Category: learning about nature


The pandemic has hit India hard. But there are groups you can support who are making a big difference for families. For example, with schools shut down, many children are in danger of losing a lifetime chance at education – or of getting into trouble or marrying younger than they would like to. But the CPRA Foundation is focused on making sure that schooling and opportunities continue, even for some of the poorest children in their region.

Extending a lifeline

Throughout the pandemic, the CPRA Foundation (the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation) has redoubled their efforts and extended a lifeline to many in this difficult time.

Children with learning disabilities

In the Saraswathi Kendra Learning Centre, a school for children with learning disabilities, autism, or dyslexia, in south India, the CPRA Foundation has been providing the children with both online education and online counseling. The head psychologist, Mrs. Niraja, has organized parents’ counseling groups to guide the parents in how to relate to the children when they are at home and not in school. They have continued to make amazing transformations in the lives of the students. In normal times, some of these children pay fees for school. Others cannot afford to pay. No one knows which children are paying and which are not, and that’s how it should be. There is no charge for any of the special counseling.

Schools for low-income children

In the two elementary schools outside of Chennai that the CPRA Foundation runs for low-income children, finding ways to help the children learn remotely has been challenging.

The CPRA Foundation runs four schools. The school in Kumbakonam, to the south of Chennai, is a free elementary school for very low-income children whose parents cannot afford to pay anything at all for their children’s education – they may work as waiters or domestic help, or as laborers in brick factories. The CPRA Foundation bought and gave to the students, textbooks and notebooks for use during the school year when the students did not go to school because of the pandemic. However, since many of the parents cannot read or write, they weren’t able to help their children to read these books, so they were of only limited benefit.

In Kanchipuram, an hour to the west of Chennai, The CPRA Foundation runs an elementary school for girls. There the teachers produced a video of themselves going through each lesson. This was easy to watch and understand and was extremely helpful for the students, enabling them to keep up with their academic work.

The CPRA Foundation also runs a scholarship program, called Each One Teach One – sending children to several schools in Chennai and paying for their education. 600 children are part of this program, being paid for by the CPRA Foundation. However, in this lost school year, the children could not attend school. Since most of the families had lost their jobs, the Foundation took the money for the scholarships and distributed it to the families to help them through this year when they had no income.

Challenges for the children of India

One morning, a woman, as she was struggling to load trash onto the back of a garbage truck, was asked why she was allowing her son, who looked to be around ten, to work alongside her. She replied, “His school is closed, and if I leave him home alone, he will be running wild in the streets. It’s safer for him if he’s with me, so I bring him along.” She was doing everything she knew how to do to keep her son out of trouble.

With so many schools in India shut because of the pandemic, there are many young boys being left alone, without supervision. Their parents work, as do their grandparents sometimes. Other relatives may have their hands full caring for the sick. Young boys, who are normally kept busy with their schoolwork are instead left to their own devices. As might happen anywhere, many do run wild, and there is a widespread fear that many unattended children could get into trouble, or even form into gangs.

The situation is dire for the girls as well. One woman being interviewed for a job, when asked about her children, explained that she had just “married off” her teenaged daughter. She didn’t want to leave her alone in the house. There was no school open for her to go to. By having her married, her mother intended to give her daughter a permanent, secure place in another family.

To prevent these things from happening, the CPRA Foundation works ongoingly, counseling parents, to give children secure, happy lives and good opportunities for the future.

Dr. Nanditha Krishna, President of the CPRA Foundation, writes, “The pandemic has caused great hardship for children in particular, as their best years are drifting past. Many young girls have been married off all over the country.”

When these teenaged girls cannot go to school and are too young to work, their families may seek to give them a secure and stable place with another family through marriage. Sadly, even when this arrangement does give some security, it will usually mean that the girl will have no further education and very few opportunities in life.

The CPRA Foundation is doing a tremendous amount of work through online learning and counseling, to help both girls and boys continue their education and prepare for the times ahead – to get through the hardships of COVID-19 and on to a brighter future.

In normal years, to attend the Asia for Animals Conference – which is always lively and dynamic – you’ll need to spend several thousand dollars and around 15 hours flying across the Pacific.

