Monday, January 29, 2018

Healthy, zero waste and happy birthday party connecting with Mother Nature!

When it’s a child’s birthday all parents and the child want to have a beautiful birthday party. With lots of kid’s favorite food, games, friends and gifts etc… They think about the best venue, make the booking, send the invitation, order food and then the big day comes. What you have to do is go and enjoy the party.

Most of the time many young kids do not have a choice and do not have an idea of their birthday party. Only parents and especially mothers get ready. So it’s easy to follow steps mentioned above.
But when a Mother is too conscious about the impact of her child’s birthday party, and the child is a “Nature Kid”, there is a lot you have to do. In fact, not as easy as planning “just a party. I have a beautiful story to share. This is not the first time this Mother organized a “Nature Friendly Birthday Party”. In fact, it’s her second. She did organize a Nature Friendly birthday party with zero waste for her daughter’s 10th Birthday and this time it was her son’s 10th Birthday. I am proud to say the Mother is my first cousin Nimna Ariyaratne and her daughter Tiara Ganegama and son Niven Ganegama were getting training under our “Nature Kids” programme. So it was my pleasure to be with them and conduct a session as a treat for their birthday.

This Birthday took place on the 22nd July 2017. I am posting this today as the previous blog was a result of this birthday party, and wanted to share how the ripple effect works and good things happen.  Niven the Birthday boys invited 10 of his friends to his home to join with the birthday party. We all went together to center close to their home called “Dilmah Sustainable agriculture center” at katubedda (https://www.dilmahconservation.org/arboretum/) All the friends and their mothers came and some of the Mothers stayed to get the novel experience of Nature walk.
Feeling like part of the Nature...

showing them wild plants but not weeds....

So I conducted a Nature walk around this urban forest patch and let the kids experience Mother Nature by touching, smelling, tasting, listening and feeling. It was a short walk with loads of fun that the kids touched a millipede for the first time in their lives. It was good practice for them to understand how to respect other living beings and handle them with extra care and love with lot of patients. 

handle millipede with care and love 


First time they have tasted a wild plant which their parents never knew its edible and full of vitamin C. They were referring to that little wild plant “a bad weed” but for us it’s a beautiful nectarine plant for butterflies and bees and full of medicinal value to all living beings. Mothers were surprised and were sad to learn about this plant as they were removing it from their lawns so far.  Well after the short walk we all ended up at the butterfly garden in the same premises and all were inspired to see how many butterflies can be attracted if we only plant some common plants and leave some “weeds” in our lawn. Then they all planted few chili plants at Dimah Farm. 

Carefully watching at a wetland...

Experiencing planting...

After these outdoor activities it was the real party time…we all went to Birthday boy’s home for food. 
The party was visible…..The table was arranged for food. The table cloth is not a fancy glittery plastic or polyester but it was a jute cloth with earth colour, table d├ęcor was so attractive, they have used some left over tree barks and stems and some commonly found leaves and flowers. It was such a creative table decor done by his elder sister Tiara.  




Then the food time…wow…here come the plates…kids were surprised as they were not ceramic or plastic or even not paper plates. They all were natural paper made out of natural Arecanut palm leaf (Areca catechu). So kids were already surprised and were asking questions about the plates. Next food..wow…all homemade, healthy natural food with no artificial colours, flavors or preservatives. Drinks were the same.

Kids were happy with food and even no paper napkins but used only cloth. Before we served food we advised them not to waste any food and we showed them that left over garbage was almost zero other than some accidentally dropped food items.

Then the game time started. They all got to gether around a small fire place and story time began and also with them we made some traditional play items using young coconuts and leaves to have their leaf crowns to act as kings. So it was truly a happy birthday party which is healthy for kids and healthy for Mother Earth.  We need more Nature parents and Nature kids like them!


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Guiding bunch of kids to connect with Natural environment at Dilmah arboretum, Moratuwa

We were invited to conduct an environmental programme for some kids as a part of a lesson at their elocution class. Therefore our team leader Ms. Kanchana suggested to have it at this beautiful place at Dilmah Conservation (https://www.dilmahconservation.org/arboretum/), where kids will get the opportunity to stay very close to natural environment and gain a memorable experience. We all at ECO-V too joined with the programme to get the training under Ms. Kanchana on 12th of December 2017. There were 12 kids, their English teacher and some mothers were there when we all went to the Dilmah center at 9am. After getting initial introduction by the staff member of Dilmah center the Nature tour started.


First session was visiting &exploring traditional agriculture museum which had very old and invaluable equipment used at the time that Sri Lanka was practicing more traditional and environmental friendly poison free agriculture system.  It was a great experience for kids to learn more about them and such sustainable system we had. ECO-V always talk about Eco friendly, waste free lifestyle where this little museum with traditional items helped us to explain the topic more effectively. There was a water carrier made out of melon fruit, slippers made out-of palm sheaths and deer skin, and traditional oil lamps with healthy oils used instead of kerosene. 




