The month of June was so busy, tired but was very productive. It was the month that many people in the world talk about Mother Nature. For us at ECO-V last June was important just because of environmental month but also we completed our 7th Yathra. ...

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  1. Vanni Yathra 2018 – A journey of reconciliation through environmental sustainability.
  2. Vanni Yathra 2018 update from field.....
  3. Youth Journey on its way - Vanni Yathra 2018
  4. New Country, New life but with similar activities…
  5. Healthy, zero waste and happy birthday party connecting with Mother Nature!
  6. More Recent Articles

Vanni Yathra 2018 – A journey of reconciliation through environmental sustainability.



The month of June was so busy, tired but was very productive. It was the month that many people in the world talk about Mother Nature. For us at ECO-V last June was important just because of environmental month but also we completed our 7th Yathra. 

Today I feel very proud and happy. The second generational leadership of ECO-V has emerged!!! When I started ECO-V in 2001 I never had a dream of driving it this far. Its 17 years now and I was the leader in all activities we did though I had very good supportive team and situational leaders. I was so tired and wanting to stay behind….Since I left Sri Lanka in January to join with my family in New Delhi, thanks to Waruni, Chapa and Jayani, ECO-V office and some of its activities had a second generational leadership. Then I gave the challenge to Chapa organizing our 7th Yathra without my leadership. She took the challenge and organized it, conducted it and completed it with a great success. This 7thYathra was dedicated to Newton our member from North as he had a dream of conducting a Yathra in North since he had the record of participating all past 6 yathras.

So  7th Yathra named as vanni Yathra – a journey of reconciliation through Environmental Sustainability is over now. My dream came true as my participation for the Yathra was only 3 days and that’s only for training component at the beginning and at the end. Rest was completely done by Chapa and Newton of course with the support of Waruni and Jayani from ECO-V office and alumni of Yathras Dhanushka and Gayani. A very big thank you goes to my young team which is our future for a better Mother Nature!!



Newton and Chapa
Newton and Chapa with Waruni and Gayani who were main responsible team members for Vanni Yathra 2018

Conducting a Yathra in North was a challenge. Language barriers, less contribution from local communities, distance from Colombo, less concern for Nature conservation (as they have their own social issues) and lack of awareness on environmental issues. Newton was struggling a lot to find Tamil speaking youth as participants for the Yathra as many were not interested in committing themselves for 10 day ride. It may be due to lack of understanding and not seeing the importance of getting such training. On the other hand, Chapa had a challenge of selecting youth as we got so many applications and had to select only 15 of them allowing Newton to have another 15 from North. The yathra was designed to have a Tamil, Sinhala and of course Muslim youth in equal numbers. Chapa and ECO-V had the main challenge in getting funds (just because my involvement was minimal and Chapa was not having enough experience in fund raising and Newton could not do it at all from Northern province). Thanks to Journeys for Climate Justice and Diakonia majority of funds came in. However, Chapa got her team and Newton got his team and made 30 membered team. All of them met in Kilinochchi on the 2ndof June 2018. I joined with them on 3rd June and started the pre-journey. I felt very happy as by the time I joined, ECO-V team had done a many activities to break ice and build up the team spirit and I had to the theory part related to Climate Change and sustainability.
Newton conducting training 




Gayani recording the training session


Early morning meditation session conducted by me
showing how to connect with trees

Meeting Selva (Newton and Selva were the first ever Tamil youth we had for Yathras)

On 4th of June, all joined with District Secretariat where Newton works, to meet the government agent and planted trees. He also joined to ride with our Yathra team for a short distance to celebrate the World Bicycle day (3rd of June) declared by UN for the first time. I also had an opportunity to ride for a short distance which made me very happy too.  
Newton and me cycling together in Kilinochchi 

It was really funny as I had to rush to the Kilinochchci base hospital early in the morning with Madhushan the youngest youth participant as he got a minor allergic reaction. Instead of riding a two wheel bicycle he had to sit on wheel chair and get admitted to hospital. He was very upset but luckily he got discharged by afternoon.

Instead of a bicycle he was having a ride on a Wheel Chair


Meeting with Col. Shantha Kahagalle and other officers of Sri Lanka Army  in Kilinochchi

After visiting Iranamadu Tank and having met Col. Shantha Kahagalle who was a great support for getting food and making logistic arrangements for next few days along the yathra route, I left North and came back to Colombo.

From the next day onwards I was not with them physically so they had to take their own decisions matching with the situation. I got updates via phone in the evening and I guess Chapa wanted to make sure that she was correct. 

The next few paragraphs are written by Chapa as I was not there, 

Vanni Yathra team celebrated World Environmental Day (5th June) with Sri Lanka Army and school children in Kilinochchi, and world Ocean Day on 8th of June at Mullativu with District Secretariat by conducting many awareness programmes, tree planting activities and spending more time to connect with Mother Nature.
 
