On December 9, I traveled with a group of ladies from Halfway Home Mulleriyawa, a 500-bed psychiatric hospital for women just outside Colombo and affiliated with the National Institute of Mental Health (where I work), to a tea estate in the hills near Bandarawela, Sri Lanka.
For most of the ladies, it was their first overnight trip away from the hospital in years – and in some cases decades. Needless to say, it was an experience. Here it is in pictures:
That’s me in front of (apparently) the highest waterfall in Sri Lanka. It looks smaller than it is, honest.
The ladies nearly stampeded to get their spot on the bus.
This is Stella. She’s a VSO volunteer at Mulleriyawa. She organized the trip for the ladies and I’m guessing paid for some of it out of her own bank account.
Every time we stopped we had to get a group photo with every combination of people. In this one, our bus driver is proudly displayed on the far left.
This is Bev. She is a former VSO volunteer who now manages Amba Tea Estate. Her and Stella started the partnership between Mulleriyawa and Amba. The ladies at the home create colourful teabags and Bev fills them with tea and sells them – with a portion going back to the ladies. Great potential to earn some real money for the ladies.
Watch out for the bus!
The view from Amba Tea Estate – not bad to wake up to…
The Mulleriyawa ladies arrive at the tea estate wearing their Sunday best.
The ladies working at the tea estate were also excited for the visit. They talked for weeks about what these ladies with ‘mental illness’ would be like. Dangerous? Violent? Nope. Just sweet, quiet ladies, just like them. The ulitmate in anti-stigma work.
The ladies got a tour of all things tea.
Looking out over the valley. A much nicer thing to look at than the inside of a hospital.
The ladies are being shown how to pick the best leaves for the tea.
They also got a chance to roll the tea. Here the Matron (in white) jumps into the photo.
The ladies also turn turns mashing the tea leaves into a fine pulp.
It took about three seconds for the ladies to become the best of friends.
Here are the tea bags the Mulleriyawa ladies make…and Bev and her husband Neil.
We made a stop-off at the local Hindu kovil. Embarassing thing was I was wearing the same thing as this guy.
A solemn moment for one of the ladies.
All hands on deck.
We also made a trip to the local temple to visit these monks. It always helps to hedge your bets when it comes to religion.
Matron shows off her pics to these local children.
The ladies also had the chance to do some public speaking at the Bandawarela hotel about the project.
This lady can make anything. Here she’s proudly showing off her parrot.
Getting four ladies in a three-wheeler is a tough task.