This year however, due to the pandemic, you can stay in your armchair and pay $20 to be part of the virtual two-day AfA Conference – which is a good deal.

Well, it’s really a two-night conference, from the U.S., due to the time differences.

Speakers

Jane Goodall will give the keynote address. Other speakers will be well-known animal activists from China, Nepal, India, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, and other Asian countries. The conference will be in English.

The 2021 Conference will be put on jointly by Blue Cross of India and FIAPO (the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations). Dr. Chinny Krishna, one of the founders of these two organizations will give the opening address.

Around twenty sessions and panel discussions will take up highly relevant topics.

One session will focus on building an Asian movement to end live animal markets and the wildlife trade.

A panel discussion on Spirituality and Animal Protection will include Dr. Nanditha Krishna, well-known author of many books on animals, the world of nature, and Hinduism – along with Manoj Gautam from Nepal, Wolf Gordon Clifton of the Animal People Forum, and others. The traditions of many Asian countries go back 5,000 years or longer – so there’s quite a lot to cover.

Jill Robinson, of the Animals Asia Foundation, who has led the struggle to free bears from bear bile farms, will speak about the cat and dog meat trade.

Other sessions will feature – fading out the use of animals in tourism, the role of a plant-based movement, and the role of children in animal rights advocacy. Sessions will also focus on farm animals, wild animals, and companion animals.

Asia for Animal Conferences have been held every year and a half since they began in 2001, twenty years ago, in the Philippines. Animal advocacy in Asia faces challenges – as is the case everywhere in the world. The animal movement in Asia is led by remarkable people, who set an amazing example, marked by a high level of energy, enthusiasm, courage, and perseverance.

You can view the Conference program here: https://www.asiaforanimals.com/conference-2021
Scroll down until you see the schedule. You can see the times in the left margin. “IST” is Indian time.

Time Differences

The time difference between U.S. Mountain time (Utah time) and IST (Indian Standard Time) is 11 and a half hours.

This means that, for U.S. attendees, the conference does not start on April 24, instead it starts this coming Friday – in the evening of April 23, at 10 pm, Utah time – or 12 midnight EST.

To convert Indian time (IST) to Utah time, subtract 11 and a half hours.

If you’re not much of a night owl, you may still want just to stay up for one or two events – or if you’re a morning songbird, you may want to wake up for two or three early morning events, starting at around 5 am. Or, you may be completely captivated and want to watch the entire conference – for all of both nights.

In any case, whatever you can watch, it will be fascinating. It will give you an insight into the dynamic work of Asian animal advocates, who stand up for the animals in Asia – and it will be a lot easier than flying across the Pacific for 15 hours!

How to sign up

Go to this link https://afa2021.eventuresindia.com/register

But first do this: Before registering, you are advised to call your credit card company and notify them that you are about to make a foreign purchase. These days, credit card companies may block your card for making an “unusual” (i.e. foreign) purchase. If you call them in advance, there will be no problem.

Registration for the two-day conference is $20.

Relevance to wild lands

All efforts to save the earth’s animals (both wild and domestic animals – and ourselves too) depend on the continued existence of wild habitat, which means wild lands – which means renewing the earth. We all live on the same earth – one earth.

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We look forward to seeing you at the AfA Conference this Friday evening!

Giving life to the earth, her people and animals – all over the world, East and West

Fatumata and Justice

Fatumata belongs to the Animal Kindness Club at her school in Liberia, and her little dog is Justice. Together, Fatumata and Justice bring joy to their family and their community, inspiring others to understand that animals have feelings, just like us.

All over the world, there are remarkable people, who against all odds, are doing their best to help those in need – both people and animals! In Liberia, one of these people is Morris Darbo, who, twenty years ago, in 2001, founded an amazing organization, the Liberia Animal Welfare and Conservation Society.

In a country where there is much need, yet very few resources – the LAWCS brings children and animals together – teaching love, kindness, peace, and caring – just exactly the qualities that this world needs!

Their very active veterinary care program brings health and wellbeing to village animals, along with the message that animals are to be loved and valued. As well as conducting a spay/neuter program for village dogs, they run over thirty other dynamic programs.