This is the route of Vanni Yathra 2018

On 6th of June the yathra team were riding bicycles towards Puththukudiyippu form Visuvamadu where they lodged in previous night. During the journey they were invited to conduct an awareness session on food safety and impacts on polythene and plastics at Puththukudiyirippu Central College that suddenly organized by Col. Anil Perera (23SLNG) with the support of few school staff members.
youth conducting the training session for students 
Nadia distributing leaflets to school children

On 7thof June the team celebrated the World Ocean Day occurred on 8th of June in every year since they were passing Mulativu coastal area on that day. They got an opportunity to conduct a session on “Ocean pollution and World Ocean Day” for staff members of Mulativu District Secretariat. In addition they presented a street drama and created awareness at main bus stand in Mulativu town. In the evening the yathra team got a great opportunity to learn on birds nearby Nanthikadal lagoon.
During street drama

The team waked up too early in 8thmorning since their accommodation of  previous night; the lake view park nearby Madawalasingha lake which owned by 592 brigade of Sri Lanka Army, was a very charming and environmental friendly venue. The team did few nature activities on the bank of Lake such as “Surya Namaskaraya”, few Yoga postures, Wirlies Musical therapy and talking with trees.

Soorya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) 


connecting with Trees 


youth playing an drelaxing through the Wirlies the music instrument 

After that they started their journey towards Nedunkeni along Kulamurippu forest reserve and Naagachcholeii forest reserve. During the journey they rested few hours near by a lake and did few group activities which helped to enhance their personality.
connecting with Nature like a caterpillar.....
Butterflies mud puddling 

Team watching butterflies

On 9th of June the yathra team were riding bicycles towards Pulliyankulam form Nedunkeni. They learnt and discussed on 10 R Process which explained how to minimize domestic waste generating. In addition the team did few activities to develop their communication skills.

Wow...I was so happy to get to know all about these activities they have done without me. Thank you Chapa for adding above words. 

I was eagerly waiting for the 10thof June as it was my time to join with the team again in Vavuniya. I met them on the way and joined with the lunch and an awareness programme at Central Bus stand Vavuniya. That was their last riding day and we all went together to Sevarest center run by Sevalanka foundation. 
youth creating awareness on food labels for chemicals. 

Awareness creating inside a public bus 

Talking about roadside biodiversity 

local people who joined and listen to us
Together as a team in Vavuniya Bus Stand getting ready for a street drama

Last day was full of post journey training and day was started by another environmental meditation conducted by me. All what we did was making sure all these trained 30 youth are going to continue their sustainable life style they experienced and pass the knowledge to next generation and be a Green Leader forever. So everybody knew it was end of a memorable journey and a life time experience. Finally, during the closing ceremony while giving certificates, we announced that they are getting a present. The bike!!! They were so thrilled to know that they were getting their bike as a present which was a friend for last 10 days.

According to the feedback we have received, all Yathrees were very happy about the experience they got while spending nights with minimal facilities, riding longer hours in hot sun and rough wind, with less time to rest and mainly no time with their hand phones (the main rules were no phones other than just before bedtime and no selfies during journey).


Newton Gayani Me Chapa and Dhanushka 
Dhanushka who is one of great resources ECO-V has from Udawalawa,  played a very important role as a mature leader by riding at the end of the line, repairing bikes and giving the moral support to youth who were tired and riding slowly. He was nicknamed as Bicycle Doctor and youth have commented that they learnt lot from Dhanushka too. Gayani added her experience in making changes in government sector (many positive stories since she completed Kelani nadee Yathra - 2011 our first Journey) where she is working at and her knowledge on Paleo biodiversity and archaeology.
My brother Ajith join again for the 7th time as the videographer and is is such a gift we have as he always comes as a volunteer and help us making the video film on Yathras. 
Ajith filming yathra
All past Yathrees who added teh experience (Newton, Gayani, Me, Chapa, Dhanushka and Ajith) 

I was just watching them with a smile and slightly guiding them whenever needed but mainly it was them who did it!!!!! So the vanni yathra 2018 is over with many positive change makers produced and let’s wait for ripple effects.
 I personally want to thank my friends, well wishers and followers and members of Journeys for Climate Justice who donated money for us to raise the required amount for buying bikes and helmets. So all bikes are gifted to youth and you will be getting more information via this blog about the ripple effects in near future about the change that they will make as Green leaders. Thank you all!!!! 



 
    

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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanni_(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 (http://www.journeysforclimatejustice.org.au/)  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 (https://www.diakonia.se/en/Where-we-work/Asia/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.



 
    

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.auand 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.


 
    

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 26thof 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 22ndof 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!

    

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 10thBirthday. 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 décor 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!


    

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