Monday, May 21, 2018

Youth Journey on its way - Vanni Yathra 2018



Newton 

This is Isaiyalan Newton -  we got to know in August 2011. Since then he became "Our Newton". He was involved with LTTE Tamil tigers so many year during the war we had in Sri Lanka. He was appointed to join with us in our first ever journey – Kelani Nadee yathra (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfcefmB9OkI) when he was under rehabilitation process. Since then he got involved with all the Journeys we conducted to create “Green leaders”

Newton during Kolamba Yathra 2015

He slowly got established as true Green leader. he changed his lifestyle, became vegetarian, stopped drinking fizzy drinks, fight against environmental pollution and unhealthy life style. Participated in many training programmes, campaigned and became an environmental activist and a champion in Northern Province. He learnt Sinhalese very fast and became the Sinhala- Tamil translator for our programmes. Whenever we said we have a prgramme he always traveled from Kilinochchi and early morning 6am he at our office door step. Today he is going to drive his own Journey - "Vanni Yathra" with the support of Chapa Erandi another young yathree (participant of previous journey) who emerged through Ruhunu Yathra 2016. After that she became permanent staff member of ECO-V after volunteering with us for few months. Today she is the coordinator to Climate change and sustainability projects of ECO-V.  

Chapa Erandi the Vanni Yathra Southern Leader
She will take the lead of 15 youth from South of Sri Lanka and will join with Newton who has his own team of 15 youth from North on 3rd of June to ride their common bicycle journey together towards sustainability and reconciliation through Mother Earth!  

This is what they are going to do...They will ride bicycles starting on World Bicycle day (3rd June 2018) for 10 days covering 3 main districts in Northern Province with 30 youth. During the journey they will learn about Climate Change, Biodiversity, Sustainability, connections with Nature, Food Security and food safety and of course they will enjoy Nature by watching birds, connecting with trees while planting more trees etc. They will also create awareness on above topics to general public, security forces and school children. Once they finish the journey, they will go home with their bikes and start empowering their local communities and will become messengers for sustainable living. 

So as president of ECO-V and president of Journeys for Climate Justice, I am trying to lead these youth by helping them to raise funds and guiding them in coordination the journey. They are trying to raise some more funds to cover expenses for buying bikes. Thanks to many who supported us so far we have collected enough funds to purchase 15 bikes. So we have to buy 15 more bikes and its only 1200 Australian Dollars. Our Australian organization; Journeys for climate justice came on board again and set up online system to raise funds for this journey. So I really wish that our blog readers will give their blessings and contribute even small portions of money to raise some funds for this yathra. The link for donations is at www.jcj.org.au and you can use Paypal and pay to JCJ bank account. Aus Dollar 80 will be enough to buy a bike and a helmet. You can contribute even with a small amount which means that even one dollar will help us to achieve our target.

So Vanni Yathra is about to start with youth leadership immerged through ECO-V. This time I will be just the retired driver of the journey as I really wanted these two to lead the journey without my active participation. So I am watching them but will be with them physically and spiritually to be the strength to them.

I know our friends, supporters and well wishes will be with them too. Thank you for trusting ECO-V and admiring our work!

When I lead journey - Paapedi in 2013.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

New Country, New life but with similar activities…



Four months of the year 2018 are already gone….I feel bad for not writing a fresh blog for whole 2018. when I look back it’s being an amazing beginning ….with so many changes and new adjustments. It is a turning point in my life as well as at ECO-V. We as a family shifted to New Delhi, India. So officially now we live in the capital of India. The reason is purely personal as Thushara got promoted to regional office of World health organization, so we decided to join with him as a family. I took it as an opportunity for ECO-V to grow up as an independent organization without me being the driving force . Still I can be the supervisor but ECO-V is not depending on me anymore, which is one of my dreams.

January was the month that I came here and got settled down and took some time to absorb and understand what I want to do in rest of my life and observe the paths I have here. Also it was the month ECO-V was walking through the conservation path without my presence at office. Thanks to technology I got connected with my team via WhatsApp almost every day. So it was constant communication with Waruni, Chapa, Jayani and Wasana. However, I kept travelling on every month to Sri Lanka. 

What I missed most was My Chabby (the cat), Kalu (the dog) and our Eco and Metta Gardens. I know they all are under good care. Thanks to online searching I found a farm here – The Edible Routes and made my first official contact with them on 20th of January. So by 26th of January I started my own terrace Garden which was truly a happy start for me here in New Delhi. Wow…it was really new as everything I had to purchase such as soil, compost, coco peat, and containers. It showed me how precious these resources are. In Sri Lanka, almost all these resources are freely available. I was so happy to see the progress of my container garden on my terrace. 
on 26th of January 2018

On 6th February 2018

On 15th of March 2018

On 27th of march 2018

Well I found my kind of space on my terrace and started making my compost using my kitchen waste. 
Home composter made by me using clay pots
My home composter which I bought


I never mixed my waste since I arrived here so it was a very hard battle for me to teach my maid how to separate waste and why not mix it and how precious water and electricity is etc…I started my Eco bricks and constantly talked about it with Edible Routes staff. So it was lot of hard work for me to continue my green practices with my Indian maid and friends.

But luckily I found some like minded parents at The British School New Delhi where Nipuna was schooling at. They loved the idea and we had several meetings with school management board and by 22nd of April, on the Earth day, we launched our Eco Brick Movement at the school. Also I contributed ideas for new Green policy of the school. How wonderful it was??? I was so thrilled as four months have gone and I never felt that I was not working and I kept walking on my green path and continued the eco practices we were having in Sri Lanka, as a family and professional. So now I feel really happy as somehow I made that difference and also I learnt many new things. I started making my own organic detergents using citrus peels, found soap nuts and other alternatives for cleaning and washing.
Also made some connections with organic markets here and those are growing up spaces exactly like our own Good Market in Colombo. 
Saturday organic Market at Vasanth Vihar




At the beginning of April we shifted to a new apartment. It has a beautiful terrace garden.  I am proudly announcing that I did not give any of my waste to the waste truck here since we moved into new apartment and continue my zero waste life style while teaching others how to do it. I have my own Eco bricks, composter and place for collection of recyclable waste. So I am managing my own waste very responsibly. 
Our own Terrace garden (did not create by me but the owner of apartment did)






As of today I am a member of some wonderful networks here together we are trying our best to fight with air pollution, sustainable waste management and I am learning about trees and butterflies of India. I already conducted some training workshops, presentations on 10R and Eco bricks at schools and public. Planted trees too. 


Tree planting on Earth Day

Eco Brick workshop for kids at British School New Delhi

Eco bricks we made 

Met Mrs. Maneka Ghandhi (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maneka_Gandhi) one of my inspiring characters in conservation field. 
With Ms. Maneka Gandhi

So life is flowing along same path same manner at a different place on this Mother Earth!

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 -