In a wonderful example of what can be accomplished, the LAWCS travels from village to village, school to school – reaching out with the message of love and kindness, so that these children will grow up with love in their hearts and with a genuine appreciation of the innocence and beauty of animals.

Krubo and Bush

Here is the story of Krubo and Bush, from the LAWSCS website —
“Krubo is one of our Animal Kindness Stars in her school. Schools are now closed due to COVID-19 outbreak in the country. Krubo is now spending the STAY HOME preventive measure with her family in their little village. Krubo took her little cute puppy, BUSH to the river to bathe her. Both Krubo and Bush love one another. The power of Humane Education can change the entire world. The children are now finding happiness with their pets during this period of global pandemic.”

Little boy and dog

We do not know the name of this little boy or the dog, but we can be sure that wherever his life takes him, he will always remember, deep in his consciousness, that an animal is his trusted friend.

As is the case all over the world, in Liberia, Covid is making finding enough funding harder than usual … please go to their website https://liberiaanimalwelfaresociety.org/, and help, if you can, by giving to village children and dogs in Africa, Many thanks for your kindness!

Photo credit: © Liberia Animal Welfare and Conservation Society, used with permission by Forest Voices of India.

Five miles south of the city Tiruvannamalai, which lies southwest of Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, can be found the forest grove of Pavupattu. An oasis of peace and beautiful trees, it was the first of 53 sacred forest groves restored by CPREEC (CPR Environmental Education Centre).
Thirty years ago, the grove came to the attention of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, Director of CPREEC; she and one of CPREEC’S officers, Mr. Selvapandiyan, went to visit the grove and found it very rundown. Over the course of many months, Mr. Selvapandiyan, who was the manager of the restoration project, spent his time first interviewing local elders in the nearby village of Pavupattu, to determine which were the trees that had once grown naturally in the grove. Then he set about doing the work of restoration.

Mr. Selvapandiyan recalls that at the time, there was a severe drought in the area, which meant that there was no water available. They had to bring in water from outside in trucks, to use for planting all the trees and also as drinking water for the work crews. It was very hot work in the warm months of southern India.

All the trees that can be seen now planted on the acres of the grove, are green and wonderfully healthy. Just a few of the larger trees had existed earlier. In the thirty years since Pavupattu was restored, the people of the nearby village of the same name have faithfully taken care of the grove. It is clean and well-kept, with no trash or litter, a lovely, serene place, home to a few dozen resident monkeys – and to the huge votive statues that the people have had made to offer to the deities of the grove. There are small temple structures, and standing on platforms, or sometimes grinning from behind trees, are the remarkable folk statues, especially of huge white horses, and sometimes the figures of guardian spirits in human form – all constructed of painted terracotta, one of the unique folk arts of Tamil Nadu.

Throughout India, there are forest groves – in the hundreds of thousands, though sadly, the majority have fallen into disrepair over the centuries. Some have disappeared entirely, swallowed up into shopping malls or other developed land, or perhaps simply lying idle, as waste land, occasionally visited by a few devotees who worship the remnants of a sacred site. A few have been maintained over hundreds or thousands of years.

These are the original spiritual sites of the local people of India. They are groves of trees because the trees themselves are believed to be especially sacred, and the people see them as home to the guardian spirits and the deities who live on the sacred land among the trees. Wherever the groves have been preserved intact, it is entirely due to the devotion and tenacity of the local village people, who have protected their groves against all the onslaughts of modern development.

In the past, every Indian village had a forest grove, which was the heart of the spiritual life of the people. The trees could never be cut down, the animals and birds could not be disturbed. Sometimes it was even forbidden to gather dead fallen branches for firewood. The land was sacred and could not be used for mundane purposes. Where they still exist, the forest groves are wonderful repositories of the animals, birds, and plant life of the area. Some species can now only be found in the forest groves.

CPREEC, with each of the 53 groves they have restored, has taken great pains to study the area and to learn from the local people the exact species of trees that used to grow there so that they can be replanted, restoring the grove precisely to its original state. CPREEC provides the funding for the work and carries out the project, hiring local people to do the work. After three years of renovation and support by CPREEC, each grove is turned over to the village, and the local people undertake to preserve and maintain the forest grove which has traditionally always been theirs.

