If you can remember the tsunami in 2004, then you must remember the thousands of lives it took away and the damage it caused. But we could have lost many more lives and suffered more from severe damage than we faced if there wasn’t a natural buffer that our country has. Especially the mangrove plants that belt around the country played a massive part in that role.
Mangroves protect shorelines and riverbanks from damage due to heavy waves and winds. And their tangled root system helps to bind the soil together and prevent erosion. As a country that is constantly affected by extreme weather events and rising seas due to the results of climate change, we must ensure the protection of our shores more than ever. Therefore after 2004, government and community-led mangrove planting programs have begun and continued till this day to expand island mangrove plant cover.
Last 30th of September, we collaborated with the Coast Conservation Department to replant mangrove plants in regions that still lack adequate natural buffers. This was the 2nd project I participated in as an AIESECer from AIESEC in SLIIT. Our team consisted of two incoming global volunteers (Emily Berlage from Germany and Nadia Swijtink from the Netherlands), three SLIIT AIESECers, three personnel from the Coast Conservation Department, and two boatmen.
At the mangrove plantation, we were instructed on how to extract mangrove plants and propagules, plant them, and the suitable places to plant them. After we had collected plants and propagules, we went to the place where we chose to plant them again. And to reach the replantation area, we had to go by boat since it was difficult to reach by land. On our way to the replantation area, we met some locals harvesting prawns and fishing. It was amazing how this ecosystem provides livelihood opportunities for neighboring communities and essential habitats for thousands of species.
In the end, we were successfully able to plant 326 mangrove plants.
When I joined AIESEC in SLIIT, I wanted to be a part of something that serves society and delivers a huge impact. One day I want to reflect on these memories and remind myself that I lived a remarkable life. AIESEC was found to achieve peace and fulfillment of humankind’s potential through cross-cultural experience. On a universal scale, what we did might be trivial, but looking back on the experience we gained, the fun we had, the memories we shared, and the impact we can make through this are amazing. Without a shred of doubt, I can say that this project was able to aim at the objectives I mentioned above, and it caused the betterment of our country.
By Sethum Rashmika
AIESEC in SLIIT
Leisurely spinning on a globe, she spotted a small island on the map. An island anyone should not miss, a paradise anyone should not be unlucky to miss. Yasemen Togrul is a Turkish post-graduate studying data science and journalism who has a passion for exploring the world. She was searching for an ideal destination and fatefully heard about the new project ‘On the map’ by AIESEC in Colombo North. Luckily, these two parties finally met on the 08th of September 2022, commencing the project ‘On the map’. She was another lucky soul who is to witness the beauty of Sri Lanka.
The project aims to contribute to SDG #8 by enhancing local communities’ capacity to build sustainable local tourism activities. That brings revenue and boosts employability in the region. Thus, Yasemen Togrul, the project’s exchange participant, travelled to various regions targeting tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. She spent a period exceeding four weeks in Sri Lanka.
The journey started with a visit to Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya and Galle face beach. The panoramic views and rich history of this Buddhist temple became an inspiration. While the picturesque sun settings at the ocean-side urban park of Galle face were mesmerizing. And they became a kickstart to the project ‘On the map.’
Then, the next day was marked with three wonderful visits to Gangaramaya Temple, Diyatha Uyana, and Thapowanaya. The visit to Gangaramaya Temple gave the exchange participant a wonderful sight of modern architecture and cultural essence. Moreover, visiting the monastery scum meditation center in Thapowanaya enhanced Togrul’s experience in serenity and Buddhist practices. However, after visiting these two places representing the unique Sri Lankan culture, day two was concluded with an evening at Diyatha Uyana. It offered a unique experience in a novel outdoor recreational area. The week ended with a trip to Galle and the IPS day organized in collaboration with the project Global classroom 2.0.
