Monday, August 31, 2015

The Wonderful World of Volunteering in Sri Lanka

 If you google search "volunteer opportunities in Sri Lanka" (or anywhere in the world), you're most likely to come across a plethora of foreign volunteer organizations based out of countries outside of Sri Lanka requiring registration fees and a fair whack of expense on your part. The two most common volunteer programs or projects that are touted through these foreign volunteer organizations are the Wild Elephant Conservation Project in Northern Central  Sri Lanka, or the Sea Turtle Conservation Project along the southern coast of Sri Lanka. And you might also come across volunteer placements in teaching, elderly care, disability care, orphanages that are offered. Travel tours of the island are frequently offered in conjunction with volunteer placements via tour companies that have an established volunteer program.

However, if you haven't done sufficient research or investigating then you won't readily find information on locally recognized and less costly volunteer opportunities in Sri Lanka. Or it may not be clear which local volunteer programs or projects are genuine, well-established, efficient and effective.

The purpose of this blog post is to shed some light and offer up some options for those who might be interested in a volunteer placements or opportunities in Sri Lanka. I know there are some who are interested in primarily volunteering for extended periods; others who wish to add volunteering onto their travel itinerary (on an ad hoc or fixed period) in Sri Lanka; and expats living in Sri Lanka who want to contribute in a meaningful way to the Sri Lankan community. Please note the list below is not exhaustive.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Travel Monday: In awe of the sacred and oldest surviving human-planted tree Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

Eva Stone photo, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
There is a sacred fig tree, known as Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, that was planted in Anuradhapura around the third century BC by King Devanampiyatissa. It was grown from a sapling of the sacred Maha Bodhi tree under which Gautama Buddha became enlightened in Bodh Gaya, India. The sapling was brought over from India  by Theri Sanghamitta, who founded the Bhikkhuni order of nuns in Sri Lanka and the daughter of Emperor Asoka. Both sacred fig trees are held in high regard by Buddhists around the world, with Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi considered the oldest known surviving human-planted tree in the world given its unbroken heritage and known planting date.

There is a record in the Guinness Book of World Records that confirms:
"The oldest tree known to have been planted by a human rather than by natural seeding is a 2,300-year-old sacred fig or bo-tree (Ficus religiosa) that has been named Sri Maha Bodhiya, and stands in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It was planted there in 288 BC. The mother tree from which this specimen was propagated was none other than the famous Bodhi tree under which Siddhartha Gautama the Lord Buddha was sitting when he gained enlightenment"

Interestingly, there are many different dates quoted for the official planting of this sacred tree ranging from 288BC, 249BC, 244BC and 236BC.

Sri Maha Bodhi is known as one of the Atamasthana or the 8 places of veneration in the ancient sacred city of Anuradhapura (which is a UNESCO Wold Heritage site).