NJ Students Return From Trip To Sri Lanka

September 22, 2015 | Education

By Lauren Wanko

After traveling nearly 9,000 miles, these students can’t stop talking about their journey to Sri Lanka.

“It was really cool to be apart of something that was bigger than yourself,” said Guru Travel Volunteer Oliver Murphy.

“I feel like I have a whole new outlook on life,” said Volunteer Genevieve Van Lent.

They’re volunteering with Guru Travel — a summer service program. We first introduced you to the team in late June before their adventure. They spent a month in rural Sri Lanka, where they taught children ESL and worked to conserve the country’s wild elephant population through their Project Orange Elephant.

“We’re building an agricultural fence of orange trees around the border of the National Park which is the migration path of the elephants,” said Guru Travel Director Jamie Wasserman.

Wasserman says the elephants often eat the farmer’s crops on their way to and from the Park.

“The farmers kill the elephants and that’s the problem we’re trying to solve, cause that’s creating the extinction of the elephant in Sri Lanka,” said Wasserman.

Elephants don’t like oranges or the tree’s thorns says Wasserman.

“So if you build a fence of oranges around the rice crops, beans, the different kinds of fruit crops the elephants will just walk by. We also went and visited farmers who already have grown orange trees around their crops right on the edge of the National Park and none of them have has elephants come and visit them,” he said.

During their trip students presented about 80 farmers with one orange tree each and helped plant them.

“Being able to directly contribute and meet the people we’re trying to help was awesome,” said Charlotte Cailliarec.

Guru Travel hopes to raise $200,000 by next summer so they can provide about 80 trees per farmer. Wasserman and the students met with staffers from the grocery store, who agreed to buy the oranges — which are green — along with other crops. When they weren’t the field, many of the volunteers were in the classroom teaching English.

“When you’re there, you understand there’s a difference between teaching kids English to say you taught kids English and teaching kids English for their benefit later in life,” said Izzi Held.

“It’s incredible to know I personally was able to benefit them in such a profound way,” said Antonia Holton-Raphael.

“I think the best part of the entire experience is when you’re teaching the kids the ABCs or something silly like that, something small and their faces light up and they’re like what’s this,” said Scarlett Held.

It proved to be a life changing experience for all these students.

“Seeing how these poor countries, like Sri Lanka seeing how they would live almost the same life as us. Seeing how little they use to do it that is actually amazing,” said Lex Fall.

Guru Travel is launching a new initiative for stay dogs and cats in rural Sri Lanka. They hope to work with local vets who would neuter or spay and vaccinate the animals and they’re already planning their third trip scheduled for next July.