A Bicycle for Maheshika

Following their hugely successful trip to Sri Lanka this March (see our story “The Magic of the Met”).Several students of The Met went on a sponsored walk this June and raised a magnificent £100 for the work of Extra Cover. Robert spent the money the following month at a school they visited, played cricket at, … and loved.

Maheshika lives with her family in a tiny “line house” – the most basic of habitations built by the British in the colonial period for their indentured servants,so that they could live close to the plantations they worked on.

Some 140 years later and the same arrangement is still at work – Maheshika’s dad works on the local tea plantation, in return for which he and his family can eke out a living in their squalid (but immaculately tidy) two rooms.

There is no running water, no toilet, and the electricity is intermittent, by the light of which Maheshika struggles to do her homework .

Maheshika is a new girl in year 6 at Nawala School, having recently left her local primary school of Telambura Vidya Khanti (also supported by Extra Cover) and has been identified by the principal as a true scholar in the making.

Since the start of the year, she has been walking the four kilometres to and from her slum of a home to school, and Extra Cover was told that a new bicycle would be a worthy present to such a talented, but impoverished girl. And so it was with great delight that we were able to present her with her “Met Bike”!

The University house

Matthew, Jill and Robert have had the privilege of meeting some of the most aspirational people in Sri Lanka – men, women and children dreaming big dreams – but none more so than the Sandaya family of Nawala village. The family live in a shack (immaculately kept, of course) with the floor space no bigger than two ping-pong tables. Despite the cramped conditions and the regular hazard of flooding, let alone grinding poverty, the two children of the family have studied so hard that they have both been offered places at university. Except they can’t afford to go … the money needed for accommodation and basic food are way beyond their reach.

Extra Cover has stepped in to pay for their transport, housing and food … and has also been able to begin work on building the family a proper home. As well as dreaming big dreams for their children, Mr and Mrs Sandaya dreamed of building a house on their small plot of land, and even managed to lay the foundations. But then the money ran out.

Thanks to a shockingly generous donation, the “University House” as it is known is starting to take shape. Everyone in the village is wishing the family well, as they see the children get the education, and the mum and dad the housing, they richly deserve.

UK. College Visits for Extra Cover

Yes, there were elephant safaris and train rides, yes, we ate like royalty in ramshackle curry houses, and yes, we drank banana milkshakes at the Lucky Tuna beach bar, and danced the night away at the “Happy Banana” on a Friday night … but what made this year’s two trips to Sri Lanka truly meaningful, and truly magical, were the children.
On behalf of the charity Extra Cover, which began at Brighton College in early 2005, a record number of 51 Lower Sixth pupils travelled out to the southwest of the island this July. There, in the more remote pockets of the region, they taught some of Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable children – children who live in the most rudimentary housing, children who are vulnerable from a lack of food and sanitation, children who live hand to mouth at the mercy of a disinterested government.

The teaching was taken seriously; every evening College pupils learned which age group they would be teaching the following day and how many children would be in their class (and two pupils teaching 40 children wasn’t unusual) and prepared lessons accordingly, with subjects ranging from geography to maths, from arts and crafts to human biology.
Some pupils at the larger schools we visited were studying for their A-levels, and College pupils discussed complex maths or engaged in advanced conversational English with students older than them. The academic ability of many of the Sinhalese students was genuinely astounding, given the lack of resources. On another day, College pupils would visit a Special Education Needs unit, and teach young children who, in many cases, had spent much of their lives hidden away at home. Both trips visited “Suhada”, the new headquarters of Extra Cover in the country’s interior, where they mingled with leaning disabled young men and women, who were learning trades at the one of the charity’s two Vocational Training Centres.

The “Sri Lanka’s Got Talent” competition that usually followed the morning’s classes, was taken a little less seriously. Here, College pupils were responsible for teaching a song and dance routine to some fifty children of varying ages, and then performing their act to the a panel of “celebrity judges”. Some brave souls attempted to teach “Hey Ya” by OutKast – renditions of songs by Abba and The Beatles, or a medley of nursery rhymes, proved more successful.And after the serious lessons and the less serious singing and dancing, it was play time. For hours and hours in the sapping humidity of the subcontinent, pupils ran around, giving piggy-back rides, playing tag, or “catch” or cricket, dancing, skipping or just having a good time on the slides and swings – being the big sisters and big brothers the children so long for.

Ask any pupil who went out this year, and yes, they might tell you about the beach or the turtle hatchery, but what they will remember for the rest of their lives will be the children, whose lives they touched.

