Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New Year celebrations with “Friends of Pelicans” and awareness programmes in the weekend

Last week we celebrated Sinhala-Hindu New year which is the biggest cultural event in Sri Lanka. This is the time when people forget and forgive and get-together with every member in the society to start a New Year.

We all visited our parents with presents and kids enjoyed the school holiday as it is full of traditional sweets like “kevum, Udu Walalu, Kokis and Athirasa” All Sinhalese and Hindus cooked traditional milk rice, and eat them at a particular time Islanwide. They all go to temple during Avurudu period to get the blessings. For Thushara and me, New Year was a busy time again as we had to submit a proposal for a grant. But we all were with our parents where kids enjoyed playing with their in-laws and grand parents.

After the New Year celebrations I visited Udawalawa as the “Friends of Pelicans” also have arranged a small New Year celebration for everybody. They have arranged a reception with all kind of sweets and we had a very happy and quite celebration there. I came back on the same day as I had to attend a workshop on the following day. I was invited to deliver a lecture on “How youth can develop their lives by closely associating the nature”. This three day youth workshop was organized by Sarvodaya for 80 children of 13-16 age representing 4 districts of Sri Lanka.

I talked about how youth can sharpen their five senses by closely mingling with nature and how those senses could be used to develop themselves in their day to day lives by respecting, protecting other living beings around them.

Sunday was dedicated to the programme for pregnant mothers where 45 would be parents participated. All parents were very emotional at the end of the programme. They explained how great to know that their unborn baby can be directed to nature conservation and they all said that it was a great feeling and experience they had for the first time in their lives.

Please visit our website (www.eco-v.org) to read more about our work and we have updated the blog with new video clips of pelican conservation project.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

ECO-V completes its Tsunami work - 2

Last Sunday morning on my way back from opening "Green Monestry", I visited another family whom we helped during tsunami. Do you believe that this family has 11 members? It was only 10 when we found them in a small hut in Galle and now they have a new member added to their family. I just went their to hand over the deed for their land. We were really happy to note that how our contributions have changed their lives. All our friends who contributed to these worthy causes of helping the victims can be happy, that every cent of their money was spent to change the lives of many victims in Sri Lanka. But I should mention that this project was possible mainly due to the tireless and selfless efforts of Mrs. Thilaka Arambawela and Mrs. Vajira who has been our volunteers coordinating this project.

So this completes the Tsunami rehabilitation and you can visit our website at http://www.eco-v.org/ to read the full report on Tsunami rehabilitation activities.


ECO-V completes its Tsunami work - Haritha Asapuwa

Last Saturday was a very special day for ECO-V and its members. I participated in the green monastery (Haritha asapuwa) opening ceremony at Manawila, Walahanduwa in Galle. This was the last task we accomplished with the money donated by our well-wishers to Tsunami victims of Sri Lanka. Although it’s not completely finished, chief priest of the temple Ven.Keradawala Pungnarathana Thero wanted have an opening ceremony. Still we have to complete the third floor of the building and Thero wanted to use this ceremony to get the people to contribute for the next stage of the temple. ECO-V has also been looking for the funds for the rest of the project and has been unsuccessful so far but hope to help the Thero whenever we can to complete the monastery. It was a dream coming true though our organization still does not have a proper place for ECO-V office and I operate from my home. But the chief priest and the other people work with us for Tsunami victims were happy as this was a really a fulfilling moment in their lives especially as Buddhists. We have named this temple as “Haritha asapuwa” and we hope the devotees of the temple will carry our message on environmental conservation in to their lives. We also wish that the new temple will be a place that advocates environmental consciousness among its community in years to come. Some of beneficiaries during Tsunami and our members participated in the event and the Pirith chanting ceremony that followed in the Saturday night.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) Conference and Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) award.

I have been selected to present a paper on ECO-V’s Pelican conservation work at the annual conference of SCB in July in Chattanooga, USA. This is the second time I am going to present our work at a SCB conference. Last time it was in Brazil in year 2005 where I got the opportunity meet some other researchers working on Great White Pelicans and shared many ideas with them.

This time I am going to talk about the challenges we faced during our pelican project during last 4 years and also how we created awareness and consciousness on this threatened species among different stakeholders who had zero knowledge (scientific and behavioral information) on pelicans and their habitats and how they became nature lovers and conservationists.

ECO-V received the continuation award for Pelican Project from Conservation Leadership programme (CLP) (Former BP awards) this year which is a great encouragement. The award ceremony and the training will be held in Chattanooga, USA in July. Harsha, our field coordinator to the Pelican Conservation Project has been nominated for the training and he will be attending the SCB conference too which would be an interesting experience for both of us to attend the conference together. I have already received this training in 2003 when I won the first award from CLP. Our team has also been selected to get a 5 days training course on GIS sponsored by CLP following the SCB conference which would be very useful for both our Pelican project and the Kalu Wandura (Leaf langur) Project.

Our “Friends of Pelicans” at Udawalwa were delighted about this news as they can continue their good work with additional funding to sharpen their skills through our association for another year.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

First Exhibition on Western Purple-faced Langur

As I mentioned before, last weekend was very much important for the Friends of Pelicans team from Udawalawe. They made their first appearance as a team for environmental conservation at the exhibition ECO-V organized with the Dr. Rudy’s team on conservation of Western purple-faced langur (WPFL). I was happy and thrilled to see them working with the people and the enthusiasm they showed during the exhibition. Now I am sure ECO-V has achieved the objective of taking the conservation actions to the villages and empowering them with the knowledge for them to protect the Mother Nature around them. My next goal will be to fulfill my dream of starting the ECO-V conservation education programe for the village youth in other districts of Sri Lanka where we have worked before. This will be the next step for us and it is another step going beyond our more popular youth camps.

Exhibition on WPFL was a success at Pulinathalaramaya temple in Kalutara (North) and lot of kids who participated in the essay and art completions organized by Dr. Rudy’s team was present there to receive their prices. Hon. Patali Champika Ranwaka, Minister of Environment and Natural resources was there to open the exhibition for the public. He too explained the importance of conservation of WPFL and promised the government patronage to the project. We had a hard day of explaining the importance of WPFL and trying to get the message across to the people of the area on WPFL. Friends of Pelicans were very active and independent through out the exhibition. Head Priest of the temple Ven. Dodampahala Siri Suguna Thero was very happy about the exhibition and wanted to continue the work in the district. In fact he asked me to form a team called “Friends of Kalu Vandura” the Sinhala name for the WPFL. The next exhibition will be held at the temple in Waga after the New Year festival. Dr. Rudy’s team members were very pleased with the end of the exhibition as it has happened as they have planned.

Next weekend ECO-V members will be traveling to Galle for the weekend to open the Haritha Asapauwa (Green Monastery) to complete their Tsunami rehabilitation programme.