with IVHQ?
As a Cultural Immersion volunteer in Sri Lanka you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:
- Living among people whose ancient culture survives today
- Helping the Veddah sustain their traditional way of life
- Developing your communication skills
- Gaining a wide range of new experiences
- Immersing yourself in Veddah culture
- Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
- Volunteers aged 16-18 are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional documentation to the local team
- All volunteers aged 13+ are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure. Those aged 13-17, if unable to obtain a criminal background check, can provide two character reference letters instead
- All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
- All volunteers must speak fluent English.
Known as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’, Sri Lanka is an island nation set off the south-east coast of India. Famous for its tea plantations, cinnamon exports and cricket rivalries, it also boasts a vast array of beaches, Buddhas and big beasts like elephants and whales.
While Sri Lanka is a well-developed country which has made great strides towards making sure its residents don’t live in extreme poverty, there is still many places outside of the main centers where people struggle to access good quality education, healthcare and earn a decent living to support themselves and their families. Volunteers can help in these areas by providing important support to local initiatives that aim to improve the quality of life for people in these disadvantaged areas.
Volunteers on the Cultural Immersion project are based in remote Dambana, three hours from Kandy.
Arrival and orientation
The program orientation begins every Monday and volunteers need to arrive in Colombo anytime on the Saturday or Sunday before orientation.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) on Saturday or Sunday. Your airport pick-up over the weekend is included in your Program Fee. We recommend that volunteers under the age of 18 travel internationally with a notarized letter from their parents to support their documentation.
After you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in Kandy. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the Sunday night before your program orientation.
If you are traveling in Sri Lanka prior to your volunteer program, you can meet the local team at the airport in Colombo on the Sunday before your program begins, or make your own way directly to the local team’s office in Kandy.
Orientation is run by the local team in Kandy, beginning on the Monday morning of your start date. Volunteers can choose to join a One-day Orientation or Introduction Week Orientation.
This provides you with all the key information you need, plus the chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing. It includes an introduction to Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan customs, rules and expectations, safety in Sri Lanka, travel opportunities in Sri Lanka, an introduction to your volunteer project and placement, Kandy city tour, cultural show and basic Sinhala language lessons.
Introduction Week Orientation:
This is a fantastic way to start your volunteer experience in Sri Lanka and gives you the time to dive deeper into the culture and activities. It will include everything on the One-Day Orientation as well as visits to a Buddhist monastery, a spice garden and the famous Temple of the Tooth. You’ll also get to take a Sri Lankan cooking class, a boat ride on Kandy Lake, a Batik lesson and get a relaxing Ayurveda massage.
If you wish to participate in the Introduction Week, you can indicate this on your application form when you apply for the program or let your Program Manager know at least two weeks before you begin the program.
Volunteer schedule example
On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.
Weekdays - A typical volunteer day is as follows:
|6:00 - 7:30 AM||Breakfast at the volunteer accommodation.|
|7:45 AM||Volunteers leave home and travel to their placements.|
|9:00 PM||Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel home, prepare for the next day or do some shopping and sightseeing.|
|9:00 PM||Dinner at the volunteer house.|
During the weekends, volunteers are free to relax or take the opportunity to explore other parts of Kandy and Sri Lanka. Kandy itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has an exciting selection of things to see and do. You can visit a number of beautiful and ornate temples including the Temple of the Tooth - an important shrine housing a canine tooth said to belong to the Buddha; wander in the grand and impressive Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya; tour a tea plantation and factory; sample the tasty and widely-regarded local cuisine; or take a walk up to the biggest Buddha statue in Sri Lanka and be rewarded with fantastic panoramic views of the city. Long weekends can be taken to travel further afield to destinations, such as Colombo, Galle or even Southern India.
Our local team also offers some great travel packages for volunteers over the weekend and after their volunteer program finishes. They can help you arrange trips and have some special packages available for volunteers, including Trekking Week (a week of hiking some of Sri Lanka’s most famous treks and mountains), Beach Week (a week of activities on Sri Lanka’s coast) and Body and Mind Week (a week of yoga and Ayurvedic massage at a retreat in Sri Lanka). All of the above can be enquired about directly with our program staff after registering on the IVHQ Sri Lanka program. These packages cost approximately $430 for the week (including meals and accommodation) and can be paid for in Sri Lanka to our program staff.