Preserving and restoring these beautiful and peaceful places of greenery and sacred trees, habitat for many kinds of birds and wildlife, is profoundly significant – first of all, for that grove and for the plants and animals who live within the grove and the people who live nearby. And, on another level, what could be more important than restoring and maintaining a small part of the planet earth? Each grove stands like a shining beacon, a reminder of the beauty, grace, and living nature of the earth and all her children.

© Forest Voices of India, 2020

 

Forest Voices of India
– conducts charitable fundraising services for environmental charities, especially in India.

How you can help

The CPR Environmental Education Centre
(CPREEC)
in Chennai, India

– Safeguards water

– Revives tribal arts

– Runs ecological study projects for students

– Restores forest groves – planting trees, improving water sources, and providing places of peace and joy for both wildlife and village people.

To help, click on Donate and choose CPR Environmental Education Centre.

Sending this link to a friend is another great way to help.

Bless you for caring!

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Forest Voices of India conducts charitable fundraising services that relate to promoting awareness of tree and environmental conservation and promoting research, education and other activities relating to the environment.

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WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY – June 5, 2020

VIRTUAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW: CELEBRATE BIODIVERSITY

Gujarat National Law College, Gandhigram, Gujarat

 

By Nanditha Krishna

 

In 2002, the Indian Parliament enacted the Biological Diversity Act followed by the National Biodiversity Rules in 2004. The main objectives of the Act were the conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. Earlier, the Wildlife Protection Act, 1973, and its 1991 Amendment provided for the protection of birds and animals, while the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, a vast improvement on the earlier Act of 1927, was intended to provide a high level of protection to the forests and to regulate diversion of forest lands for non-forestry purposes.

 

Biodiversity – or biological diversity – includes all the organisms found on our planet, the plants, animals and micro-organisms, the genes they contain and the different ecosystems of which they form a part. India is one of only seventeen mega diverse nations in the world, with over 85,000 out of 12,00,000 animal species in the world, and 45,000 out of 3,90,000 plant species. It is estimated that the world knows only about 17,70,000 species out of 5 to 10 million. We hardly know what we have, leave alone what we have lost.

 

Biodiversity is essential to the survival of every species, as each organism is linked to another in a fragile web of life. These form a food chain that links food producers to consumers, and maintains ecosystem diversity. The amount of green plants in any environment should be much more than the animals or insects that feed on them. Humans are only a strand in this delicate web of relationships. Every living creature is a part of a food chain. There are several food chains which, depending on the environment, could be simple or complex. But all food chains are fragile, and if even one link is broken, it sets off a series of reactions that could cause the collapse of the ecosystem. If predators are killed, the herbivores will multiply and eat up green plants and grains, leaving the land barren and unproductive. This is how a biologically-rich region like North Africa became the Sahara Desert. What would happen to public health if scavenger birds like the vulture were wiped out? Every species has its role, making species diversity essential.

 

Loss of biodiversity impacts immediately. There is the example of the genetic similarity of Brazil’s orange trees causing a terrible outbreak of citrus canker in 1991. The rapid deterioration of the ecology due to human interference is aiding the rapid disappearance of several wild plant and animal species.

 

Biodiversity is under serious threat in India for several reasons. Poaching and the wildlife trade are major national concerns, and all the international laws in the world have not been able to stop it. Habitat loss, caused by population growth and housing needs; pollution from sewage and effluents; the indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers which is wiping out entire insect species on which are dependant birds that pollinate our plants; encroachment, siltation and eutrophication that are destroying wetlands; oil spills, toxic effluents and sewage, blasting and dredging, collection of ornamental fish, trawler fishing, nylon nets, destruction of coral reefs and hot water from nuclear plants which are destroying marine life; chemical pesticides, sewage and other organic wastes and sand mining that are destroying rivers; forests which are cut down for timber and urban use; mining of minerals and so on. There is no natural resource that is not under threat, leading to biodiversity loss.

