Eco Friendly Volunteers’ Training Programme for Village Youth in Sri Lanka

Welcome to the blog for the Village Youth Traning Programme - Mihimadale Hithathiyo (Friends of Mother Earth), made possible by the Kate Stokes Memorial Award from the Conservation Leadership Programme. Here you can see follow the development of this exciting project.

Don't forget to explore ECO-V's main website and blog:,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Triumph in Any Language - Mark Chappell

Having the chance to watch and participate in the training programme for the Kate Stokes Memorial Award training last weekend was a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

I was able to observe, take pictures, suggest additional fun activities and give a short presentation.

Not to mention my ape impressions...

During my time in Sri Lanka I have become used to discussions being held in Sinhala whilst I watch, unable to understand the words. But I have also developed my observational skills to pick up on many other things that are going on.

And this was the case with this training programme - I was able to study the body language of trainers and trainees and get a real sense of what was being conveyed and how, due to the hard work of the ECO-V team, the participants were 100% engaged with the lectures and activities.

It was great to see some of the activities that I had suggested and helped to develop - particularly the performances of the environmental stories. These were great fun, and also showed that the groups had put real thought into how to communicate a conservation message - a crucial skill.
I was especially happy to participate with the other resource persons in our own performance. We were able to show that we weren't too proud to get involved, and I was able to fulfill a lifetime's ambition and pretend to be an aye-aye in front of an audience!
As I was observing, I was able to take particular notice of the lighter side of proceedings - as these photographs show:

What all the laughter really showed me was the spirit amongst this group of young people, their willingness to learn as much as they can to help protect the environment, and the effectiveness of the ECO training in connecting with them. I was left feeling that the future of Sri Lanka’s rural environment is in safe hands.
Many more photos can be seen on the slideshow on the left toolbar - clicking on it will take you to the full sized pictures.

First Part of the Training Completed Successfully!

The day we all were dreaming about is past now! Today I am writing this blog with much satisfaction. Last weekend was over with many laughs, smiles and tears…. Today I am telling you all what ECO-V has done for our first ever formal training course for 20 youth in Sri Lanka. Most importantly it was one of the most successful events carried out during our 8 years history. Today there are 20 “Friends of Earth” who got their basic training on Mother Earth who learnt skills and gained experience on environmental conservation.

On the 30th of April we went to a beautiful place close to Colombo which belongs to Sarvodaya (The largest Community based NGO in Sri Lanka). The team from Udawalwa arrived at 3.30pm. After refreshment we started the introduction and ice breaking which were full of fun. All the 20 youth were a bit shy and backward on that day which is natural like in any other training. My presentation about Kate during the introduction was very emotional and all the trainees were touched by the story behind the training. I added a hard copy of the presentation I did on Kate, Kate Stokes Memorial Award and how important this training for us in their folder.

We started the second day at 6am with an environmental meditation which we have been experimenting with for the last 5 years. Concentrating on natural sounds in the surroundings I directed them to spread their loving kindness to all the living beings in the surroundings. Following the meditation all were engaged with nature watching until breakfast. The day was full of brain-storming, relaxing exercises, discussions and fun games. Jennifer, one of my good friends from the USA, who is in Sri Lanka these days came to visit us and conducted a session on expressional art. Trainees have highly commented on this new experience. Overall comments we got at the end of the day confirmed that our effort was a success.

The third day was started with yoga exercises, again concentrating on the sun rise, sounds of the Earth and also on breathing. That was a new experience for all the trainees and they came for the lectures full of energy. We gave the trainees a chance to listen to an expert on cultural values and traditional methods of environmental conservation of Sri Lanka. The evening session was focused on ex-situ conservation and we got the trainees to visit Colombo Zoo. Visiting a zoo is just a fun trip to most Sri Lankans, but for these trainees it was full of information on animals and also many of them said that their attitudes towards animals were changed positively after this visit. On the same night we had a session on dramas and cultural items performed by trainees. A conservation story was given to them prior to the performances and they had to make a drama as an effective awareness activity. All the trainees enjoyed it thoroughly. We (resources persons) also became actors and actresses as Mark directed a role play on the aye-aye from Madagascar.

On the final day we gave a brief introduction about eco tourism. Since the trainees came from Udawalwa, one of the main tourists’ area within Sri Lanka, this guest lecture was very useful for them to think about the environment from an economic angle. We also trained them to be nature guides while doing an exercise which was very interesting for all of them. Then we finished the training with course evaluation. Everybody became very emotional at the end of the training and did not want to say goodbye. However they went with a great hope for the next three days of the training in August after thanking KSMA.

Our volunteers especially Madhubashini and Nanda played their part during all three days of training and I am very much grateful to them. Mark and Jennifer who were with us encouraged and gave the trainees an opportunity to feel that they are part of a well planned focused training. Mark will write his own blog on the training and it will give an idea how all things happened to every one who reads the blog. I thank Mark for being part of the ECO-V team for the past few months and shouldering our responsibility of writing the blog for us.

Mark is also working on the manual of the KSMA training; new web lay out for ECO-V and the report on Pelican conservation at Udawalawa before he ends his period with us on June 1st.