2019 Volunteer Project – Bridging Lanka

Image source: Bridging Lanka

2019 Volunteer Project – Urban Improvement in Mannar

To Architects for Peace Community Members:
This year, as part of our commitment to support pro bono work, we are supporting the development work undertaken by Bridging Lanka. In the past we have had some volunteers working with the Bridging Lanka NGO and we have also attended a information meetings in February this year.
For more information, please check the website and/or contact Steve Dunn (details in the webpage)

Who is Bridging Lanka?
Bridging Lanka is a not-for-profit community development organisation operating in the northern Sri Lankan district of Mannar where it has its office and ‘in-country’ team. Bridging Lanka harnesses the resources of international volunteers and expatriate Sri Lankans to benefit the people of Mannar, Puttalam and Kandy Districts.

Bridging Lanka supports a range of projects responding to social, economic and environmental issues in these communities. More information about Bridging Lanka, its objectives, programs and projects can be found at the Bridging Lanka website.

What is the Volunteer Project in 2019?
In 2019 Bridging Lanka is looking for volunteers with skills and interests in urban improvement and community engagement to be involved in the next stage of the Mannar Kulam Rehabilitation Program.
• Bridging Lanka is seeking to recruit a group of motivated individuals with relevant skills to work as a team for four weeks in July 2019. A small team of 4 to 6 people with complementary skills and experience is ideal.
• Relevant skills and interests include urban planning, urban design, landscape architecture, engineering, community engagement/development, graphic design and project management.
• The project in 2019 will focus on rehabilitation of a local water body (Kulam) and surrounding public land – including engagement with the local community and authorities, design of improvements and working with contractors to complete landscaping, drainage and installation of playground and park furniture.
• Bridging Lanka will provide project support including pre-departure and preparation training in Melbourne in May 2019. This will cover cultural orientation; administrative, geographical and political background; safety and travel information; team building and project briefing. Anticipated pre-departure training weekend is Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th May, 2019 (to be confirmed).
• Bridging Lanka has a team of local support staff in Mannar who will assist the Australian volunteers with finding their feet in a new place, with interpreting and translation, meeting organisation, procurement of materials and labour, working conditions and liaison with local authorities and community groups. To acknowledge this significant role, we ask that volunteers contribute a fee of $300 (waged) or $200 (unwaged/ student/part-time). The Australian team is expected to manage its own day-to-day activities and project management.
• Anticipated project dates in 2019 are Saturday 29th June until Friday 26th July. The project will generally operate Monday to Friday so that volunteers have the weekends for themselves. Volunteers may want to allow time for travel in Sri Lanka before or after the project dates.
• Volunteers are expected to be self-funding and cover their own airfares and travel costs, accommodation and living expenses, medical and travel insurance costs.
• An important part of the project is raising funds to pay for improvements at the Kulams such as re-shaping earthworks, rock walls, play equipment, outdoor seating, tree planting and landscaping. Volunteers are asked to assist in fundraising for the project in the six months prior to departure. Bridging Lanka will assist with online fundraising and other activities. In 2018 our online campaign raised $10,000 toward Kulam projects.

Anyone wishing to volunteer with Bridging Lanka is asked to complete and submit Form 2: Bridging Lanka Volunteer EOI - Sri Lanka on the Bridging Lanka website.

The Volunteer Experience
Volunteers working with Bridging Lanka have a unique opportunity to work as part of a team on a practical urban improvement project that will make a difference in lives of the local community.

Bridging Lanka is a well-respected non-government organisation that has worked in partnership with the Mannar community for the past seven years and has good connections with community and government organisations.

Conditions are challenging due to cultural, climatic and administrative differences to Australia, but the relationships and project outcomes are highly rewarding. A short YouTube clip prepared by one of the volunteers in 2017 provides an insight into the volunteer experiences in Mannar. Our website also includes Volunteer FAQ's and Testimonials.

Mannar Kulam Rehabilitation Program
The Tamil word, ‘kulam’, refers to a water body or small lagoon. These have traditionally played an important role in community life (drinking, bathing, washing clothes, fishing and recreation), storm water retardation and aquifer recharge. Over recent times many kulams have become degraded and polluted and filled to create land for housing and roads. The result is severe annual flooding because in the wet season there is nowhere for the water to go. Bridging Lanka is working with local communities and authorities to progressively rehabilitate the kulams to deliver social, health, economic and environmental benefits.

The Survey of Kulams undertaken by Bridging Lanka in 2015 provides background to this issue.
In the late nineteenth century there were approximately 80 kulams in Mannar however there are now 12 functioning kulams. Loss of kulams and reduction in kulam size due to encroachment is a significant problem for Mannar because it increases flooding to surrounding houses and properties. Loss of these kulams has a negative impact on recharging of underground aquifers which is needed for vegetation growth, cultivation, bathing, washing of clothes and recreational swimming and has a negative impact on the environment by reduction of habitat for birds and wildlife. The kulams are integral to Mannar’s history, folklore, cultural heritage and future survival.

Bridging Lanka’s Mannar Kulam Rehabilitation Program works with local communities, the Government Agent, Divisional Secretariat, Urban Council and the Department of Agrarian Development to plan and carry out improvement works to stop further encroachment, rehabilitate kulams and restore kulam land for community use. Opportunities for improvement involve working in collaboration with the local residents and Rural Development Societies to design spaces for community activity and recreation, removal of weeds and rubbish, creating walking paths and seating, introducing lighting and other improvements for increasing open spaces for social recreation, health and economic benefits. Bridging Lanka seeks to work closely with the government agencies and community groups in this urban improvement program.
Image source: Bridging Lanka document.

Program Objectives
• Protect Mannar’s kulams from further encroachment and reinstate land that has formerly been encroached;
• Improve the water storage at kulams and reduce the impact of flooding;
• Work in partnership with the Government Agent, Divisional Secretary, Mannar Urban Council, the Department of Agrarian Development, Rural Development Society (men) and the Women’s Rural Development Society;
• Create more attractive open space for improved social recreation, health, economic and environmental outcomes including the protection of natural habitat for birds and wildlife;
• Support the local community to take an active civic role in caring for, maintaining and utilising the kulam precinct.


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