 

As natural resources are depleted, there is less to go around, less to share. Economic, social and political problems are a natural corollary. Water, the most important natural resource which comes from hills and forests, is a source of discord today.

 

Loss of biodiversity is a threat to civilization, second only to thermo-nuclear war in its severity. The consequences could be quite incalculable. Other environmental problems like pollution, global warming and ozone depletion could be overcome, but not the erosion of biodiversity or extinction of species. Species once lost cannot be brought back.

 

The current Covid 19 pandemic, which has emerged from the wet animal markets of Wuhan, China, is the result of human interference with nature, the destruction of the intricate web of life and the loss of biodiversity. The virus always existed. Its predator is missing. Habitat destruction, air and water pollution, indiscriminate poaching and killing of wildlife, intensive farming of animals and the disappearing green cover have combined to cause global warming, climate change and now this destructive pandemic.

 

In this lockdown, people are celebrating the return of avian and terrestrial wildlife, or birds and animals in cities and in the countryside. Air and water pollution have decreased, while the North Pole’s largest-ever Ozone hole has finally closed. What humans could not achieve despite spending millions of dollars or rupees, Nature has achieved – a rejuvenation of planet earth. Humans are a very small part of the web of life, but cause the greatest damage. Celebrating biodiversity is celebrating Mother Earth.

 

I would like to end with a hymn to the tree and the forest from the Rig Veda (IX 5.10.):

The cosmos is a tree with a thousand branches…

The tree is the lord of the forest…

Which is a symbol of life that is self-regenerating and immortal…

 

And a Hymn to the Earth from the Atharva Veda’s Bhoomi Sukta (XII.I.26, 28):

Earth, my mother, set me securely with bliss…

The earth, which possesses oceans, rivers and other sources of water;

Which gives us land to produce food grains on which human beings depend for their survival;

May it grant us all our needs for eating and drinking: water, cereals and fruit.

Let us celebrate biodiversity by making time and space for nature, by remembering that the earth was made for animals and plants too. Ahimsa is non-violence in thought word and action, and non-violence to all creation would be the best celebration of biodiversity.

 

June 5, 2020 global online broadcast, World Environment Day, 2020:

https://www.wedonthavetime.org/events/worldenvironmentday

 

Hinduism and Nature, one of Dr. Nanditha Krishna’s recent books, can be found at

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0798KX6F3/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

Photo Credit:

Alosh Bennett / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Valley of flowers, Garhwal, Uttarakhand, India.

 

 

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Six months ago when they first arrived, the four birds looked bedraggled and had many missing feathers.

 

The four peafowl had been rescued from a farm and brought to the WRRC by a kind Forest Officer.

 

Among beautiful hills in south India, Byrakuru Village is part of the town of Mulbagal, the most eastern town in the state of Karnataka. There, the Range Forest Officer of the Karnataka Forest Department came across the four adult peafowl on a farm. They were being kept illegally, eventually to use for meat. In the meantime, their spectacular, beautiful feathers were being plucked out for use in decorations.

 

The Range Forest Officer drove for a couple of hours to bring them all the way to the WRRC, the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, near Bangalore, beside the Bannerghatta Forest.

 

In India, of course, peafowl are native wild birds – not meant to be kept in captivity or on farms. They ought to be living free, happy lives in the wild. Instead, these four birds arrived greatly in need of some special care and rehabilitation. In the beginning, they could barely fly at all, and, to make matters worse, they’d become habituated to people and were way too tame to be releasable. If they were released before they were ready, they might be captured again by people, or become prey for wild animals.

 

Fortunately, they were brought to just the right place and they’re in very capable hands. At the WRRC, which is licensed to rehabilitate wildlife, they are given the excellent care that they need to be able to fly free once again.

 

They have been placed in a large aviary together, where there’s lots of space. With plenty of room for exercise, they’re regaining their strength and growing back their flight feathers. At the same time, being kept away from people will make them shy, elusive and wild again. This is achieved by not interacting with them at all and keeping visitors away.

 

Every evening, though, they do receive amazing wild visitors — wild peafowl from the adjoining forest drop by to say hello, and they can watch each other, though separated by the enclosure. Naturally, these visits from their wild friends greatly help the peafowl to be wilder and to once again see themselves as wild birds.

