Dilmah Conservation’s celebration of World Environment Day (WED) 2014 encouraged children between the ages of 13 – 19 to explore and identify the impacts of climate chance on our environment through a special art competition. The contest, titled BE AWARE, TAKE CARE – CLIMATE CHANGE PHOTO COMPETITION was aimed at gearing young minds to recognize negative effects of climate change faced by Sri Lanka. With the declaration of the year 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States by the United Nations General Assembly, the theme for World Environment Day 2014 was focused on the conservation and protection of vibrant cultures, rich ecosystems and the unique biodiversity of Island Developing States.
While the competition urged numerous submissions of impressive drawings and detailed illustrations, the paintings of 16 children were selected as the winning entries. They are Amila Harshana, K. Virukshan, Sanjeewani Priyanka, Nimron Fernando, M.A.F Apsa, J. Sudharshan, U.K Madushan Dananjaya, Aloksha Weerasiri, Ravishka Sankath, Sugathan Perera, Supun Senarathne, P. Dilukshan, Fathima Nafla, Tharushi Ariyarathne, Isuri Kulatunga and Y. Krishanthani. Not only did their depictions offer insight into the impacts of climate change in our own country, they also projected the theme through the eyes of young and growing minds, bringing to life the emotions and concerns associated with children experiencing natural disasters faced by Sri Lanka.
The winners embarked on an all-expense paid guided winners’ day tour on the 28th of August 2014 and headed to Uda Walawe which lies on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces in the south of Sri Lanka. The excursion organized by Dilmah Conservation took the kids to the Mankada Centre for Traditional Arts & Crafts, Uda Walawe Elephant Transit Home and the famed Uda Walawe National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.
The children first arrived at the Mankada Centre for Traditional Arts & Crafts where they took part in a pottery making workshop that involved hand rolling clay and using the potter’s wheel.
Reflecting Dilmah Settlor Merrill J. Fernando’s vision of making business a matter of human service, the MJF Charitable Foundation initiated the Mankada Project to empower communities through traditional arts and crafts.
The work at the centre primarily focuses on supporting marginalised communities living on the periphery of the Uda Walawe National Park. Here, the daughters of impoverished farmers are taught not only pottery techniques but business management and language skills to improve living conditions within their village and encourage sustainable industry growth. The winners took part in the day-to-day activities of Mankada and were introduced to various techniques, tools and other aspects of this traditional form of art and livelihood.
The tour took them next to the Elephant Transit Home (ETH), also located in Uda Walawe. The Elephant Transit Home founded in 1995 is today home to over 40 orphaned or abandoned elephant calves between the ages of 1-5 years. These rescued elephants who cannot survive in the wild alone are nurtured and cared for by a dedicated team of keepers. Since its inception, the ETH has overseen the reintegration of 90 elephants back into the wild.
Dilmah Conservation supports the functions of the ETH financially as well as through upgrades to the existing facility. This includes a solar array which facilitates the preparation of warm milk for the resident pachyderms and an ultraviolet steriliser that ensures germ free water at the facility. Additionally, the facilities within the transit home have been upgraded with refurbished buildings, better sanitation facilities and paved walkways to facilitate easy movement.
The kids arrived at the ETH for the 12 o’clock feed. They watched playful baby elephants being fed large quantities of milk through funnels by trained staff members. These calves are fed 8 times a day and consume over 100 litres of milk per feed. Here, the kids also visited the Elephant Information Centre established by Dilmah Conservation.
This centre plays a pivotal role in educating the general public and, most importantly, future generations of this country on the importance of conserving the Sri Lankan elephant. The final stopover of the tour was the Uda Walawe National Park.
The winners arrived at this wildlife sanctuary and were invited to take part in a lecture conducted by an official of the Department of Wildlife Conservation that introduced them to the habitat and species of the national park. They were also educated on the importance of safety and when touring the grounds and premises on safari.
The park is renowned for its local elephant population, deer, leopard and endemic avifauna. The kids were greeted by a number of bird species, herds of elephant and deer, baby crocodiles and amphibians. The children also witnessed the water reservoir of the Uda Walawe National Park, encompassing a total surface area of nearly 3,500 hectares. It is the largest reservoir in the vicinity and it is referred to as the ‘Walawe reservoir’. This concluded the winners’ tour of the Dilmah WED Challenge 2014. The children enjoyed this unforgettable experience and were encouraged to pursue their passion for nature and its preservation. Dilmah Conservation believes that when our youth begins to appreciate and understand the natural world, they are the ideal ambassadors of the message of conservation and are able to influence communities to alter their perspective to protect their natural surroundings. While this tour rewarded the winners of the competition, it also promoted the conservation of nature to a new generation of thoughtful and well-informed children.