Last weekend a group of Second Year Environmental Management students travelled to Hambantota to conduct a workshop on ‘water conservation’. It turned out to be one of the best and most rewarding field visits ever.
We left the university premises early Saturday morning and arrived in Weligatta at around noon. We were divided into 10 groups and each group was allocated a group of students of a particular age group of a particular school. Our group was assigned to work with the Grade 5 students of the H/Debarawewa Presidents’ College.
25 children entered our classroom with smiles that lit up their faces. The moment they saw us, they seemed really excited. Honestly, the feeling was mutual! We had group activities and short poster presentations to teach them about the water cycle and the ways of conserving water.
At the end of the workshop it was sad to see them leave. They probably felt the same way because most of them asked ‘akkala aye kawadda enne?’ (When are you coming again?) I also overheard one boy yelling at another for not closing the water tap properly. It honestly felt like we had succeeded in teaching them an important lesson in life.
After the successful completion of the school workshops we were taken to the Bundala National Park. There each group was provided with rope, fertilizer bags and sticks and asked to build a ‘hide’ to be used the following day. We spent a good three hours making our hides and then we were taken to the Visitor Center to spend the night.
We were at our hides by 6am the next day and we observed a wide variety of birds including the Grey Heron, Black Winged Stilt, Black Headed Ibis and Painted Stork. It was amazing to see so many birds in one place. Bundala harbours a large number of migratory and resident birds. In 1991 it became the first site in Sri Lanka to be declared a Ramsar Wetland.
Our next task was to engage in a Beach Clean-up. The adjacent sea shore of Bundala is a breeding ground for sea turtles. It was sad to see so much litter on the beach. We all got together and cleaned up as much as we could. It wasn’t easy walking on the beach with the sun glaring at us. But at the end of it, we were proud of our efforts.
After lunch it was time to head back to Colombo. Truth be told, I was sad when the field trip came to an end. This field visit was not only about environmental conservation or community development; it was also about 100 individuals coming together and working as one and realizing how much potential we carry within us.
It is up to us to raise awareness on the importance of conserving our environment, and developing our communities at the same time!