As the sun was setting, we would sit down under a tree to debrief, meet local community leaders or youth and enjoy local cuisine. After a long drive or walk through the forest, this was refreshing and represented the different approach we took on this trip to engage with the local community of Kunchukulam. This is far from the closed door stakeholder engagements in air conditioned offices I’m used to in Australia. Our ‘emergence’ with the community was a different sensory experience that took me out of my comfort zone but left me feeling refreshed and hopeful.  It allowed us to connect with the local youth and the beautiful forest while learning about the issues and strengths of the community. I was surprised that with a few days, we were able to make a positive impact on the community especially the youth. Our interest and appreciation of the forest that surrounds their village, led the youth to value their natural asset and gave them hope for earning an income from eco-tourism.

Vany Gunaratnam