The following week marked a shift of destinations from the Sri Lankan capital and its suburbs. She headed to the legendary city of Kandy. The journey consisted of a visit to revered religious places such as the Temple of the Tooth Relic and Ambuluwawa Temple. Further, the hikes in the Udawaththa forest and watching elephants at Pinnawala Elephant orphanage. Then, the team, the organizing committee, and Togrul visited Hiriwaduna Lake, where they had an incredible time sightseeing and swimming.
Further, the journey’s direction was shifted to Ella starting on the 24th of September, comprised of a visit to Ella Rock, Nine arches, and Bomburu Ella. These visits gave a team heap of priceless memories and panoramic views of nature’s beauty, showcasing the beauty of Sri Lanka.
The 27th of September marked a special day in the project calendar when the exchange participant participated in the celebrations of World Tourism Day. The farewell party concluded the projected at Lunar Cafe Kiribathgoda on the 6th of October.
The project begins!
The beginning of September was marked with a promise of new experience for the AIESECers in the university of Kelaniya. Global Classroom, the AIESEC contribution towards the betterment of education in Sri Lanka reopened for the second time. With the title Global Classroom 2.0, the project started with new Exchange participants and a new organizing committee. Teaching in Sri Lanka was not just about teaching for the project. It was a journey planned for teaching, sharing culture, and to find themselves facing challenges in a new terrain. This was, in the experience of exchange participants and the organizing committee, a landmark which helped their personalities take shape.
The approval set the course for the journey of three exchange participants; Brian Muraya from Kenya, Eleni Papaefthymiou from Greece and Gulcan Ebru from Turkey. They arrived in the first week of September, a few days before the commencement of the project.
At the ceremonial end of their Global Classroom journey, we asked how they felt about their whole experience.
“I was relying a lot on the media, before I came here. When I did, I learned that Sri Lanka was different to what I saw in them,” said Brian. “People here are happy and ever smiling” He says. “I wanted to teach my students and I wanted to learn about the culture and the people.”
“My best moments apart from traveling were interacting with kids. I learned the way they think, which was a rewarding experience.” Brian remarked recalling his students at LEEDS International in Negombo.
Elen, who worked at the WISE international, Kandana, told us that what she expected first from here was to be safe. And in the comfort of working with the students she told us how much she enjoyed teaching. “Today, my students learned that we were leaving soon. Most of the children told me ‘don’t go, Elen teacher, live here’ and I felt so touched by that.” Elen expects to continue in her path to become a teacher in Greece. We witnessed ourselves how much she had bonded with her students at the final day event.
Gulcan worked with Elen at WISE international with Elen teaching students of the primary section. She also aspires to become a math teacher, which she claims has become a more clear ambition after this project. “The best part of the project for me too was working with the students. In teacher’s day, I saw the pure love they had and I just love them for that.”
Incoming Preparation Seminar and Work Experience
The Incoming Preparation Seminar of the project happened soon after the arrival of the exchange participants. There we explained them further their role as a volunteer working in the Global Classroom project. More importantly, they got to experience some of the cultural food items, and some rituals of Sri Lanka.
Searching for beauty
In addition to the teaching in their allocated schools, traveling and experiencing Sri Lankan culture was what occupied them. They travelled to Galle and the Colombo city, seeking for more memories. Some of the religious icons they found, evoked their curiosity, and told us later how much similar they found this religiousness with their countries. The sun bathed city of Galle was another mesmerizing landscape that captured the minds of the EPs.
One of the ER partners for the project, Ape Panthiya, was one such experience that granted the EPs one such experience to engage with students of Advanced Levels. With them, Brian shared his culture, and his knowledge of his country and leaving with them the curiosity to inspire them to understand his culture.
The Final Day Event
The end crawled near for the project with the second week of October. And the OC of the project had to announce its officiality. To make the effect of the project even more impactful the OC decided to donate the many and the best books to the WISE International they found hunting especially for the event. The book donation took place on the 14th, with the participation of all the exchange participants.
