August 26, 2017 was an exciting day out for the Funday Times Club members. They made a visit to the MJF Centre in Moratuwa, which comprised of the One Earth Urban Arboretum, Butterfly Garden, Heritage Centre and Organic Farm. It was an enjoyable educational experience organised by Dilmah Conservation.

The day started off in the cool shade of the mess hall. The children were divided into two groups A and B, according to their ages. They were issued hats and badges - which the youngsters were delighted about.

The events started with Group A being taken to the Butterfly Garden and Group B to the Arboretum. The One Earth Urban Arboretum has the biggest butterfly garden in Colombo. Sri Lanka currently has 245 species of butterflies, of which 26 species are endemic to Sri Lanka. The members learned how different species of butterfly select special trees to lay eggs on. They are called the Larval plants and the butterfly garden is visited by more than 50 butterfly species.

Kids of Group B, meanwhile explored the Arboretum. The Arboretum contains over 500 species of plants endemic to Sri Lanka. Some of these trees are not native to the Western Province and therefore an unusual sight. The One Earth project was started as a first in Sri Lanka, in October 2016. The trees planted then are steadily growing; transforming the landscape to an oasis.

Among the plant species at One Earth are Margosa, Maila, Ceylon Satinwood, Ugurassa (Governor’s Plum ), Ahu and Edaru. Our members learnt that elephants love Maila (Bauhinia racemosa), known for its medicinal properties and used as a cure against ulcers and to destroy parasitic worms. Ahu or Indian Mulberry (Morinda citrifolia) is found throughout Asia.

The Heritage Centre at the front of the Arboretum, is built to resemble an ancient rural cottage, complete with mud walls and thatched roof. The interior is cool and houses various equipment used in agriculture, the kitchen and at the blacksmiths. The young members were fascinated to observe tools used by their ancestors, with some quipping that they’d seen the tools at their grandmother’s house.

“Our ancestors were far seeing, they only fished up to the amount they wanted to eat. The Kemana was a sustainable way of catching fish,” said a staff member as he showed them around.

There was an Olindha board placed on a bench, which the manager said even he did not know how to play. To his delight, a nine-year old member explained how it was played. The children learned also that the 'Vee Bhissa' or Seed Hut, was one of the greatest technological marvels made in Sri Lanka. It helped keep the crop fresh, for even three to four years.

Thereafter, they visited the DCSARC Organic farm, where they learned that the best way to reuse plastic bottles was to use them as pots. They also learned about Vermiwash - A liquid that results as part of worm action, which was a very effective type of organic fertilizer.

Lunch was served in a sweet smelling banana leaf, followed by a puppet show by Sulochana Dissanayake of Power of Play. “Nelum” a purple doll, the main attraction, asked the kids questions about their experience earlier in the day. The children were also taught how to make puppets with their hands.

Later on the members were given the opportunity to mingle and interact with the MJF Charitable Foundation’s differently-abled kids.

Overall, it was a very educational experience and the members were in high spirits as they said goodbye to the MJFCF kids.

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