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Bridging Lanka Monthly Report

Locked Down but Not Out!  September 2021
Linking Reforestation, Biodiversity & Remembering Pets by Kavivarman, Forestry Officer

Since studying agriculture at school my interest in the natural world has grown. When we were offered the chance of learning about reforestation, I jumped at it. In December last year a group of us visited Earth Restoration, an organisation running workshops in a new approach to reforestation at Badulla. 
Analog forestry is a science-based plant growing system that seeks to create a forest similar to the original mature eco-system in structure and ecological function. Over several days we learnt about the eight stages to establishing an Analog forest from grasslands to mature forest. 
Recently Luman and I got a chance to put our Analog knowledge into practice at the Hendro Animal Rescue Centre (HARC) site at Olaithoduwai. We constructed a kulam (pond) and planned a mini Analog forest around the kulam to increase the bio diversity of the area and create a relaxing ‘people space’. 
What prompted this? The recent passing of Peddo, the beloved cat of one of our Bridging Lanka directors, Shyama ma’am. As a special commemoration to the life and times of Peddo, Shyama ma’am commissioned the kulam and forest. In the beginning I had some fear because this is a really big project for us but now it’s teaching us lots of things. I’m enjoying seeing the plants grow and this is giving me real confidence. 
All in the Name of Love by A.P.F. Rojan, Manager

A warm-hearted woman in Melbourne wanted to reach out to a widow in poverty-stricken Santhipuram to help her establish a chicken business. The widow is confined to her ramshackled hut and compound as her ailing incontinent mother needs 24 hour care.  The plan was to purchase 15 free-range chickens and a chicken coop so Mary Janet would have a reliable monthly income.   

From simply coordinating this small initiative, my role expanded exponentially to include being Mary Janet’s employee, policeman, Big Brother, son and social service officer. I never thought it would involve so much. Firstly, buying ‘country’ or free-range chickens became a nightmare during lockdown time. My first supplier lived 43 km away. The quality of his chickens was poor and the price high so only 7 were bought from him. This led to me travelling hundreds of kilometres covering 4 remote villages for the remainder. This created lots of pressure for me but I love this work. Eventually the 15 birds were secured. 
The next challenge was to find good carpenters to make a quality chicken coop at a reasonable price. Several carpenters were visited. Some gave promises that they did not keep, resulting in multiple visits. In the meantime I had to field many calls from Mary Janet and my director about my progress. When the coop was finished I then arranged delivery and the labour support of my staff.  

Finally I arranged for chicken feed and water containers and negotiated the best price for packs of disposable nappies for Mary Janet’s incontinent mother. I give this quick run-down of the steps taken so our readers can appreciate the commitment we have to what we do and also to understand why we often face unpredictable delays. 
We All Need to be Better Parents by A.P.F. Rojan, Manager

Children are vital for any society so nurturing and enriching them is a parent’s most important role. Unfortunately our parents don’t know how to parent. When we asked them when was it more difficult to raise kids – during the war time or now – almost all parents said a definite “Now!” Mainly the smart phone has collapsed our children and youngsters, destroying traditional Tamil culture, including respect for elders.

Based on ‘deep listening’ research we did with youngsters and parents across Mannar and also through our youth residential program, we are learning about what guidelines young people need to grow in healthy ways. We found that parents did not have a clue about raising their kids in the 21st century. One father said he showed love to his kids by giving them everything they wanted. Another parent said they disciplined their children by beating them (often drawing blood). 
Our Better Parenting training program has been many months in the making. Many sessions were developed by Judy Rafferty (Psychologist) and Lindy Drew-Tsang (Social Worker) from Brisbane. I have taken time to absorb the messages – many were new to me – and try them out with my kids. I have also adjusted the material to be more relevant to our culture.
Due to lockdowns we couldn’t start the program for several weeks but thankfully we have started now. Ten parents both male and female came to my workshop. I quickly realised how desperate and helpless they were feeling. The interaction was great and they were surprisingly honest and open! This program is part of our Fighting Fit project funded by the Australian High Commission in Sri Lanka.
Rolling Stones by Luman Thanapala, Fitness Trainer

It was not your usual team building exercise but it worked to further cement relations between our Mannar-based staff team and the young people of Kunchukulam. We went to Kunchukulam to build an amphitheatre in the sports ground where our Powerhouse Gym is located. It made us happy. As there are very few gathering places in these villages, we decided to construct an outdoor meeting place where drama, dance or musical shows could be performed. The stones and sand came from Johnson’s land so we only had to find the cost of transporting the materials. It was tough work to move the heavy boulders without machines but we worked hard over three days to reach our goal. It made us happy. Now our intention is to plant trees for shade and make it a popular and relaxing place.
Playing Hunger Games with the Poor

As the lockdowns drag on week after week and beyond, an increasing number of families are reduced to one meal a day. Steep price hikes for basic food items and also its unavailability mostly impacts the poor. Chavez, a visitor from Dubai, wanted to check out the work of Bridging Lanka so spent a few days with us. He visited the Donkey Clinic and found out about the debilitating circumstances of some of the locals. His big heart prompted him to sponsor dry food rations for 21 families facing hunger. As Chavez had returned to Dubai, he’d arranged Cargills Food City to deliver the double packs and the staff of the Donkey Clinic to distribute the parcels to widow-headed families and those with disabled members. Chavez was inspired by his visit to Mannar and is planning to return as a Bridging Lanka volunteer for an extended stay.
Attending to the ‘Least’ by Shamini Kulasingham, Youth Officer, Digana, Kandy District