 

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They are fed a good, healthy diet – a wide variety of seeds, fruits, vegetables and insects to acclimatize them to the food sources that will be available to them in the forest. Day by day, they are growing less and less dependent on human beings.

 

After six months at the WRRC, their flight feathers have grown in well, and their flight has greatly improved. However, they are still curious about people and don’t shy away from visitors. Hence, some more rehabilitation time is required. They still have a way to go before they’re wild enough to be released.

 

But that time will come. Soon, they’ll be back in the wild where they’ll join their new-found friends – once again to fly wild and free and live in the beautiful forest where they belong.

 

Photos: WRRC

 

WRRC – The Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre,
Bangalore, India

– is licensed to treat and release back to the wild – birds, deer, monkeys, and other orphaned or injured wildlife.

– provides education and greater understanding that benefits forests, wildlife, and wildlife habitat.

How you can help

Click on the donate button and choose WRRC. Another great way to help is to send this link to a friend.

Bless you! Thank you for helping our wild friends!

 

 

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Harini and Pavitra, dressed in their blue and white school uniforms, had come to school that morning with their parents – Harini with both her parents and Pavitra with her mother – so we could interview them to get a sense of what the EACH ONE TEACH ONE scholarship program meant to them.

 

“If you could say something to the whole world, what would it be?” I found myself asking Harini.

 

It wasn’t a question I had planned to ask her. She paused for thought, then replied,

 

“Trees are very important for humans. Trees breathe by photosynthesis, and that’s good for humans, because we need oxygen to live. They give us oxygen to breathe, and they each give life to a whole ecosystem. We need to love trees and protect them. I would say to everyone in the world that we must take care of trees.”

 

An uplifting message

 

What an uplifting message from a twelve-year old child.  If only the world’s politicians would speak with such clarity about the natural world.

 

In her office, where the principal, Mrs. Ruby Puthotta, greets visitors with a warm, engaging smile, every wall was lined with shelves and more shelves of trophies, won for athletic achievements over the years by the girls of Lady Sivaswami Ayyar Girls Higher Secondary School. The school is in Chennai, on the Bay of Bengal in South India.

 

Harini and her schoolmate, Pavitra, who is thirteen, are two of the 300 children at the school who are able to attend school thanks to the EACH ONE TEACH ONE scholarship program, run by the C.P. Foundation, Chennai.

 

Harini and her parents live in Tharamani, outskirts of Chennai, twelve miles away from Mylapore. The three of them had caught a train early that morning to travel to meet us.

 

When Harini is not at school, she spends her time painting natural scenery and, especially — you guessed it – trees. She tells us that there are lots of trees and bushes around her house.  She loves animals too; there are community dogs that live in her neighborhood. When she finishes school, she wants to join the Indian Administration Service to become a civil servant.

 

Her mother, K. Jayanthi, takes care of the home, and her father, Mr. Kaliraj owns and runs a sidewalk shop that sells ice cream and snacks. He says it’s fairly busy, and he enjoys his work, which he’s been doing for around twenty years.

 

A future scientist

 

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Harini’s schoolmate, Pavitra, who is thirteen, rides her bike to school every day. She lives closer to the school than Harini does – only about a mile and a half away, and she’s fascinated by science. She loves to read books about nature – especially about the stars and the planets. She’s fond of animals too, particularly dogs and horses.

 

Pavitra intends to be a scientist one day and is especially intrigued by chemistry. When she’s not at school, she spends her time doing handicrafts, especially making pink paper flowers to decorate her room.

 

Harini’s mother, Jayanthi, works in the home, has a talent for sewing, and makes clothes for her family. Married for 25 years, she and her husband have three children. She tells us, “When I’m making lunch for my children in the morning, I’m just really happy and grateful that they’re able to go to school.”

 

She wants her children to have good lives, and she is focused on that. Pavitra’s sisters are eleven and nine years old. Harini’s eleven-year old sister also studies at this school and has a scholarship.

