Sri Lanka: Empowering the next generation of climate champions

Published: 27 February 2014 22:35 CET

By Mahieash Johnney, IFRC

Ravindu, a 14-year-old boy from Hambantota, woke up early in the morning with much enthusiasm. He’s going on a trip to Colombo. Coming from a rural village, this trip to the city is important to him. Today he’s taking part in programme about safeguarding the environment. It may not be the most exciting subject in school, but for Ravindu this is very close to heart as he was part of a Red Cross Climate Change initiative programme that was conducted in his school last year.

In 2013 the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society with support from the International Federation of Red Cross  and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the German Red Cross initiated a climate change programme to educate, inform and raise awareness on climate change and its impact on communities in Sri Lanka.    

The campaign was aimed at 6th grade school children in the 245 schools who have been given the responsibility of taking care of the plants throughout the year. They were also entrusted to monitor and record the growth of the plant, helping them to understand how trees help to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“If we want to make a change we need to educate our children,” said the President of Sri Lanka Red Cross Society Jagath Abeysinghe. “This is exactly why we chose to plant these trees within school communities. We get to teach the children the importance of safeguarding our environment and also given them a specific responsibility of taking care of it as well.”

This year as a follow-up the society conducted a programme for the students who actively participated in the tree-planting campaign. The main objective of this event is to develop dtudents as climate champions. This is the programme that was occupying Ravindu.

As one of the activities, students were given an opportunity to identify the key environmental problem faced by their communities and, with support from their teachers, to come up with possible solutions.

“This is a continued support the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society has towards mitigating climate change,” said the society’s Director General Tissa Abeywickrama. “In all our programming we ensure that a close follow-up is done, and that we do not just do one activity and then disappear. Climate Change is a matter that needs the younger generation’s attention and action.”

“I consider this a privilege, not only to me but even to my school in order to take part in a programme like this,” said Ravindu, “This helps us to develop ourselves as leaders in the society and to gain knowledge on climate change.”

Videos, posters, leaflets and handbooks were provided for all the students and teachers so that they will be able to pass the knowledge to students in their schools and communities.

At the close of the event, each student committed to be a leader to protect the environment.  They identified few activities they will carry out in their school and communities during the year.  

During the year the representatives from the Red Cross will closely work with these students, supporting their development as champions of climate change.

The next event will be held in March 2014 in Mulliativu in North of Sri Lanka with 40 schools representing 9 districts.