Amanda’s Sri Lankan adventure

Severn Trent Services’ Amanda Bagri recently had an unforgettable trip of a lifetime, doing charity work in Sri Lanka.

It was something of a change of scenery for Coventry-based Amanda, who works as a Continuous Improvement Analyst on the Water Contracts Team. She took two weeks out of her busy schedule to visit the South Asian country, taking part in several charity projects.

It’s not her first time doing this. A few years back she visited Kenya, where she helped out in a rescue centre for orphans, something which she recalls as rewarding but leaving her in “floods of tears.”

This time around, Amanda’s main role was in sea turtle conservation, which involved checking the beach daily, removing any eggs, and placing them into a hatchery.  Amanda and her fellow volunteers would then monitor the eggs, and once they hatched, check and weigh the babies before releasing them back into the sea.

60 sea turtles hatched

But that wasn’t the only beach-related activity that Amanda helped with. Along with fellow volunteers, she undertook daily beach cleans – something which came as a bit of a shock.

“It was a real eye-opener. We’d do the beach cleans daily, so you’d clean a section of the beach, and I’d be filling black bin bags. It would take about five minutes to fill one. So, we’d clear it and then the next day the ocean would wash it all up again. I’ve never seen so many plastic bottles. Also, fishing nets from trawlers, there were so many of them. I’d heard of it, but I’d never realised how much washes up on the shore.”

Away from the beach, Amanda also helped in feeding stray dogs around the village where she stayed, and with no formal school in the area, she helped out in the unofficial community school, giving English lessons to local children.

Besides charity work, psychology graduate Amanda wanted to educate herself. Large areas of Sri Lanka were devastated by the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, and Amanda wanted to see how this had affected survivors.

“Sri Lanka was affected quite heavily by the tsunami. I visited a village that was heavily impacted. There was a photo museum, and I got to hear survivor stories and get a real understanding. In this particular village, over 2,000 people died, and 600 people are still missing. I don’t think people understand the impact that still has today, and how it’s impacting their mental health.

“They’re Buddhists, so believe in karma. Those who lost people in the tsunami think it’s karma and they must have done something in a past life, where those who survived saw themselves as having good karma.”

Buddhism fascinates Amanda, who took the opportunity to visit temples and try her hand at meditation.

Amanda visited Sri Lanka during the recent unrest in the country. But other than a few peaceful anti-government demonstrations, the remote areas she was in didn’t see any disruption, although she decided to play it safe and cancel a planned visit Columbo.

She still had the opportunity to experience plenty of Sri Lanka though. Besides trying out stick fishing (see photo), Amanda had the opportunity to zip line off the 1141m high Little Adam’s Peak, visit animal sanctuaries (including one for over 2,000 dogs!) and herb gardens where she was able to learn about natural medicines. Most importantly, as an avid tea drinker, Amanda visited a tea plantation, where she “may” have bought a year’s supply of white and green tea.

Amanda has returned from her trip with a renewed commitment to reducing her plastic waste after witnessing first-hand the effect it is having on our oceans. This commitment is something she shares with Severn Trent. At the recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the company set up 41 water refill stations around venues, allowing visitors to refill over 480,000 bottles of water. That’s almost half a million bottles of single use plastic saved.

It’s thanks to volunteers like Amanda that vital work like this gets undertaken. Besides giving something back, volunteering schemes like this offer a unique chance to experience other cultures, offering an unforgettable, rewarding experience. Feel free to drop Amanda a message and she’ll be happy to let you know how you can take part.

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