Covid-19 has been a huge problem all over the world. This situation is affecting everyone – doctors, nurses, politicians, police, teachers, students and labourers. Every government department has stopped. At least some people receive a small amount from the government to survive. But there is a group living amongst us that don't get a salary or money from the government. They don't have a house, a job, anyone to care for them – not even a national identity card. They are known as beggars and rejected by society. Their only joy is a good meal. So Bridging Lanka’s Youth Nation Digana group planned to share lunch with those poor folk. The team cooked rice, chicken curry, carrot, beans, potatoes, dahl and papadams. With the lunch packet they added a bottle of water and 5 face masks. Thirty beggars on the road from Digana to Kandy received lunch with a smile on their faces and thanks from their hearts.
The Office – a Long Way from Home by Eric Fernando, Graphic Designer
This September I did very few works because of the ongoing lockdowns. I was stuck at home with no means of traveling to the BL office more than 50 kms away. First of all I completed a certificate design for the Peer Counselling workshops. I personally love that design and finalised 19 certificates. Then I worked on donkey tin notice for DCEC. It’s a little hard design for me to do because of the theme. I struggled to get proper pictures of injured donkeys so lots of changes were needed. 

Then I was asked to do Tamil translation for another session of the Better Parenting program presentation. That was very challenging for me because I first needed to understand the material of each presentation before being able to translate the English into Tamil. Totally I finished three Better Parenting presentation translations in one week. After that work I did some planning for the Bridging Lanka fundraising video.
Heave-Hoeing at HARC

To save precious rupees and get the job done, our Bridging Lanka inmates worked tirelessly at the Hendro Animal Rescue Centre (HARC) site undertaking many tasks - voluntarily. Foremost was digging a solid waste pit for the animal excrement that would eventually pour from the dog kennels and cat cages. It was sweaty work under the burning sun but determination and team camaraderie helped them to complete their task. 
Fence Me In

The next unenviable task was sanding each inch of the metal enclosures – 28 dog kennels in total. This brain-numbing task was done with sandpaper in willing hands, taking six youngsters a total of nine hours to complete. We’ve run out of funds to complete the other building works at HARC so we are finding ways to progress this work. We await another tranche of funds from Animal Aid Abroad to progress the construction at ‘warp speed’ because the cost of materials is rising steeply each week – if we can get them! There has been no concrete available in Mannar for a few weeks now.
To Market to Market

Alhathir, Manager of the Donkey Clinic and avid organic cultivation promoter is searching for new markets for the Thailankudiyiruppu farmers’ organic Thibattu (Turkey Berry) yield. By 6:00am (two hours late) he arrived at the Dambulla Markets, the largest in Sri Lanka, attempting to sell hundreds of kilos of Turkey Berries. Alas, the previously super deal with Cargill’s Food City that was buying our Turkey Berries at good prices every fortnight, collapsed as the lockdowns took hold.  Alhathir managed to sell the entire supply but it took several hours in a busy market place hundreds of kilometres from home.
A New Veggie in the Plot by Anton Jerad, Agricultural Officer

This month saw an interesting development in my organic project. Two farmers bought and planted 600 mini eggplant seedlings (Thalana Batu) three months ago. They are now ready to harvest this new crop – never before planted in Kunchukulam. This influenced other farmers to experiment with growing new varieties of vegetables. Another thing is our first turkey berry farmers have started to prune their plants to make sure they get an even bigger harvest in the coming months.
The Impossible RO Dream

Who would have thought that a focused, well-researched and funded project would take so long to land? I bet Jan Gillies and David Singleton from the Gold Coast, Australia, and who volunteered in Mannar in January 2019, certainly wouldn’t. While undertaking research to gauge the level of interest in organic cultivation by Kunchukulam farmers, he discovered that many were suffering from chronic kidney disease due to the ground water being poisoned by agro-chemicals.

In a quest to provide safe drinking water through a reverse osmosis water filtration plant, Jan plunged into organising a highly successful ‘Jazz Evening’ fundraiser. Two years later and dozens of community meetings, government negotiations over land and buildings and technical discussions with multiple RO manufacturers, the RO dream is becoming a reality. Jerad, Nilanthan and the local One-Stop-Shop boys have engaged a supplier, welded the tank stand, sunk a tube well and laid the pipelines ready for the RO installation. 
Building a Reputation

The One-Stop-Shop (OSS) trainee tradies completed another carpentry job and Komahan and Seenu are deservedly proud of their achievement. They built a trendy bookcase for Kavivarman’s Monaki music studio. It was a design nightmare but the boys pulled it off. The music room is slowly taking shape. The keyboard, mixer, speakers, microphones, guitar, and other instruments and laptop with the appropriate recording software are all in place. A sound booth is the missing piece. That will be the OSS boys’ next challenging project.

In Australia, Bridging Lanka Ltd is a public benevolent institution (PBI) with charity status with the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission, deductible gift recipient status and charity tax concession status with the Australian Taxation Office. All donations are tax deductible.

In Sri Lanka, Bridging Lanka (Guarantee) Limited is a registered not-for-profit company with the Registrar of Companies and as a Voluntary Social Service Organisation with the Secretariat of Non-Governmental Organisations.
Donate Now
We are most grateful to Animal Aid Abroad, a major partner and a proud financial supporter of our Donkey Clinic and the Donkey Rescue Service.
We are also very appreciative that the Fighting Fit project is supported by the Australian High Commission to Sri Lanka through a Direct Aid Program Grant.
Bridging Lanka contact details:

28 Mellor Street
Kedron, QLD 4031
86 Esplanade Road
Mannar 41000
Sri Lanka

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