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Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants

by Trunks & Leaves Inc.
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
Investing in Communities to Conserve Elephants
The new merry-go-round at Chuti Tharu preschool.
The new merry-go-round at Chuti Tharu preschool.

From Preschools to Paddyfields - What's New for 2020

The Coexistence Project:  Pre-School Program

As we reported in our last update, Trunks & Leaves were able to support 12 pre-schools around the Udawalawe area by the end of 2019. This brought our pre-school program to a close, for now. Our goal is to gradually encircle protected areas with community-based conservational initiatives and create a conflict free livelihood for the farmers. Building trust with the community through the funding of these pre-schools has been the most important aspect of this program. The funding raised in 2019 was used for:

  • Cupboards
  • Desks and chairs
  • Stationery /Painting materials
  • Educational supplies
  • Playground equipment
  • Medical supplies
  • Water supply and filtration systems
  • Technological supplies
  • Construction of lavatory
  • Electricity and fittings
  • Gates & fences

The total support provided to the schools was $5985 USD, partially raised through GlobalGiving. A complete impact report will be available shortly on trunksnleaves.org/reports. In the meantime a brief summary is attached to this report.

 

Next Steps: Can Incense Sticks Help Protect Crops?

This year, 2020, we are excited to commence the next phase of our work with these same communities that directly tackles possible ways to reducing human-elephant conflict. In general, there are complementary approaches:

1)     Protecting farmers crops while they are growing. This is what most conservation initiatives try to do. One of the challenges is that elephants are quite smart, and soon learn their way around different types of barriers and repellents.

2)     Find alternative crops that can supplement farmers' incomes so that people and elephants are not at odds. This is something that has not been extensively tried, but seems to us a critical piece of the puzzle.

We are pleased to partner with HDDeS Pvt Ltd, one of the largest exporters of spices, essences and floral extracts in Sri Lanka. Under their Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, they independently have developed a special type of incense stick that they believe acts as a repellent for elephants. T&L has agreed to experimentally test the incense sticks among the farming communities we have come to know. If successful, this innovation could help farmers reduce the damage from elephants, and lessen the economic burden they face. In return, HDDeS is providing valuable feedback concerning the types of plants that could potentially be grown in the region, with a good market value in their industry. We are excited to see what is discovered on both fronts!

                We hope you will continue to support our efforts to help people and elephants coexist.

  • Follow us on Social Media: @trunksnleaves on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Find photos, videos and more stories under #CoexistenceProject, #LivingWithElephants and #ElephantOptimism
Inside the new classroom of Samadhi preschool.
Inside the new classroom of Samadhi preschool.
Farming next to the near invisible electric fence.
Farming next to the near invisible electric fence.
Farmers whom T&L will be working with.
Farmers whom T&L will be working with.

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At Samadhi, water had to be transported from afar.
At Samadhi, water had to be transported from afar.

It is always satisfying to see how even a small contribution can make a big difference.

This year we focused on 12 pre-schools in communities that live very closely with elephants. They had diverse needs, so we asked each teacher to prioritize their most crucial requirements. Several schools needed basic furniture such as desks and chairs, cupboards and shelves. Some needed infrastructure, such as water and electricity. In this report we bring stories of two schools that left a strong impression on us.

Samadhi pre-school is one of the smallest chosen this year, with 12 kids. It had no running water, so the parents had to bring in bottles of water from miles away. Water not only for drinking, but sanitation. Not having the resources to get it from the government, this little school had been neglected for years. The teacher, Ms. Tharangani, had only one request – could we please help them get water? Indeed!

With support from our Coexistence Project, they were able to pay the fees required to get their water supply and lay down the pipes and infrastructure to access it. Everyone pitched in to help put in the pipe work. The day the water turned on, some of the children and parents were in tears. When we visited them in October, they were busy renovating their aging school building - made possible by the new water supply.

"Our prayers were answered," beamed Ms. Tharangani as she showed us their new tap line.

Mithuru pre-school is one of the newest schools in the area, having been established 15 years ago. It had been closed for some time, until the arrival of Ms. Krishanthi, their energetic new teacher. Mithuru is right next to the elephant corridor, so elephants occasionally pass through their playground, breaking through the flimsy fences. Fortunately, it is usually at night.

Mithuru needed new classroom furniture and also some playground equipment. With your help, they were able to have sturdy wooden tables and chairs made for the classroom, as well as a merry-go-round for the playground. On our final visit to the school, we were welcomed by a huge turnout of parents. Most often, it is mothers who come to these school events, but here we were also pleased to see several of the fathers. It was clear that elephants were at the top of everyone’s minds – they showed us where the swing set outside had been damaged by an elephant the previous week. We were puzzled - what did an elephant want with a swing? There was nothing to eat there! This reinforced for us in a very immediate way the need for long-term means to safeguard these communities that endure the risks of living so closely with the wildlife we want to protect.

At each school, there was a common theme among all the teachers – they appreciated our approach in taking the time to first understand what they needed and making it straightforward to receive the support they needed. They contrasted this with state-sponsored aid programs, which were much more laborious to navigate. This common sentiment lays the foundation for working with each of these communities in the future.

