Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Vesak – the most important religious festival for Buddhists

We celebrated the most important religious festival for Buddhists in Sri Lanka on 15th and 16th of May. Vesak which is for Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death is the most colorful festival that celebrated by Sri Lankan Buddhists.
We had a huge enthusiasm to do something to celebrate this festival in our area. Neighbours in our area got together weeks before the festival .They decided to decorate the lane and let the kids participate in community activities. We decorated the street with Buddhist flags and then on Vesak day we lighted lanterns and hung them on bamboo trees that we planted (cut shoots were planted on ground just for few days to hang the lanterns). The kids who come for ECO-V kids programs enjoyed these decorations and learnt about the festival too. The beauty of the event was participation of Christian neighbours who participated enthusiastically at the event by giving us bamboo trees and lighting the lanterns on Vesak day. Isn’t this a wonderful event which shows social cohesion?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Last child in the woods -Fun for kids through Nature at ECO-V (Thiresi Lama Hamuwa)

Thiresi Lama Hamuwa is the newly formed group for kids under age of 15 by ECO-V. This was a dream coming true for me as I have been planning to start an educational session for kids who were associated with ECO-V. I designed a separate environmental educational package for them with my new experience gained by working with children in Australia. After two months of my return, I am happy that I was able to start it. As a trial, I organized the New Year celebration for kids and also Vesak activities in April and May. Now we have a well formed group of kids in our neighborhood who are learning about Nature every week on Sundays while having fun.
After reading the book “Last child in the woods by Richard Louv”, I was determined to do something for our kids to prevent them going away from nature. I know my two kids were growing up with nature from childhood. But I noticed most of their friends did not have the same freedom and knowledge on their surroundings. Most of the parents today are scared about sending their kids to outdoor as they are scared about them getting hurt, getting allergies, or for losing time for homework (studies) and simply just because parents were not aware of the advantages of children being with nature closely. About two years ago my two boys were the only kids who were playing outside on the dusty road and among the bushes in our neighborhood. Since I started few activities for the kids others have also followed. Today with the confidence they have and after seeing the advantages of knowing about nature most of the parents around send their kids to learn about nature at ECO-V.
A big thank goes to Westgarth Mothers group in Melbourne (which Libby helped me to form and raised funds to help needy kids in Sri Lanka) who danated piles of second hand story books. I am using them to these kids now to teach them English. Last week they heard about the story..."The Rainbow fish".... and drew it and learnt about a garden bird too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Year in Australia and Sri Lanka

My family and Jim at Camp Eureka
Boingology, Warbuton,Melbourne.

In January 2011, we were able to see the way Melbourne celebrated the New Year. Fire works, greetings, laughs, smiles and happy faces of people wishing each other a “happy New Year!” That was a n interesting experience.  Also we could experience how some other Melbourne people celebrated New Year too. Thanks to Jim Crosthwaite, our dear friend (Co Founder of JCJ) in Melbourne,  we were invited  to spend few days at Camp Eureka ( http://campeureka.org.au/) . It was a great experience for our family to spend few days on camping especially on the first day of the year. It was something similar to Sri Lanka as camp environment reminded us Sinharaja  Kudawa camp. We enjoyed New Year there by watching the nature, visiting a Buddhist Temple in Warbuton and visiting places like Boingology. Boingology is a new concept of art done by using wood carvings and left over materials (http://www.boingabob.com/). I conducted early morning environmental meditation and we all enjoyed cooking together (I cooked Sri Lankan style lentils), late evening cultural event where we all got together and performed.
When we came back to Sri Lanka in March I became busy with my work again after a year. On top of that Sinhala Tamil New year was in April. As it is the most important cultural event for us I had to get ready as soon as I came back. Unfortunately it was not a very happy New year (April 14th) for my family as we all had to attend my best friend’s (Thilini Herath) funeral. It was heart breaking and we postponed all our social commitments. We went to Matale where I lived during my schooling days with my friend Thilini.

Laughing competition
"Lime on spoon" race
Some how I had to overcome the shock and had to face the reality so I was convinced to organize New Year festival for the kids in our neighborhood. It was an event that I started two years ago.  20 kids from 10 houses in our neighborhood came to my house (ECO-V office too) and enjoyed the afternoon of 7th May actively participating in the games and events that we organized to celebrate the Sinhala Tamil New year.  On the same day morning I had a meeting with some of the active members of ECO-V to discuss about 10th Anniversary. Of course it was the first meeting since I came back to Sri Lanka. We also discussed about next project of ECO-V the Kelani Nadee Yatra (www.journeysforclimatejustice.org.au). All were very positive about it and promised to give their fullest support to make it successful.