Extra Covers’ New Home

It is nearly a year ago now that Extra Cover started a new adventure: the acquisition of a property that will not only become a “home” for the charity and a hub for the volunteers, it will also be used as an amazing vocational training centre for young adults with disabilities. The property is called Suhada in the native language, which is translated as ”kind hearted”: a perfect reflection on what is happening there!

In addition to teaching sewing, wood crafts and other skills, there is also space on the 1.5 acres of land to grow tea, pepper, cinnamon, fruit and vegetables. The students will learn how to plant, tend and grow the crops, as well as how to prepare, sell and cook all the produce

There will be three rooms available for people to stay at this unique place. It is milesfrom anywhere so when you wake up all you can hear is birdsong, peacocks and sometimes rowdy monkeys!
Newton, who runs the Charity in Sri Lanka for Extra Cover, lives at Suhada. He has spotted over 45 species of bird around the property and recently proudly showed me the incredibly rare ‘hanging parrot’ that pops in to a specific tree every morning at dawn! The property is also a place that will welcome many who just want to see and feel the serendipity that Suhada offers.

Suhada is the 2nd Vocational Training Centre that Extra Cover has started; the other has been helping 20 wonderful disadvantaged young people not only gain skills that may well help them earn a living, but has also given them valuable life skills. These young adults have all manner of disabilities and in the past had often been hidden away or just been kept out of society. With the help of Extra Cover, they are now gaining social skills that are vital to help them become part of that society and, irrespective of whether or not they become employable, their lives will be enriched by making friends and understanding the joy that brings.

Extra Cover also runs three Special Education Schools for children with disabilities, six pre-schools and provides a large number of extremely remote village schools with the basics of food, clean water and toilets. It also provides text books and, as funds allow, renovates classrooms, installs playground equipment, runs tea and cinnamon-growing cooperatives and provides extra food for those in dire need. But there is always more we can do to help!

The Magic of the Met

Magic happened this March when a group of young men and women from The Met College in Brighton visited some of the Extra Cover schools. For the second year in a row, the wonderfully generous Fonthill Foundation sponsored the costs of 16 students – all of whom have had difficult childhoods – to spend twelve days teaching, playing sport learning about charity, while in Sri Lanka’s interior.

Coordinated by Robert, the students and five staff visited Special education units for children with disabilities, painted the outside wall of the VTC (Vocational training centre) in Panangala, did morning exercises and worked alongside the students of the Suhada VTC, and taught in a number of primary schools, including Bembada and Nawala where, as usual, there was an insane cricket match and where, as usual, “we” lost.

What makes this a magical trip is the fact that both the students from the Met, some of whom were refugees from as far afield as Eritrea and Afghanistan, and the Sri Lankan children, are all vulnerable. All of them have been dealt a poor hand of cards, with poverty, danger, abuse and neglect just some of the difficulties these youngsters tragically have in common.

On their return to the UK, the Met students reflected on their time away … and for some it was seismically life-altering. “It was amazing,” said Care Student Sam Bates. “I feel I have changed [children’s] lives, which is the most rewarding thing. I will remember it for ever. Josh Scourfield, who hopes to join the army, enthused how “it was amazing seeing all these kids smiling, and teaching them maths and English.”

The horrific stories of the refugee students – from torture to having their dinghy overturned in the Med and being left to drown – brought a healthy dose of perspective to what we Extra Cover is doing. Extra Cover is trying to make a difference to a world that is sadly infused with callous greed and violence – we are endeavouring to make the world a happier and safer place, one child at a time.

Greetings from the UK

Every July, 46 Lower Sixth pupils from Brighton College visit and teach in many of our schools. It is a moving experience for one and all as this video, compiled by Sidony Bryant, attests.

The following is a summary of her thoughts about her two-week trip.

“Words can only begin to describe our experience in Sri Lanka. Engulfed by the oppressive heat of the country, each day we strove to make a palpable difference to the lives of the people of Sri Lanka – yet somewhere between the buildings we painted, the endless games of ‘Duck Duck Goose’ and the piggybacks we gave, it became evident that the children were in fact making an even greater impact on us. The unshakeable positivity and exceptional generosity of those we had the privilege to meet was truly inspiring; whether it was through the fresh fruit they provided us with each day at lunch or their attempts to return the toys and gifts we had just given them, their intense gratitude and collective desire to share what little materialistic wealth they had was incredibly humbling. It was an honour to have witnessed and been a part of all the support that Father Robert, Newton and Extra Cover provide to these children, and the opportunity to bring joy and happiness to their lives – even just for a few hours – deeply affected us all. Our involvement with the charity allowed us to form personal connections with the children, and the emotions we experienced – from the pure satisfaction of teaching a child a new number, or the warm contentment of establishing an unspoken friendship – were truly like no other. The trip was truly unforgettable, and the boundless energy, blissful innocence and endless happiness of the children will remain with us forever.”