The OC arranged the farewell on the same day as the final day event. The OC had found a lovely beachside restaurant: Light House Galley facing the ocean met at the Galle face. Officially gathering for the last day, all the EPs and the OC got their chance to talk about the experience, the best and the funniest, the scary and the challenging moments of their journey. We shared all the stories over a final Sri Lankan style meal that we would take together, which we all took time to savor.
Also, we made it an opportunity to celebrate Elen’s 23rd birthday that arrived two weeks earlier on the day of Galle tour. A cake was brought on her behalf and everyone joined to sing for a marvelous 23rd. Another ER partner, Gamage Stores, offered us some of their art and crafts, miniature versions of ancient Sri Lankan cultural artifacts as souvenirs for the EPs, which we presented to them near the end of the event. Throughout this concluding event that carved in every one of them unforgettable memories, a spectrum of emotions was committed to pixels, so that everyone in the project could reminisce time and again.
End of a journey…
Only a week remained for the EPs to bid farewell to their students, and the new bonds they made working in a country foreign to them. Elen and Gulcan decided to work with the students at WISE to the last day they could. The bond they made with kids made it difficult, even at the end of the project to leave.
Brian, who found the people and the culture of Sri Lanka fascinating, traveled to Matara and Pinnawala to add more vibrance to the experience he wanted to remember. And in the third week of October, the time came for the EPs to say their goodbyes to the students. And so the project Global Classroom 2.0 ended, with many points of history in their memories as a series of experiences in which they rediscovered themselves.
“Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person”
‘All For Love’ is a novel initiative taken by the Incoming Global Volunteer function of AIESEC in University of Sri Jayewardenepura. The objective of the project is to uplift the standards of education of underprivileged students in Sri Lanka by reducing inequalities and spreading love, life and happiness which everyone deserves.
The project was held on 4th August, 2022 at Kandewatta Siri Sumana Vidyalaya, Siyambalape with the participation of little kids and teachers of the school, foreign exchange participants and members of AIESEC in USJ.I was fortunate enough to participate in the project and be a part of it, witnessing the innocent smiles of little kids.
We reached to the school at 9.00 a.m. and kids warmly welcomed us. Students were from grade 3-5 classes. They gave us a beautiful handmade flower and still I have it as a memory. After lightening the traditional oil lamp, a student in the school delivered the welcome speech. After that, the principal of the school addressed us and appreciated our effort to do something impactful for the society. After all these, we donated the stationery items to students including pens, pencils, books and clay.
Next session was the most interesting and enjoyable one. Foreign exchange participants had an interactive session with the children. After introducing themselves to the students , they taught children some phrases which are useful when doing a self introduction in English including name, age, class, favourite colour and favourite food etc. . Students were able to understand it well and they introduced themselves really well. Next, the exchange participants taught them the parts of the body. They also taught them a song which describes the part of the body. It was very enjoyable to sing it with little kids. They learned it quickly and at the end, they were able to describe the parts of the body in English. Some students voluntarily came forward and described others what they have learned.
In the next session, the kids were given some A4 sheets to draw a girl or a boy. Then, they had to name the parts of the body in the drawing they have drawn. The exchange participants and us helped kids to do it correctly and they were very enthusiastic to learn. We helped kids to figure out the mistakes, and they learned very happily. It was a rare opportunity and a new experience for them to learn from foreign teachers and they enjoyed it a lot. At the end of the session, we were able to see very beautiful drawings of the kids.
After finishing the session the exchange participants requested the students to come forward and sing the song they learned. They came forward happily and sang it with others. It was a great pleasure to see their talents and happy faces. The principal and the teachers of the school thanked us and appreciated our effort.
All good things come to an end. After all these, we said good bye to students marking the end of the project. It was an admirable initiative taken by the Incoming Global Volunteer function and by participating in it, I understood that we should help and support underprivileged students as we can because they are the blooming buds for the future generation.
By Agraja Sandasarani
Jayawardenepura Showcasing Team