Then the “Nature safari” started around the urban forest that Dilmah center had created. ECO-V’s Nature Safari is unique as it shows the participants the way of connecting with Nature through five sensory organs. Ms. Kanchana interprets Nature and its elements and makes the connection of it with eyes, ears, nose tongue and skin in a way that the participant can absorb and experience that element in unforgettable way. 


It is simply a walk and interprets whatever we come across during that walk with close connection to mind and body. This way kids showed a real interest and asked many questions on whatever they saw. Kids got the opportunity to handle a millipede and a tadpole with care and love, taste some wild berries, smell leaves and bark and touch and hug trees and feel Nature while getting into other living beings shoes. 





Therefore it was memorable Nature Safari that they could not have thought of and it was a rare experience for kids most of them are living in the urban setup. After having a healthy snack in-between the second part was conducted at the butterfly garden at Dimah center. It was really entertaining even to us. The garden was full of various kinds of blooming flowers & colourful butterflies. Mrs.Kanchana introduced breeding & feeding plants in the garden as well as kinds of butterflies and their behavior. We took so many photographs of butterfly garden and shared them through facebook for share our priceless experience with other friends who missed this opportunity. Kids learnt about butterflies as pollinators, the importance of having a host plants at home. Mrs. kanchana strongly presented the idea of sharing whatever the space we have at home with these tiny insects who are important creatures of the survival of mankind.





That inspired kids to create their own butterfly garden at their home. I appreciate Mrs. Kanchana’s effort in motivating all of us towards environmental spirituality through these kinds of environmental programmes. Educating and inspiring kids, about environmental protection is very essential for our future existence. I knew that these kids had a transformation due to this programme when we had a chat with them and their mothers at the end of the programme. It’s really nice to see not only kids have learnt but also the mothers have learnt immensely out of ECO-V’s Nature Safari.


This is the ultimate goal of our programme. I was so happy and felt lucky to be part of this unique programme as a new comer to ECO-V family. 

- Wasana Maheshika - 

Back to Southern Province, Sri Lanka…

As a result of awareness program we held on Divisional Secretariat of Pitabeddara on 22nd of August, they planned to conduct several programs for the community and they specially aimed at school children. They all agreed that it’s easy to bring positive attitudinal changes among children rather than among adults. So again we were invited to Southern Province to continue our mission – creating awareness on sustainable waste Management.

On 6th November we started our awareness program series. First program on Idadukitha Primary School – Morawaka, More than 150 students from grade 1 to 5 were participated at our “Sustainable Waste Management and Conscious Consumerism” program. Yes, they were very little but actively and calmly gave their attention to us. We were careful enough to use entertaining strategies to keep them involved with the programme.


In the evening of the same day, 2nd program for staff members of Divisional Secretariat office - Kotapola, Deniyaya was conducted. Except staff members of Divisional office few grama niladari officers and development officers participated too. Since they are the grass root level government officers, they were the best messengers to the rural community.


Our 3rdprogramme was conducted on the 7th November 2017 at Morawaka Primary School. It was a very emotional moment as our staff member Chapa Erandi has studied at this school in 1999 – 2003 as a primary student and today she is back at school as one of the messengers for a healthy planet working at National Level. More than 300 students from grade 3 and 5 joined with us. As a result of early announcement they brought some processed and packeted food labels to learn E-numbers practically. Not only E-numbers they learnt how to sort out our waste into correct waste bins with colour codes, how to reduce polythene at our home front. To make them more interested in Nature we added some information on creating their own butterfly gardens and taught them to start loving other littles animals around them.

Reading lables
On the same day we completed the 4th programme for youths. Several representatives from local youth societies gathered to Divisional Secretariat office, Pitabeddara, Deniyaya. It was a pleasure to share our knowledge with them because youth were the most active group in the field. These energetic groups act as educators than apprentices. So they can engage in conservation oriented activities to protect environment through sustainable way.

Our 5th program was held on 8th November 2017 at Derangala Primary School, Pitabeddara. Again they were primary students. I saw most of them want to find out whether they have a safe drinking water bottle or not, when we talked about unhealthy plastic water bottles.

They all were very concerned about it which is a very positive sign. The other interesting topic for them was learning about making the Eco-brick. All showed a great interest towards it and tried making an eco-brick.
Making Eco bricks


Sitting on a Eco brick stool
Our next station was Kaduruwana Primary School - Pitabeddara held on 9th November morning.



It was a wonderful school. When we entered to school premises we felt they work hard to reduce waste and built green environment. The main reason behind this was their principle, he was well trained person for waste management and does it practically in his school with his staff and children. Except those little ones, principle was also avid about our session and effectively involved in the discussion.