Accommodation and WiFi
Volunteers on the Cultural Immersion project are accommodated with a host family, living in the Vaddah community in Dambana. Volunteers can expect to share their room with other volunteers of the same gender. You can expect very basic living conditions, with outdoor showers, squat toilets, and a woodfire oven. It’s a unique insight into rural Sri Lankan living and volunteers should come with an open mind.
During the Introduction Week Orientation in Kandy you’ll be accommodated in a volunteer house. Bedrooms have bunk beds and you can expect to share a room with four to 12 other volunteers.
Homestay accommodation is also available in Kandy and is a popular option for couples or older volunteers. This option can be arranged with our local team according to availability and volunteers may either have their own room or share with one or two others of the same gender, depending on how many other volunteers have requested homestay accommodation. Alternatively, private rooms and matrimonial rooms can be arranged for an additional $35 per person, per week, subject to availability at the time.
Living is comfortable and all accommodation has electricity and running water. Bathrooms in the volunteer houses and homestays are all western style with a shower that has warm water, a toilet and basin. Bedding is provided which includes a pillow with pillow case and top and bottom sheets. You will need to bring a towel, toiletries including hand soap and toilet paper, and a mosquito net if you wish to sleep with one.
Families who wish to volunteer in Sri Lanka are required to stay in a homestay at an additional cost of $35 per person, per week. If your family has more than four members, two rooms may be required to accommodate all family members.
To access the internet during your program, we recommend bringing an unlocked mobile phone and purchasing a local SIM card when you arrive in Sri Lanka, as WiFi is not available in the volunteer accommodation.
Volunteers on the Sri Lanka program are provided with three meals a day during the week and brunch and dinner during the weekend. Breakfast includes toast, eggs, fruit, tea, coffee and milk. Sri Lankan foods served for lunch and dinner include roti bread, dhal, curries, vegetables and salads. Meat is rarely eaten except on festive occasions. Authentic Sri Lankan meals are cooked by a local chef and most are prepared with an array of spices and coconut milk.
Bottled water is readily available in Sri Lanka and volunteers should budget approximately US$5 per week for 2 liters per day. There are also water filters in the volunteer houses and homestays. If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know when you apply for the program so we can discuss this with you. However, you should not expect to eat as you normally do at home. The local team will do their best to see that you are well taken care of, but as a volunteer, there is a need to be flexible. If you wish to supplement some of your meals with home comforts, there are basic kitchen facilities available to use.
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
|1 week||$315 Equivalent to $45/day|
|2 weeks||$445 Equivalent to $32/day|
|3 weeks||$595 Equivalent to $29/day|
|4 weeks||$745 Equivalent to $27/day|
|5 weeks||$890 Equivalent to $26/day|
|6 weeks||$1,040 Equivalent to $25/day|
|8 weeks||$1,340 Equivalent to $24/day|
|10 weeks||$1,640 Equivalent to $24/day|
|12 weeks||$1,940 Equivalent to $24/day|
- 24/7 in-country support
- In-country program orientation
- Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
- Airport pick-up
- Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
- Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
- Certificate of International Volunteering
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of $299 in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services.
- A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
- Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, public transport to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
- Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Sri Lanka generally find US$30-50 per week to be sufficient for expenses.
Check what's required to visit Sri Lanka
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Safety and support
IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.
- All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
- All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
- All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
- All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Protecting against COVID-19:
Volunteers tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel
Health & safety information provided during orientation
Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation
Greater physical distance between volunteers
Essential country information
|Capital||Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte|
|Languages||Sinhala and Tamil|
|Currency||Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)|
Weather and climate
The climate is tropical and warm, due to the moderating effects of ocean winds. Mean temperature ranges from 17°C (62.6°F) in the central highlands, where frost may occur for several days in the winter, to a maximum of 33 °C (91.4°F) in other low-altitude areas.