Volunteer to work with children and adults with special needs

  • Volunteer in Sri lanka to work with children and adults with special needs
  • Volunteer as a teacher or occupational therapist and support recreational activities
  • An volunteering opportunity suitable for those interested in working in special needs and those qualified
  • Live inside the fort of Galle, a world heritage site in Sri Lanka

Project summary

This special needs school and care centre provides a home, education and recreation for disabled children and adults.

Like many other developing countries Sri Lanka struggles to care for its physically and mentally challenged citizens. As a result, many people with ‘special needs’ spend their lives largely unloved and uncared for. This project works towards providing its residents with a worthwhile place in society by providing an education and some ‘hard’ skills.

The centre is based on the edge of Galle, a world heritage site. It provides a residential home for approximately 65 people aged five to fifty. The younger ones all attend the special needs school that teaches up to 120 children from both the home and the surrounding area. The children have learning difficulties and associated behavioural issues, while some will also have physical disabilities. It is a well-structured project and the local teachers all have a good understanding of special needs pupils.

The school also houses its own autistic unit which currently teaches a small number of children. It is of a high standard and is run on similar lines to those in the UK.

Activities in the main house revolve around helping to equip the residents with skills that can make them feel they are of value to their communities. By helping to develop basic skills that can produce an income, a feeling of self worth can be restored. To develop those skills English is taught daily along with computer instruction, art, handicraft and horticulture.

Volunteers are needed to assist the permanent members of staff across a whole spectrum of activities, including teaching small groups of special needs children.

Volunteer roles and responsibilities

Volunteers are needed to provide care and stimulating activities for the residents and assist with the schooling of the children in the special needs school. The staff are warm, welcoming, properly qualified and passionate about their work. They provide a good service but do not have the time or knowledge to put on additional activities.

With the mixture of children and adult residents the variety of work is enormous and it is an opportunity for volunteers to gain a breadth of experience. It is a well organised project and you would have plenty of opportunity to develop it according to your own personal strengths and interests.

Volunteers with an interest in art therapy would have every opportunity of working with the children. There is a Sri Lankan physiotherapist to offer guidance. For any volunteer who wishes to explore the opportunities of working with special needs children, particularly Autism, this projects provides an ideal format for gaining good, practical experience.

How you can make a difference

Volunteers with professional skills such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, art therapists and special needs teachers will work directly with the residents and school children and provide a tremendous benefit by bringing additional or new skills to the project. These skills are all in short supply in Sri Lanka.

Non-qualified volunteers would need guidance but an extra pair of hands is always welcome and there is a tremendous capacity for any volunteer to lead recreational activities that stimulate and develop the interests of residents and children alike.

What is distinctive about this project:

This is a rare project in Sri Lanka, being the only one of its kind outside of Colombo. You are based in the wonderful area of Galle, a word heritage site, with an opportunity to work with and support a range of professionals in specials needs, providing experience and insight to anyone developing their career in this area.

Blue Tiger Features:

Outreach International started working with this project shortly after they suffered the tsunami of 2004, losing a number of lives in the tragedy. It is not frequented by lots of volunteers, so you might expect to be the only volunteer at the project, which gives the right volunteer the opportunity to integrate with the staff, children and local community more fully.

The activities of volunteers will depend upon their skill sets. Volunteers will need to be proactive in getting involved as, like in many of the countries we work in, local staff may be reluctant to prescribe activities to ‘western volunteers’.


The school closes for school holidays but the centre remains open for residents


Language lessons can be provided in Sinhala, but volunteers will predominantly work in English

Experience required:

The centre will accept volunteers who are interested in working with children and adults with special needs as a future career choice and therefore have no experience or qualifications as yet. Such volunteers should be able to demonstrate some awareness of the broad challenges and issues of this area.

Volunteers with experience in dealing with specials needs of adults and children in any form will be especially welcome.

Good to know:

You will live with a host family in the fort area of Galle, which is a fascinating mix of Dutch colonial buildings and local influences, a world heritage site and a huge attraction to visitors. Colombo is not so far away and there are beaches nearby to act as a get-away when you want to.

Price table

4 weeks8 weeks12 weeks16 weeks20 weeks

Includes: Comprehensive travel insurance (supplements may apply to older travellers). Accommodation, food, airport transfer, travel to projects, in-country support. Eight hours of individual tuition in Sinhala
Excludes: Flights, visas, vaccinations

Things to see and do

  • Cultural heritage
  • Take Tea
  • Whale watching
  • Ayurveda

Country co-ordinator

Mr Lokuge Priyankara (Mr P): Sri Lanka Co-ordinator

Mr P has a degree from Colombo University in Tourist Management and is a qualified guide registered with the Sri Lanka Tourist Board. He coordinated a tsunami relief project. He joined us in 2006 once the tsunami problems had dissipated. He lives in Galle with his wife and two children, close to our project base and takes an active role in supporting the Sri Lanka projects. His wife cooks the best curries in Galle!

About Sri Lanka