Reconciliation through the Power of Nature
The 30-year-long civil war in Sri Lanka has caused divisions and misunderstandings among our communities in the North/East and South. This programme focuses on bridging the gaps between these communities through nature-oriented programmes. Reconciliation is essential towards maintaining lasting peace in Sri Lanka. As such, this programme aims to educate children from the North and East, and other provinces, on Sri Lanka's birds and nature, with a focus on bridging gaps that exist between communities.
In previous years, children and youth, who were deprived from visiting and appreciating many locations in Sri Lanka, received the opportunity to attend a series of classes and workshops and share information on the study of birds and nature, through exchange programmes and field excursions to the North, South and the East.
Integrating nature education into the curriculum for children and youth touch on many important concepts such as respecting and caring for the Earth, and understanding interrelationships among humans and the habitat. As the world becomes more populated and polluted, and as some birds and plant life become endangered and extinct, the role communities play in protecting or destroying the Earth can be reinforced. Through nature study, adolescent children and youth are able to learn how they impact the environment as well as how the environment affects them. By having rich and varied opportunities to experience and explore nature, children and youth can begin to value and appreciate their immediate surroundings and will hopefully generalise this knowledge to other situations and places.
After the successful implementation of this first phase of the programme, it was then decided to expand the programme with the vision of creating and empowering nature studies in more schools and enhancing its reach to more students. The partnering organisation – Centre for Children’s Happiness (CCH) in Jaffna – carried out variety of activities in this regard.
As a part of this programme, Dilmah Conservation also feels privileged to be one of the first private-sector organisations to support the translation and publication of nature books in Tamil in the North and East. The expected outcome of this project is to reconcile communities, to create a common Sri Lankan identity and to integrate future generations through nature.
- To reconcile the North and South, through nature appreciation, towards a cohesive Sri Lankan identity.
- To provide an avenue to de-stress through nature appreciation.
- To meet the above objectives through nature appreciation programmes with an avifaunal focus and conservation programmes.
- To create an atmosphere of cordiality to sustain the build relationships into the future.
- To create an enabling environment for school children and teachers to continue these programmes in the future.
- To raise awareness, develop capacity and change attitude among target beneficiaries on environmental conservation.
- To survey and document the nature appreciation potential in the District of Jaffna
- Nature Appreciation Clubs (NACs) were initiated in 20 schools in Jaffna. A guidebook containing information such as the history of the NACs, benefirts, a code of conduct, success stories, needs and future activities were prepared and distributed to teacher coordinators to help guide and NAC activities. A seminar on environmental education was also conducted for NAC teacher coordinators from the schools.
- DC distributed 20 books each to the 20 schools from its publications titled ‘An Introduction to Common Spiders of Sri Lanka’, ‘Identifying Deadly Venomous Snakes from Harmless Snakes of Sri Lanka’, ‘A Pictorial Guide to Uda Walawe National Park’, and ‘Common Butterflies of Sri Lanka’.
- The NACs of each of the schools are fairly active and conduct various activities including, tree planting campaigns, environment-related competitions, bird-watching, planting herb gardens, etc.
- A three day field work camp was organized by the NAC of J/Vickneswara Viddiyalajam where multiethnic groups were invited to Kandy to attend a Peace Camp. The participants were provided with skills development training including a session on environmental protection. The participants also engaged in several activities including the painting of the Children’s Resource Centre and the school hall along with the improvement of the children’s park into a nature-friendly environment. Specialised training sessions were also given on ‘establishing nature-friendly environments’ and ‘transforming waste into ornamental and handicraft items’. A camp fire was held on the final night of the event as a social gathering to conclude the experience. Children and parents were invited to participate in the camp fire that included cultural performances such as dance, songs, comedy, drama and poetry. All participants and principals received exercise books as tokens of appreciation for their participation. In addition to the subject-specific knowledge and experience they obtained, the participants said one of the greatest benefits of attending the event was the opportunity they received to interact with members from different ethnicities.
