Life is full of surprises, but we were genuinely shocked when we first arrived in Tissa and saw how few books children had.
Many schools had no libraries and those that did often had barren shelves, or cabinets with books padlocked inside them.
But as we learnt more about Sri Lanka, we discovered this was not really very surprising at all.
The hot climate means books deteriorate quickly and schools have few resources to buy new ones.
So the ones
they have are precious – too valuable for the children to damage.
We have tried to rectify this.
Firstly, we have increased the number of set texts, which children need to complete the school syllabus.
Instead of four or five children sharing the same book, we have tried to bring the number down to one book per pupil.
Secondly, we have tried to encourage a love of reading by buying lots of novels – whether that be colourful books with big pictures for primary school children, or literature for older children and adults.
We also strive to keep a broad range: from Sinhalese classics by authors like Martin Wickramasinghe to translations of Harry Potter and Tintin.
Books of this calibre are not available in the whole of the Hambantota region. To get them, a child would have to go to Galle or Colombo, both over four hours away by bus.
To date, we have donated books to 25 different schools, sometimes making multiple donations, bringing the overall total up to 42.
Andaragasyaya Primary School, Beralihela Primary School, Bundala School, Debarwewa Allagala School, Debarawewa National College, Gamunupura School, Debarawewa Presidents Primary College, Gangeyaya School, Ikkapallama School, Kande Viharaya Temple, Kawantissapura School, KG 01 Primary School, Kirindagama Primary School, Sith Sevana Mentally Handicapped Children's Home, KG 05 School, Magama School, Mulana School, Nadigamwila School, Osuwinna School, Pustollamulla School, Ranminithanna School, Tissapura School, Uduwila School, Welligattha School, Weerahela School, Karambagalmulla Primary School, Mahasenpura School, KG 03 Primary School, Lelwala School, Sahira Hambantota School, Tissa MV School, Kotagoda School, Uda Mattala School, Kithulkote School, Kiula School, Usbim School, Vijayaba National School, Viddyartha Vidyalaya School, Muthiyammagama School