December 3rd is #GivingTuesday and Global Giving is providing up to $500,000 in matching funds on all donations made on that day!  Could you please share our story with friends and family this giving season and help us win even more support?

  • Follow us on Social Media: @trunksnleaves on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Find photos, videos and more stories under #CoexistenceProject, #LivingWithElephants and #ElephantOptimism

THANK YOU!

Everyone pitches in to lay the ground work.
Everyone pitches in to lay the ground work.
Ms. Tharangani opens their new tap line.
Ms. Tharangani opens their new tap line.
An elephant removed the base of this swing.
An elephant removed the base of this swing.
The new merry-go-round at Mithuru.
The new merry-go-round at Mithuru.
Durable new desks and chairs for Mithuru.
Durable new desks and chairs for Mithuru.

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Dear Sponsors,

Today we bring you an update on the preschools that have progressed the furthest on their upgrades, thanks to your support.

We begin with Rainbow Preschool, where teacher Taniya Dilrukshi cares for 10 children. They installed a new sign and purchased a sound system to play music. In celebration of these gifts and the nature around them, the kids put on a little performance dressing up as flowers, bees and butterflies. The total expenditure for creating this joy was just $195.

At Mithuru Preschool, Ms. Chamila Krishanthi is responsible for 20 children. They were thrilled to have new wooden desks and chairs to replace the plastic ones they had been using, new cupboards, a set of swings and a climbing structure for the playground. The total for all of this was $585.

BIG NEWS!

In July, we were also pleased to host Global Giving Fellow Uma Thiagarajan on a site visit. She was able to visit both the national park and participating schools. We are very excited that this now makes us a Site Visit Verified and fully vetted GG partner! Here's what she had to say:

"Trunks and Leaves is an unique organisation working to conserve wildlife and also invest the nearby communities in understanding the need for conservation. The team at T&L is very limited, yet the passion with which they work is very inspiring. Wishing Dr.Shermin and the team good luck in their future projects!"

And there's one more thing - do you or someone you know live in the greater San Diego Area? Then be sure to visit our in-person event: An Evening with Elephants, 5pm on November 2nd at EVE Encinitas (575 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024). This 2-hour event will feature:

  • A screening of the 2013 BBC Documentary "Sri Lanka, Elephant Island" featuring Shermin de Silva & Martyn Colbeck.
  • Q&A with T&L Founder Shermin de Silva
  • A kick-off of our end-of-the-year fundraiser for this Global Giving Project, with a silent auction, fine art, a first look at merchandise to support the cause, and other goodies!

You can stay tuned on Facebook or visit our homepage for ticketing and other information!

Please take a look at the attached photos, and share this project with your friends and family. Every little bit helps!

On behalf of myself and my team, thank you and have a wonderful day!

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In March-April we surveyed 300 households in villages between two national parks, Udawalawe and Lunugamwehera. The goal of the survey was to document socioeconomic conditions, experiences with elephants, and understand people's attitudes towards elephants as well as their perceptions of risk. These are communities that we intend to work with longer-term, so the surveys are an important means of getting to know them.

We identified 11 pre-schools in this round that we hope to sponsor with your help. The children are all 3-5 years old. As before, we were very impressed at how the teachers strive to foster a bright and creative learning environment using whatever they have on hand!

In May, we returned to each school to assess their specific needs. These include simple low-cost items such as books ($30 for one classroom), to larger investements such as toilets ($1300 for a school).

In the updated project page, you can find a complete list of the schools with photographs and list of needs. It's also included as an attachment. Could you please share our project with others you know who might also like to support these kids and teachers?

Thank you for your support!


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This project has two components:

1)    Understanding how elephants and people share space

Using camera traps, we are able to observe how people, elephants and other animals are using landscapes outside protected areas. We have deployed more than 20 cameras over fourteen months so far and are working our way up to 40. The hundreds of photos show that elephants frequently occur on private lands. This includes herds with calves, which are mostly active at night so as to avoid people. On the one hand, this is good news because it shows how adaptable elephants are in being able to continue surviving on land that is heavily used by people. On the other hand this exposes them to lots of risks. We've enlisted the help of the School of Computing from the University of Colombo to help us sort and analyze the photographs.

2)    Supporting communities living with elephants

Six schools were supported in the first round of fundraising (GG project 33222). At the end of the Sri Lankan school year in December 2018 we had a very special visitor who brought a wealth of Montessori training material to donate to each school and conducted a crash course on Positive Discipline with all the teachers. In January, the start of the school year, the materials were distributed to each school. In February we started a fresh survey of new communities and schools to include in the program and expect to complete this assessment by mid-March.

Please see attached document for the full report with photographs.

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About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

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Organization Information

Trunks & Leaves Inc.

Location: Newtonville, MA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AsianEle
Project Leader:
Shermin de Silva
Newtonville, MA United States
$1,240 raised of $15,000 goal
 
28 donations
$13,760 to go
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