- CCH successfully organised the first certificate course on "Nature and Environmental Studies" (NES) in Jaffna in which 21 young people took part. Dr. Thirukkumaran, Dr. Suthagar and Dr. Raji, the Head and Senior lecturers of the Dept. of Agricultural Biology, Dept. of Geography and Dept. of Zoology of the University of Jaffna, respectively, provided guidance and feedback on the course content.
- The course was conducted weekly, every Sunday, for a period of three months. The curriculum consisted of lectures and field research, covering topics such as environmental protection and research on ornithology. The certificates were presented in coordination with the departments of the University of Jaffna mentioned earlier. Following the successful completion of the course, it will be offered again in the future.
- A number of days during the certificate course were set aside for field assignments, which were conducted by resource persons who had an expertise in the specific area. A few of the topics covered during these field assignments include, water resources and water pollution, nature and biodiversity, Eco-friendly concepts and Environmental impact assessment, social problems and nature.
- Students of the NES course were taken to the Sinharaja Rainforest on a three-day excursion, from Dec. 3-6, 2015, under the guidance of Prof. Sarath Kotagama. Lecturers of the University of Jaffna also participated in the excursion. The students learned about the history of the Sinharaja Forest, the primary and secondary levels of the forest, herbal plants and the spreading of plants.
- A number of participants of the NES certificate programme created the "Youth for Nature" team and held discussions with the director of CCH to plan initiatives that would support school students. These course participants indicdated that the course was extremely useful and expressed a great interest in transfering their knowledge to school students. The participants provided several recommendations toward enhancing the course: (1) Incorporate more field research opportunities, (2) conduct local field visits, and (3) organize other courses similar to NES on other topics. The "Youth for Nature" team members also supported the facilitation of the International Conference on Natural Disasters that took place in Jaffna, organised by the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) with the support of NGOs and government stakeholders. Participants at the conference represented a number of countries, including Japan, Philipines, Bangaladesh, Indonesia and Nepal.
- Together with the Centre for Children’s Happiness (CCH) in Jaffna and Professor Sarath Kotagama of the Department of Zoology at the University of Colombo, Dilmah Conservation organized several programmes in Jaffna in November. A seminar on “Nature Concerns” was conducted for the students of the Department of Zoology at the University of Jaffna and another for the teachers-in-charge of the Nature Appreciation Clubs in schools. As a follow-up, CCH organized a panel discussion with professions in Jaffna on the same subject in December.
- Four workshops were conducted based on the theme of skills development on nature for youth who have shown an interest in nature. The thematic areas of the seminar consisted of the following: Importance of nature, willingness to learn nature-related topics, natural disasters, employment opportunities and the purpose of establishing a certificate course in "nature and environmental studies."
- Prof. Aruna Gunara of the Department of Anthropology at Macalester College in the United States conducted a session for students who are involved in nature appreciation activities, sharing his skills, knowledge and lessons learned while providing valuable feedback for the work the students were engaged in.
- A field work camp on ‘Birds and Nature’ was held in November 2015 as well. University lecturers from the Department of Zoology of the University of Jaffna and CCH staff members served as resource persons for the sessions. The activities conducted during the field work camp included how to identify birds, observation of samples in the environment and lessons on plants and aquatic organisms.
- An outdoor art camp for NAC school students ‘Nature through Art’ was held as well at the Old Park in Jaffna. Students from eight school participated in this event, which was the first of its kind to take place in Jaffna. The participants were allowed to use both colour chalk and water colours in the exercises. Art teachers from each of the schools and Mr. Thusijanthan from the educational zone participated to monitor the camp.
- The Department of Zoology of the University of Jaffna collaborated with the NAC programme to expand its activities. Areas related to collaboration between members of the Department of Zoology and NAC members and students, initiation and implementation of projects and implementation of workshops and field research were explored. As part of this activity, a lecture and field research were conducted by Prof. Sarath Kotagama for the 3rd and 4th-year students of the Department of Zoology at the University of Jaffna. The context of the lecture was history of NAC and its activities.
- Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL), Centre for Children’s Happiness (CCH) in Jaffna