RSIS Sri Lanka: teamwork and elephants

Posted: 14 December 2018


The team continue to make excellent progress on both project sites, but it’s not all hard work – students had the opportunity to explore Wasgamuwa National Park and were lucky enough to spot a few gentle giants – elephants!

Wasgamuwa is one of protected areas where Sri Lankan Elephants can be seen in large herds. It is also one of the Important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka. The name of the Wasgamuwa has derived through the words “Walas Gamuwa”, “Walasa” is Sinhala for sloth bear and “Gamuwa” means a wood.

Student Update by: Hannah and Leroy

Over the past few days, our construction has begun to develop significantly, with the floor being finished off this morning. Brick laying began yesterday, with a chain of volunteers moving bricks from the truck to the building in a pile. Along the chain, everyone sung songs to get the adrenaline going making the morning more exciting. Cement mixing also commenced which was a lengthy process, never ending shovelling of sand, rocks and the cement itself, which consisted of two sand barrows, and three of rocks with a pack of cement powder and lots of water.

It was very hard work to mix the concrete by hand, but as a team we all worked together to get it done. The cement mixture was poured out and levelled as the floor of the classroom. Along with this, the clearing of the field with machetes also continued, as did the earth moving to level out the ground surrounding the classroom. With only four days of work left, we are a little nervous about finishing, but all excited to see how much we have built, levelled and cleared.

Student Update by: Isabelle and Camille

One of the less exciting tasks of the Big Build is weed whacking, as it can get very hot and tiring. Our goal is to clear a field so that the school can use it for activities it is one of the most strenuous but rewarding tasks as you can see your progress easily!

Lately, people have had to volunteer to complete this task as it is not one of the favourite tasks, but some people find it fun. One of the ways we make the tasks more enjoyable is singing songs. Some of the most popular songs to sing include those of the High School Musical and Glee franchises and Bohemian Rhapsody.

The food has been really yum; however, some people have been struggling with some of the spice (Caleb!). We have been eating a lot of rice, coconut, and potato; also, everyone has been highly enjoying the bread at breakfast. Last night we had a special surprise for Rusket’s sixteenth Birthday. The staff at our camp made cake, and we all sang happy birthday to him and during dinner music played. Overall, these past couple of days have gone by quickly and we are all excited for the days to come. We are about to go on a safari in Wasgamuwa National park and we all hope to spot some elephants.

Student Update by: Sadiq, Lucy and Deon

After three full days of sweat and effort the Environmental team and the Big Build team, were rewarded with a day of relaxation.

It started with two different events in the morning: at 5:30 AM, people could choose to go to the top of a nearby hill to watch the majestic sunrise over the lake. Others could choose to go bird watching in the nearby field. Bird watching started at 6:20 AM and proved to be rather fruitful.  We saw quite a handful of different birds while Chandima and his team educated us about each one. It must have been a wonderful sight to see us all bumbling through the bush with cameras, binoculars, and happy smiles. We spent the rest of the morning lazing about, playing cards, doing laundry, journaling and all sorts of tomfoolery. That is, except for 20 dedicated souls, who returned to the Big Build site for two hours to finish the floor for the classroom!

As always, we provide you with the latest lunch menu: eggplant curry, daal and, as per usual, plain white rice. After that, Chandima told us a little bit about the safari and the animals, and off we were to Wasgamuwa. We started through the park in a convoy of twelve Jeeps.

We saw many birds like the serpent eagle, the green bee-eater and a bazillion peacocks. We only saw a few elephants off in the distance. Spotted deer were spotted here and there (get it?). We took a quick break to walk to the river, which was swollen with water and much wider than we expected. Some cheeky monkeys, both ourselves and the animals, clamoured along the banks for a good view. We got back in the Jeeps, disappointed that we hadn’t seen any elephants up close. However, as boredom began to strike us down one-by-one, we happened upon elephants huddled in groups on open, green plains. All of the Jeeps stopped, and we sat there taking pictures, our eyes were glued to their mottled hides.

For some, it was their first time seeing these gentle giants, and their chins scraped the rutted red road beneath them. All too soon, the engines started and we off again back to base camp. We ended the day with one of the most picturesque sunsets we had seen so far, all viewed from the back of the Jeeps after a long, fulfilling day.

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