Devastating floods cause chaos  

Extra Cover is counting the cost of the worst flooding in 14 years

Last weekend (28th May 2017) the South West of Sri Lanka was devastated by floods. Over 200 people died and tens of thousands have been displaced having had their houses wrecked

Extra Cover’s 28 schools and other projects are right in the middle of the worst effected areas. We have a property (soon to be a vocational training center) that is normally at least 4 meters higher than the river bank, it was only inches from being ruined (picture below taken from the Extra Cover property, normally a view of paddy fields and tea plants!). Many people in the area were not so lucky, they had to be evacuated before they could collect any of their positions and are now returning to some very depressing scenes.

It is still early days and Newton has not been able to get round to all the schools, some are still cut off, others have had no electricity for a week, so they have no way of charging mobile phones to make contact. So far he has witnessed a few of the schools that are in a bad way, flood water washed through them leaving behind a trail of destruction, 6 inches of muck on the floor and nearly all resources ruined. Years of our help has been washed away in one weekend of dire weather.

This is all so sad, but the good news is that as far as we know everyone we know is safe and that most of the buildings are intact and OK, so it just means we will have to clean them up, re-decorate and slowly fill them again with new resources. Wells are going to have to be purified, or in some cases re dug where they have become too dirty, playgrounds rebuilt, toilets (and cess pits) cleared out and most importantly children fed. There is a severe shortage of food, much has been ruined or simply washed away. It’s going to be a tough few months for so many people.

How can we all help?

Extra Cover will do all it can, there is endless help that is needed, far more than we can afford, so your help is needed more than ever. Please, if you can, go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/srilankafloodrelief and make a donation ( or go to https://www.extracover.org.uk/ for more options). We appreciate that many people have already been incredibly generous recently (our Sweden walk and golf day) but we didn’t see this coming and we need to be able to do as much as we can. Any help you can give would be amazing.

Thank you

Matthew, Jill , Robert and Newton


Lakindu (a young boy who we have been helping with medicine and doctors support for a weak heart) and his family had a close shave when a earth slide crashed into the side of their house, destroying the toilet, the house seems OK but the earth above it seems unstable so we need to re-locate them if we can.


This is Mapalagama SEN school for children with disabilities, 4 feet of water washed through, we only finished this a few months ago, it was a bright wonderful classroom for 12 children who have had little or no opprtunity to go to school before. It is so sad to see after all the hard work of Nikki and Brian Cannon and friends… they will have to go back for another 6 months!!

Sepalika built herself a small store to sell the wonderful things she had made in the Extra Cover vocational training school for young adults with disabilities, it has now been washed away, we want to make sure she gets up an running as soon as she can. We can imagine imagine how upsetting this was for her, it may have been small but it was such an achievement for her to be doing this, we hope it has not traumatized her too much.

Crazy Walk Across Sweden

Only 2 weeks to go till we set off for Sweden for our charity walk. We have already walked our socks off training, including 50 miles over the Easter weekend that made us realize what a challenge it will be!!

If you have kindly read my last e-mail sent out a few weeks ago (copied below) and have thought about donating, please could you do so now. It would mean so much to Jill, Trevor, Sally, Jeremy and I to know that every step we make is helping some very needy children in Sri Lanka. We need all the motivation we can get!

We have so much we can achieve if the funds allow, things are busier than ever for Extra Cover, and that’s why we come up with some crazy ideas, and this walk is an extreme one! If you have a moment today, please give us hand making this adventure truly worthwhile.
The link to the fundraising page is below.


Thank you so much to all our friends who have already been so generous (Over £6000 raised so far)


Matthew, Jill and the team!

We will be posting regularly on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/extracoversrilanka/, please visit there if you are interested in following our progress.


Have I lost my senses? 


I am not sure what you are doing in May this year but I hope you’ll be relaxing and enjoying yourself. If you do get the odd free moment then think of us. Jill and I with 8 others have decided to try and walk across Sweden! This is a 100 mile slog that should take at least a week but we are going to do it in 4 days!! That means I am not stopping at any decent pubs, I am not resting at any comfortable inns and will not get time to rest my weary limbs or check my blisters before the following day. You may now be thinking that I have lost my senses and you have every right to be thinking this. Why would I give up my holiday plus all the weekends between now and then trying to get some training in so that I can complete this task?

……..I haven’t lost my senses – the reason I am doing this is simple. I know that I can help some amazing children who are desperately in need, and I can do this through Extra Cover. It is incredible that for only 15p I can feed a child for a day. That is a fact – and Extra Cover do that for over 1000 children every school day. Children with disabilities in Sri Lanka rarely get a chance to go to school or learn a trade. That is a fact – so Extra Cover set up schools to help them have an education like everyone else.

