Saturday, June 9, 2018

Vanni Yathra 2018 update from field.....

Our 7th Yathra which is named as Vanni Yathra is on its way. Today is it’s 8th  day and 2 more days to go. I could not update you all as internet connection is very slow in the remote areas of journey route so I did not get pictures on time. 

The name for this yathra is just because it’s taking place in Vanni District at the Northern province of Sri Lanka ( The journey will cover officially 3 administrative districts named Kilinochchi, Mullativ and Vavuniya.  The majority of people are Tamil speaking and there are some Sinhala speaking communities in Vavuniya mainly.

Vanni area is home town for Isaiyalan Newton a yathree since 2011 (a youth who participated in a yathra is called a yathree). He is the one who requested for a yathra to be organized in his area. Then we at ECO-V decided to give him the responsibility of taking it forward. However, it was always challenging him to do it alone due to many reasons including lack of support from his own community. His own community was the victims of 30 years of war we had in North and not many people are willing to take the leadership for any positive activity even nearly 10 years have passed after finishing war. Lack of financial support or community support or even political support for any environmental activities was challenging and frustrating. Therefore, we at ECO-V decided to give him support with another alumnus of our Ruhunu Yathra in 2016. Chapa Erandi was very keen on taking the lead with Newton and took the responsibility of organizing whole Yathra from ECO-V side. 
Newton and Chapa planting a tree during yathra while a child from local community watch it.

This is the first time that two young leaders are taking the lead as all other 6 Yathras were mainly my responsibility and I took the lead. Therefore, I feel very happy now as we have produced second generation leadership in environmental campaigning and Green leadership through yathras. I was with them within first two days and really wanted to be with them more, but was determined to give them their freedom to conduct it and learn and experience through it without my leadership. I conducted few training session and had a short ride and came back to Colombo. 
During my training session before journey started 

At Iranamadu Tank describing a tree 

While I was conducting my favorite activity the Environmental meditation 

Like all other past Yathras Journeys for Climate Justice from Melbourne – JCJ (  is with us and supported to buy 30 bikes and helmets while raising funds encouraging donors to offset their travel carbon. The Diakonia Sri Lanka ( is our main funder for all other activities of yathra this time. We managed to get support from some other cooperate and NGO partners and also through individual donors too. 
Logos of all supporters 

team with Vanni Yathra banner 

However, Sri Lanka Army and Police were very supportive too. Without Sri Lanka Army getting food in North of Sri Lanka would have been a nightmare as not like any other Yathra the civil society support was very weak in North Province. Today is the 8th day of yathra and everything was very successful so far and team is spending night at a army camp today. 

30 youth who are riding at the moment are in high spirit. Our videographer who is my own brother Ajith Weerakoon joined with us for the 7th time and filming every bit of it. Without him having documentary films on Yathra would not be a possible as it’s very expensive to get somebody hired but Ajith is doing this voluntarily. 
Nadia is being interviewed by Ajith

Dhanushka is being interviewed by Ajith

Praneeth taking pictures

Also we have Praneeth our volunteer to still photography who is the husband of ECO-V’s Waruni. Chapa’s Husband, Ishan is also a great supporter in IT side who designed Yathra logo

Thank you Ishan for designing this logo. 
and technically helping us in all IT related work. Our past yathree Dhanuka from Ruhunu Yathra is also working on Face book posts as he could not join with Yathra this time. Dhanushka who is with us this time as past Yathree is the bicycle doctor as he has good experience from Paapedi 2013. Gayani too is joining with Yathra as a trainer and I am so blessed to have these Green leaders around ECO-V as they all are products of previous Yathras. 
Ishan and Gayani during selection of youth for Vanni Yathra

Gayani, Waruni, Dhanushka and Chapa at ECO-V office just before they went to North

As we always wished youth are showing so many ripple effects. When we started JCJ in 2010 it was our objective. Instead of planting trees with offset money we wanted to "plant Green leaders" who will show more ripple effects in  combating Climate Change! Today we see the results, all green leaders we planted (trained) through journeys are showing so many ripple effects in many fields in the country and they are already involved in planting (training) more new green leaders by themselves. So what else should we do???

8 days of Vanni yathra are gone and 2 more days are there…I am waiting to join them again soon and will hear their stories, share their happiness and changes took place within yathra…then I will share them with you too.