We all were out of office for four days and working in the field very hard. We hardly had time to relax throughout this field work so it was the time to enjoy Nature. Therefore, we all decided to visit Hathmale Ella (a beautiful water fall) at Deniyaya even though it was a rainy day. Shape of water fall resembles seven necklaces (“mala hatha” in Sinhala language) and it was the reason for this water fall. It eventually falls as River “Gin”.



Deniyaya town is surrounded by Sinharaja Rain Forest and its climate is similar to NuwaraEliya, very cloudy and misty. 


It was very dark, misty and with cool breeze surrounding of the Kalubowitiyana Kanda, one of colossal but alone mountain. 


We felt like we stand closer to giant.We had couple of hours connected with Nature even though it was just a glimpse of beautiful Deniyaya area.

At the end of our program series we felt happy because we created our presentations in comprehensive and conceivable way especially for primary students. I’m sure they learnt a lot from it. It was a gratification to me that I had a chance to get involved in it and it was very valuable when we contribute our time and knowledge to talk to those little ones. They are our future generation. Some schools did not have proper facilities like big halls, multimedia or enough seating but their courage and curiosity suppressed those barriers.

limited facilities
The principle is making the screen with a teacher

Finally, I want to give my gratitude to the Divisional Secretariat, Pitabeddara, specially to the productivity Officer Ms. Subodhini who organized these events. 

Mrs. Subodhini is supporting to children to make Eco bricks
It was a great community service done by them to protect environment and create healthy generation for future.

- Waruni Kanchana - 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

ECO-V goes Tri-lingual for the awareness on Sustainable Future for protecting Mother Nature!

ECO-V has floated various programs for schools children in Sinhala and English mediums since 2001. Now we have started to create awareness among school children in Tamil medium. This successful series of awareness sessions were organized by Caritas EHED, Batticaloa ( https://www.facebook.com/caritasbatti/ ) which is well known member of the Diakonia family (Our funding partner) https://www.diakonia.se/en/ . Also we would like to give our special compliment to Kowshayini Pathmanadan who gave her contribution as a volunteer. She did same session thrice in Tamil medium for 3 teams from 6 schools at Batticaloa area.


Here what Kowshayini writes on her experience gained through the programme...

Life turning Journey 
ECO - V is a voluntary organization rendering enormous services to the nature and community. It was a greatest blessing to me to join with ECO - V. I got this precious opportunity to join with ECO - V through Ms. Lakmini Koralegedara when ECO-V conducted a stall under “Green City“ section of VIDYA 2017 - Science Exhibition & Trade Fair, University of Kelaniya. I am a graduate in Environmental conservation and management, Department of Zoology and Environmental Management, Faculty of Science, University of Kelaniya (2017).
So I started volunteering with them. I felt so special when I entered into the ECO - V office at Borelesgamuwa as everything was nature friendly. I was requested to translate some leaflets from English to Tamil for the Batticaloa awareness program. That was a great time with the staff members knowing how they joined ECO - V, their nature friendly activities and their research interests etc. Most importantly I could meet Mrs. Kanchana, president of ECO - V, on the same day for the first time and I felt so blessed. 
I was trained by Ms. Chapa Erandi Amarasinghe on the topic of “conscious consumerism “in a very descriptive and effective manner. We started our journey to Batticaloa on 23rd of October in the early morning, I was very excited as I was visiting to Batticaloa for the first time. The journey was very interesting as we were traveling from the west point, Colombo to the East end of Sri Lanka; Batticaloa passing several districts in-between. When passing Kurunagala, Polanaruwa and Minneriya, both sides of the road were represented by lush green forest habitat which always make a journey very pleasant and beautiful. We reached Batticaloa around 3 pm and in the evening we could visit few places including Batticaloa fort, Kallady beach and the famous Amirthakali Mamanga Pillayar temple. Batticaloa is a very beautiful place with very kind people. 

Batticaloa Fort

Kallady Beach
Kallady Beach
Amirthakali Mamanga Pillayar temple
 On the next day the awareness program was organized by Caritas EHED, commenced at 9 am with the welcome speech. There were around 300 students participated from several schools of Batticaloa for the poster exhibition, quiz competition and awareness programme on conscious consumerism, mainly focused on food. School students were very attentive throughout the programme. In my point view, the best job in the world is creating awareness among the students who are the future leaders of the country. I really enjoyed and felt so responsible when sharing very essential facts of healthy food consumption. Kids were also trained in sustainable waste Management and making Eco Bricks.








After the programme, we were able to drive to Pasikudah, a very beautiful beach with white sand, algae and coral reefs.





We could enjoy a cloudy evening which was about to rain on the way back to Colombo. Soothing breeze, lush vegetation on both the sides of the road, group of flying small birds made that time a real heaven. This will be a memorable journey and initial step of my passion.  And I thank ECO - V for giving me this wonderful opportunity.