Kaila here, writing from Millennium Elephant Foundation on the beautiful, tropical island of Sri Lanka! It took a few days but I did adapt to the thick humid heat, and have since enjoyed every second of my time here! I have been here for just over a month now, with another Carpe Diem student, Brooklynn. As Brooklynn’s blog covered most of the basics, with us there are usually 15 other volunteers here at a time, most short term. Millennium was recently discovered 14 years ago, so it is still a work in progress. Right now Millennium is funding to build a freedom fence so the elephants won’t have to be chained up anymore. Currently there are eight elephants here at millennium, each with their different back grounds and stories of how they ended up here. It took a few days for me to remember all the elephant’s names, but after sometime I could notice that they each have their own very distinct features and personalities.
Posing with their trunks up for the picture J In order from left to right (elephant & mahout): Ranmenika & Kili Banda, Kandula & Hera, Bandara & Banda, Kavari Raja & Guni, Raja & Nihar , Rani & Chandana, Lukshmi (mother of Pooja) & Jaya, Pooja (daughter of Lukshmi) & Nuan.
The elephant and mahout I was fatefully assigned to were Bandara and Banda. Bandara is about thirty years old and is a rescue elephant who came from 15 years of a very rough, abusive life in logging and tourism. Bandara is still recoving from injuries today, but his mahout, Banda, is very patient and good to him tansitioning Bandara into a happy life here at Millennium. Banda speaks some broken English, but he and I mostly communicate through acting out actions. Every day I do my part to help out with Bandara. My daily jobs consist of cleaning Bandaras bed every morning, doing a vet check (making/ feeding him his vitamin balls and checking his feet) giving him a cocoanut bath, and feeding him lots of bananas. I also take my turn in the fruit shop selling fruit to tourist to feed the elephants after their rides. This leaves a lot of free time left for projects throughout the day, and there are lots of ongoing projects.
For my focused volunteer project I immediately turned to the eco-garden. I have studied sustainable agriculture through school and thought this would be a great opportunity for some hands on experience. With all the short term volunteers coming and going all the time, there was not much of a system when I arrived so the garden was in desperate need of attention. Because I would be here for so long, I was bumped up to “eco-garden manager.” Having no experience working on an eco-garden in Sri Lanka, I turned to a knowledgeable local man who is a tour guide here at Millennium, named Senna. He has been my mentor through it all teaching me how to identify plants, what they are used for, how to plant them, and how to keep them happy, healthy, and alive until they are ready to harvest. I have since spent most of my days tucked back in the garden, watering in the morning, sweeping, de-weeding, laying mulch, planting, prepping beds, harvesting, and then watering again in the evenings. Thanks to the garden smarts and man power of a few short term volunteers, we aslso recently built a compost heap for the garden!
Because the garden is so big and there is so much to do, I made a garden schedule and system that gets other volunteers involved while keeping up with the garden’s daily needs, speeding up the process, and really getting the garden growing. My goal for the end of my time here is to have a very diverse, self sufficient, fully planted garden growing with lots fresh, organic produce and plants, and to be harvesting weekly to give to the fruit shop so we save as much money as we can for the freedom fence!
Kandula says hi! We are sending the love to friends, family, and Carpe students all around the world – from Sri Lanka!