It’s no secret: I love working for the WUSC Sri Lanka office in Colombo. Why? Read on…

1. We celebrate a lot

Birthdays, work anniversaries, promotions and more! Someone is always bringing in cake or lunch or more cake for everyone to celebrate a special day. One day a few months ago, we almost accidentally had FIVE different cakes to celebrate five different things during one afternoon tea. There were two going-away cakes for departing volunteers, one going-away cake for a departing consultant, and two cakes for reasons I don’t honestly remember because we managed to stop the driver sent out to buy them before he left to avoid having a ridiculous number of cakes in the office. Even so, we each got to sample three cakes in one day. It was heaven.

2. We set goals together

In our January 2017 staff meeting, we created some office new year’s resolutions. Everyone vowed to not turn their air conditioning on until 10AM to cut down on electricity usage. Everyone agreed that we should reuse our scrap paper as notepads instead of using sticky notes. And, finally, everyone agreed that it’s time we cut down on the amount of cake we eat in the office so now we have fruit for snacks at staff meetings and try to celebrate with other foods, like milk rice for breakfast, instead. We’re trying to be healthier and make small changes to diminish our impact on the environment, which I think are great goals for every office to work towards.

3. We get together twice a day over tea

When I first arrived in Sri Lanka, I was urged out of my desk chair and into the lunch room twice a day to share tea with everyone. Tea time in Sri Lanka generally happens in the mornings around 10:00AM and again in the afternoon around 3:00PM. While not everyone gathers at every tea time, enough people drop by that it was very helpful for me to show up consistently in my first few weeks to get to know my new colleagues’ names and positions. Now that I’m integrated into the office, I still make sure I come by the lunch room a few times per week to catch up with folks working on a different project than me or chat with those who have been out in the field. It’s a simple office tradition that brings us together.

4. We regularly welcome newcomers

Both the Uniterra and the ASSET programs at WUSC Sri Lanka involve support from Canadian volunteers so we are constantly welcoming new volunteers and the occasional consultants to Sri Lanka and into our team. Each time a new person is set to arrive, we arrange a welcome ceremony. This consists of gathering everyone from the office to the front door and then completing a variety of steps that all signify welcoming according to Sri Lankan tradition, such as the gift of betel leaves and the lighting of an oil lamp. I love participating in welcome ceremonies because they give new team members and volunteers a positive first experience with WUSC Sri Lanka. I fondly remember my own welcome ceremony a bunch of months ago, even I was exhausted from jetlag and surely a little culture shocked, too.

5. We are busy or on the move much of the time

I am rarely bored at the WUSC Sri Lanka office. Our program is busy and the ASSET team is busy, so there’s always something to plan, someone to call, somewhere to be. I love feeling the energy of a team in motion. WUSC Sri Lanka staff and volunteers are regularly in the field and so when we’re back in Colombo, we’re often here simply to prepare for the next field visit or program activity. Because of this, the Colombo office is a fun place to be because there’s always a lot going on, which I’m always learning.

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Just a year ago, I was preparing to graduate from university and worried about where I would land after convocation. Then, a few days after I walked across the stage to collect my degree, I flew to Sri Lanka to work for Uniterra as the Volunteer Support Officer. I am grateful for that decision because now I feel like I’m part of the WUSC Sri Lanka community. I feel like I’m exactly where I need to be.