Empowering the next generation of climate champions

17/02/2014 – Colombo, Sri Lanka: 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 of much importance to him. Today he’s taking part in programme that talks about how we need to safeguard our environment. Talking about the environment is not the most exciting subject in school, however 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. (2013)

In 2013 the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) with support from the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the German Red Cross initiated a climate change programme, aiming at educating, informing and to raise awareness on climate change and its impact to 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 the role of trees help to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“If we want to make a change we need to educate our children,” says the President of SLRCS 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 SLRCS conducted a programme recently for the students who actively participated in the tree-planting campaign. The main objective of this event is to “Develop Students as Climate Champions”, the programme Ravindu was a part of.

The programme provided an opportunity for students like Ravindu, to share their experiences in last year’s tree planting campaign and also to motivate and inspire in protecting and preserving the environment.

It was also aimed at developing future action plan to continue environmental protection and preservation activities within schools and communities

As one of the activities, students were given an opportunity to identify the key environmental problem faced by them in their respective district and to come up with possible solutions. With the support from their teachers, students came up with feasible solutions to the problems they identified in their respective regions.

“This is a continued support the SLRCS has towards mitigating climate change,” said the Director General of SLRCS 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.”

A package of videos, posters, leaflets, handbooks were provided for all the students and teachers so that they will be able to pass the knowledge to the rest of the students in their respective schools and communities.

Before ending 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 of SLRCS from their respective districts will closely work with these students and will support to develop them 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.

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