In Vidattaltivu, the ocean never seems very far away. A stiff breeze carries a briny saltiness and the hungry calls of birds, which circle the small harbour where the fishermen moor their boats. Looking out from the coastline, visitors find their view of the horizon is circumscribed by dense, green mangroves. However, beyond the borders of the trees, lies open ocean and coral reefs teeming with colourful fish. This place is a kind of natural paradise.
Of course, it has not always been so for the people of the village. 28-year-old Susaidas Suren was born in this coastal town in Mannar district. This remote community was devastated by the war—Suren himself was displaced three times. But now they are trying to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. They want to share the beauty they know so intimately with tourists, and in the process rejuvenate their village.
A VERY DIFFERENT WAY OF LIFE
Suren is one of a group of young people behind the Vidattaltivu Eco Tourism Society. Under the EU Support to District Development Programme, UNDP came in to back the community organisation with a boat yard that could serve as a meeting point and administrative centre. The dock was also deepened to improve access.
In districts such as Mannar, Ampara, Vavuniya, Puttalam and Anuradhapura, EU-SDDP has focused on young people interested in becoming entrepreneurs, while simultaneously supporting their increased engagement in governance and promoting youth leadership at a local level.
Here in Vidattaltivu, the programme focused on helping youth revitalise their community. Aside from the infrastructure, they also needed help to iron out the logistical details such as first aid and life jackets that were key safety requirements. Various members of the team have gone for training and been certified as guides. It has been a steep learning curve for people used to a very different way of life.