You may well think it is a hardship to walk 100 miles in four days but these Sri Lankan children have endured more physical hardships in their young lives than most of us ever will. Because of people like you Extra Cover now helps over 1000 children at 28 poor rural schools every day by providing extra food, clean water, educational equipment, shoes, games and much more. They run 4 small pre-schools, 3 Special Education Units and a Vocational Training Centre for disabled children, have built houses for those in desperate need and given loans to unemployed parents to start their own businesses growing tea to give them a much needed income.

Extra Cover know just how far 15p can go. Jill, Robert, Newton and I have organised and overseen the charity for 12 years now. We have seen how Extra Cover has changed children’s lives. Any money you donate will go straight to these children, especially as administration costs are kept to a real minimum (less than 5% of donations are used for expenses). Please help support us on this walk and help raise funds for Extra Cover. £10 buys textbooks for a whole class, £20 pays for a day’s breakfast for a small school, £40 feeds a child at school for a year, £350 covers the cost of building a new toilet, £500 pays for a well, and with £5000 Extra Cover can support 25 young disabled adults for a year in a Vocational Training Centre, all in all offering a wonderful life at school to some of the world’s most deserving children.

Please support us all in our blister-inducing venture and give generously today, your money goes a long, long way and will make a real difference!

To donate please:
· Go to http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/swedenwalk for options including donating by card or PayPal.

Contact me by e-mail on this site for other options

Come and join us:
There will be a link on our website (in early May) showing the route we will take by GPS, and hopefully a blog if I can work it out!

I will be thrilled if you could help.



Build a bench

Niki, Brian and family have moved out to Galle for 6 months, below is a blog concerning their work with Extra Cover.

We had another great visit this week to Extra Cover’s Vocational Training Centre in Panangale, about 1 hours drive north into the jungle from Galle.

This wonderful place has an amazing feel and atmosphere. It is currently supporting 12 young adults who have unfortunately missed out on any kind of mainstream education because of some kind of disability or learning difficulty.

It is hard to reconcile, coming from an It was watching the trainees cut, shape, file and polish the raw coconut shells on an upturned packing crate, using their feet to support the material and only very rudimentary tools that really impacted upon us. The finished items are amazing, but it just looked like such a hard process given the tools and the setup that they had. It struck us that a tiny investment in a proper workbench and tools that are truly fit for purpose could make such a difference.environment that seeks to encourage an equal opportunity as possible to all, that these brilliant characters are effectively left to their families to support and manage their welfare on their own.

The Vocational Training Centre seeks to give them the skills to be more able to support themselves, to encourage independence and to feel that they are making a contribution.

Each time we have visited we have seen an amazingly dedicated team of instructors giving the trainees skills to be able to make items that they will eventually be able to make at home and sell at market to make money of their own. A simple concept that will make a hugely positive contribution to their lives. They were making; greetings cards, incense sticks and holders, door and place mats and fantastic rice ladles and cups made from coconut shells.

dsc00260It was watching the trainees cut, shape, file and polish the raw coconut shells on an upturned packing crate, using their feet to support the material and only very rudimentary tools that really impacted upon us. The finished items are amazing, but it just looked like such a hard process given the tools and the setup that they had. It struck us that a tiny investment in a proper workbench and tools that are truly fit for purpose could make such a difference.
So, we took on the task of sketching out a design and working out the materials needed to build one for ourselves.

There are no B&Qs or Wickes cathedrals of DIY here. Its back to basics. We had the fantastic experience of working with a timber yard who cut most of the wood t to size from raw tree trunks and a handy craftsman who worked in the back of a window shop. He cut the sheet material freehand using an angle grinder! All very health and safety. Not a hard hat or pair of safety specs in sight. Flip flops all round.

Next week we hope to revisit the centre to work with the trainees to build a bench that will be at the correct height and will be safe to work at.

The materials and the tools have been purchased using some of the funds we raised at our leaving party back in July, so thank you to all those who donated.


Readers may remember that Extra Cover has been helping Lakhindu, a four year-old boy attending Mahalapitiya Montessori. Lakhindu who has had heart surgery and to stay alive he has to take a pill a day.

The total cost of his medicine is about £20 a month. The government has given his mother about £1.40 to cover the cost. In addition to this one pill, we learned over the summer that Lakhindu requires a second pill – this time, a medicine that will strengthen his heart in order that he can undergo another operation.
The young boy, hugely popular with his classmates, will hopefully grow up to be a big strong man …
able, perhaps, to help the mum who loves him so very much.