Life Flows back to Sri Lanka’s forgotten former Border Villages
Feb 15, 2011
Ran Banda feels some purpose in life again.

For thirty years, he had survived from one day to the next in mind-numbing fear of the Tamil Tigers, as did everyone else in the sleepy village of Abbassa, nestling in the dense scrub jungles of Illukpitiya, in Buttala, in the Monaragala District. Then he had hardly dared to breathe, fearing the Tigers would hear him. Then he had feared to tread the grass, dreading the Tigers appearance from the shadows. Then the vibrant sparkle of nature had been shrouded in the murky shadows of terrorism.

It is different now.

The Tigers are vanquished. Fear has disappeared. Life is renewed with vigor. Ran Banda’s life has purpose. He is waiting patiently for the mango and orange plants to grow, mature and bear fruit. He decided that making a quick buck with water melon was not for him. This is because he understands the importance of a gestation period and the resulting stability and sustainability of long-lasting fruit trees.

The change is unbelievable. The people of the forgotten communities of the former border villages have awakened to become energetic, productive individuals with a vision in life. And behind this incredible transformation, is a California-based philanthropic organization, the BODHI (Buddhist Organization for Development of Human Individuality) Foundation, whose mission is to discover human individuality through Buddhism, by treading the Noble eight-fold path, and to actively practice compassion and generosity by uplifting the lives of poor, needy people.

The 49-acre mango and orange planting venture is one of BODHI Foundation’s initial projects, named BODHI Village Project, designed to generate hope, opportunity and economic freedom in several identified villages around Sri Lanka. The energetic local partner in this flagship project, is the Buddhist priest from Buttala, Ven. Karawilakotuwe Dhammatilleke.

When the local charity, Jayagrahana Lanka Foundation recognized the well-nigh impossible task that Ven. Dhammatilleke had undertaken, it volunteered support and assistance. Jayagrahana, with its global connections, found a ready partner in BODHI Foundation of California. BODHI Foundation is also assisted by Ven. Ambalanthota Kolitha ad Ven. Yatirawana Siriniwansa of the Sarachchandra Buddhist Temple in North Hollywood, California.

One year later, there is positive news from the project. According to Ven Dhammatilleke, since last year’s Yala season, 48 acres have been successfully grown with mangoes and oranges. Of these, 10 acres of orange and mango harvest in the Maha cultivation have yielded Rs 110,000 income. The money has been reinvested in the plantation. Bibile Sweet oranges which had long disappeared from Bibile, have found a new habitat in the lush villages of Buttala.

The total cost of the existing project is Rs 158,000, of which Rs 63,000 is for 140 mango seedlings, and Rs 30,000 for 150 orange seedlings. Another Rs 48,000 is needed to cover this year’s cost of existing plot.

Says Ananda Markalanda, President of BODHI Foundation, “Though the dry-zone offers much potential for agricultural development, it is still relatively underdeveloped. Jayagrahanaya, a local NGO, is helping to mobilize and organize local people for agricultural ventures. Through our partnership with Jayagrahanaya, we need to identify viable agricultural projects and assist people to engage in them and to improve their quality of life by securing sustainable incomes, food security and diversified livelihood opportunities.”

As BODHI Foundation says, such activity will resolve some of the limitations and challenges Buttala faces, including climate change effects, poor land and soil management practices and scarcity of water.

BODHI Foundation is also involved in helping improve the minds of students in these rural areas; in Buttala, a computer venture with 20 desktop computers and Lego educational toys, a pre-school with computer facilities for about 45 children in Galgamuwa, English classes for about 40 students in Kalladiya, in the Puttalam District, computer classes for 60 children in Navagattegama, Anamaduwa, and for 50 students in Ayojanagama in the Kandy area.

The villagers of the former border villages are indeed finding purpose in life again.

BODHI Foundation would like to expand this project up to 500 acres, for which additional funds are required. Inquiries, clarifications and donations to BODHI Foundation. Contact Mr. Ananda Markalanda.