To bring you closer to our villages and host families, we want to tell you the story of Nirmala and Silvester from Alagollewa village, who decided to open their home to travellers.
Nirmala and Silvester both spent their childhood in Alagollewa surrounded by siblings. They have known each other since they were children, and as soon as they were old enough to get married, it was natural that they married one another.
After the wedding Nirmala moved from her big family house to live with Silvester and his mother. They got two daughters, Deduny and Hiruni. Today Nirmala and Silvester are approaching their forties, Deduny is 9 and Hiruni is 14 years old.
The family lives in a cozy brick house with four rooms and a kitchen. The toilet and the shower are located outdoors, which is common in Sri Lanka.
With the extra income earned through Duara, they have been able to renovate one of the bedrooms for guests. They have painted the walls, added an extra glass to the window and constructed a solid floor on top of the ground. They wish to host more guests and renovate the rest of the rooms as well.
Cooking, cleaning and doing laundry always takes time because everything is made by hand
Like most villagers in Alagollewa, Nirmala and Sylvester are farmers and live off the soil. They grow chili and own five cows which they milk every day. Usually the milk is taken to the nearby dairies and transformed into milk powder. In Alagollewa travellers can learn to milk a cow and taste fresh milk heated and spiced up with cinnamon and cardamom. In addition to cows, there are chickens, pigs and goats living in the courtyard.
As Sylvester is in charge of cows and chili plantations, Nirmala and the grandmother take care of housekeeping. Cooking, cleaning and doing laundry always takes time because everything is made by hand: baking is started by grinding flour or tearing coconuts. Cooking with the family is the best way to learn about local food and ingredients. In addition to housework, the women run a kiosk where they sell sweets and basic supplies.
there are no secondary schools in the area and many youngsters leave home to study in big cities
Deduny and Hiruni go to school by foot every day. Especially Hiruni is a very motivated student as she already knows that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. There are no secondary schools in the area and many youngsters have to leave home to study in big cities. They also rarely return to the village due to lack of work. Locals hope for a clothing factory to be opened in the area as it would bring more jobs for the villagers.
Most people in the village finance their daily life by taking care of their land and livestock, by making carpentry to sell or selling homemade doughnuts and other baked goods.
During free time people get together to play board games or volleyball or watch TV in houses that have one. These moments are a way for them to connect with travellers even without a common language.
Nirmala and Silvester have important role and are highly appreciated in the village. Even though Silvester doesn’t speak any English, he knows everything about the village and its history and likes to share his knowledge.
The grandmother is part of two local savings groups supporting women and elderly. The groups collect funds for buying seeds and providing micro loans for the villagers. One share of the payment from travellers always goes directly to these savings groups.
When Nirmala and Silvester started to work with Duara they were first a little bit afraid about hosting foreigners in their home. They were uncertain about how to make their guests feel comfortable, but quickly realized that they enjoyed meeting new people from different places in the world. Nirmala was happy noticing that at the end we are all similar and share similar interests, problems and joys in our lives.