2020: Year in Review
How many times have you heard the phrase ‘2020 has been a tough year for everyone’ over the last few weeks? Probably a fair few and it is absolutely true. COVID-19, wildfires and racism have marked a year that will never be forgotten. However, in our 2020 review we wanted to bring you some nuggets of joy from our little corner of the world, the little bits of brightness that have helped us pass a pretty dark year. Please enjoy a speedy run through of some of the Forest Healing Foundation’s highlights from 2020...
January – Our hosts and co-founders, Polwaththa Eco Lodges, launched new yoga retreats where a donation was made to the Forest Healing Foundation for every retreat. This raised $280 for our reforestation work by the end of March.
February – Emma joined the team as our voluntary Foundation Coordinator to help grow our work and we launched the Mudalali Land campaign to help protect 7 acres of threatened, biodiverse forest adjacent to our existing reforestation project.
March – Thanks to incredible support from people all over the world, we were able to raise $5000 in just three weeks which we needed to become a member of Global Giving. Joining Global Giving means we now have a permanent online platform to receive donations from outside Sri Lanka, as well as access to additional fundraising opportunities and training.
April – As the COVID-19 lockdowns came into force, we stepped up our digital work to help people stay connected with nature. This included posting photos and videos of wildlife in the jungle, creating a nature-based meditation and starting a Conservation Book & Netflix Club.
May – We were really excited to publish our first set of children’s educational resources. Aimed at supporting parents home-schooling their children during the lockdowns, “My Conservation Adventure” is a fun and interactive series of activities to help children train to be professional conservationists!
June – The fantastic team at German eco-tourism company Feel The World Travel became our first corporate partners. Together we launched a project to plant a fruit, spice or native tree with a local farmer for every travel booking received. The project also employs a carpenter and village coordinator to help maximize support to the local community.
July – We partnered with one of our local villages to build much needed water infrastructure around their paddy field. By having more control over water flows, the farmers are now able to protect their rice crops during heavy rains. This has helped support over 20 families, as well as reducing the pressure on nearby forest resources.
August – We were a finalist in Global Giving’s Photo of the Year competition with a picture of our beloved ‘Hug Me Tree’. We were up against some incredible photography and sadly we didn’t win but we are very grateful to all those who voted for us!
September – In one of the craziest months of the year, we helped launch Eko Land Produce – a community initiative selling fruits and spices grown in the local forests. By helping to create a market for this produce, we hope to provide a financial incentive to local farmers to conserve their trees.
October – It was a real highlight to host a group of ecology students who have started a biodiversity assessment of our forest. They found a critically endangered gecko species on their first day and we are looking forward to learning more to help us better protect the wildlife.
November – We were gutted to hear the news that the protection of 700,000 hectares of Sri Lanka’s Other State Forests has been removed, however we were also proud to stand alongside other environmental organisations to coordinate a campaign for this to be overturned. The campaign has had incredible engagement so far and the fight continues.
December – We gained a new CEO, Sumedha, who brings a wealth of community engagement expertise and launched a partnership with new Sri Lankan eco-fashion brand, From the Roots. For every item sold, the wonderful Samia at From the Roots is donating to a fund to create bursaries for students to research in our forest with the hope of supporting Sri Lanka’s conservationists of the future!
We hope you have taken some positivity from these highlights! So other than an unexpectedly in-depth understanding of virology, what have we learnt from 2020?
1. The kindness of friends and strangers
From the donors who make our work possible, to our partners Feel The World and From the Roots who approached us to offer their support, to the other environmental organisations who have embraced us and guided us as the ‘new kid on the block’: the kindness is completely overwhelming and we are humbled and grateful.
2. The need for flexibility and innovation in our conservation work
Operating in a pandemic has meant that nearly all businesses have had to adapt their work, however our project with local farmers to build a sluice gate also showed us the value of taking on completely different projects. By helping improve the productivity of local farms, we can help provide a stable income and reduce the need for cutting trees, which could also be important on a national scale too. We hope to enhance our expertise around sustainable agriculture to assess how we can grow this work.
3. The incredible power of local knowledge
Ushantha has taught us a lot about the social drivers of deforestation in his village, Manjula has offered his expertise on growing and budding jackfruit tree saplings and Kaliyani has shown us traditional methods for preparing forest produce for market, to name but a few. We learn new things about our forest every day and that is exactly as it should be!
4. The healing power of nature in times of stress and anxiety
We felt incredibly fortunate (indeed almost guilty!) to be able to walk around the area of forest we are based in during the curfews this year. As individuals, we found we relied on going to spend time breathing in the sights and sounds of the forest as a way to calm our worries about loved ones and what the future may hold. This served to further bolster our resolve to do all we can to conserve our forests and also to hopefully help others to experience the benefits of forest healing.
5. The great love and support that exists for protecting the world’s forests
Whilst it would be easy to look at the rates of deforestation and think that no-one cares, our campaigns have taught us otherwise. We have seen huge support on social media for forest conservation, we get many emails from people who would like to volunteer with us and we receive donations from people we’ve never met in countries we’ve never visited. We believe there is far more support for protecting forests than destroying them, the trick is just coming together to be loud enough. This is the positive energy that we will be taking through to 2021!
Thank you for reading and for all your support this year. Wishing you and your family all the best for a brighter New Year from the whole Forest Healing Foundation community.