 

Giving young people a chance to learn

 

Under the guidance of Dr. Nanditha Krishna, President, C.P. Foundation, the project has been coordinated by Mrs. Malathy Narasimhan, of the C.P. Foundation, after the passing away of Mrs. Shakunthala Jagannathan, Founder Member of EACH ONE TEACH ONE, in the year 2000.

 

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The principal, Mrs. Ruby Puthotta, gives us some background on what this program means to the students being sponsored. 90% of the students at this school are very poor, while 10% are middle class. Over half of the students are able to attend school only because of the scholarships that they receive – from the C.P. Foundation and other charities that also offer scholarships.

 

She explains, “We have a lot of children from very poor backgrounds.  Some of the girls do domestic work early in the morning, and then again after school to help support their families. We’ve identified 45 children who work before and after school, and we’ve set up a special coaching program to help them. The All India Domestic Workers Association helps by paying for the teacher that does the coaching.”

 

Legally, children can start to work in India at age 14, so without a scholarship to be able to stay in school, these girls would have only a dreary future ahead of them.

 

Thanks to generous sponsors though, there are now no limits on what they may accomplish. Their sponsorships will take them through the twelfth grade, and the chances are good that they will qualify for scholarships to go on to university.

 

A wider reach

 

It also means something really important for the rest of us — that the world will not lose all that these gifted young people have to offer.

 

The world is in need of their talents and energy – and very much in need of the deep understanding that “trees are very important” – and are vital to our future.  What could be a more meaningful message?

 

A promising future for these youngsters will make a big difference – not just for them, but for us and our world as well.

 

 

 

By Sharon St Joan

President

Forest Voices of India

 

How you can help

The CPR Foundation
(the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation)
Chennai, India

The CPR Foundation

– empowers women to start their own businesses.

_ runs schools and sponsors the education of children from low-income families in South India.

– instills the concept of ahimsa (“do no harm”) through the art and culture of India.

You can help by clicking on the Donate button, and choosing the CPR Foundation. Another great way to help is to send this link to a friend.

Bless you for your kindness!

 

*Ravishankar with students

By Sriya Narayanan

 

A tree is a quiet pillar of endurance, continually infusing life into earth and sustaining thousands of species, many of which are practically invisible to the human eye. But S. Ravishankar sees them all – and wants us to as well. A former math teacher, amateur astronomer, volunteer at Tumkur Science Center, and passionate advocate for the protection of our planet, Ravishankar has spent eighteen long and fruitful years with CPREEC (C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre) turning young children with no prior information about conservation into wide-eyed explorers whose first task is always deceptively simple – just count how many living things they see on a nearby tree.

The task titled ‘Exploring a tree’ always results in the delightful discovery that even a casual, preliminary count could come up to 15-20 kinds of insects, birds and other animals. This serves the dual role of teaching children about the wealth of biodiversities in their own backyards, and fostering empathy for a living being that silently bears the responsibility of nurturing more species than one ever knew existed.

 

*students

 

Ravishankar conducts environmental education camps for two age groups – the first group consists of children from Grades 6 to 8 who get to learn basic environmental concepts such as trees, soil, water and leaves with presentations on the above, piquing their curiosity about the world around them. The second group (Grades 9 to 12) gets to go on field trips and also gets the opportunity to become volunteers themselves, conserving nature and helping out with similar camps. Also in the curriculum are nature walks, bird-watching tours, sky watching and learning more about water sources. Students also get to drop seed balls in forest areas just before the monsoon to give tree cover a much-needed boost. As expected, the saplings that resulted are now thriving.

By tailoring the experience to their level of knowledge this way, Ravishankar removes the barrier to learning about conservation, and does so in a way that feels more like fun than an education. He fondly recalls how one such session at Devaraiyana Durga caught the attention of two onlookers who drew closer to the group to listen to what was being taught, even though they were not part of the delegation or even aware of what the camp was about.  Fast forward to the present, and the duo – Ramkrishnappa and Indramma – are permanent resource persons at CPREEC, inspiring other children the way Ravishankar unknowingly inspired them all those years ago.

Ravishankar believes that every child must know of the intricate relationship between humans and the delicate, yet powerful ecosystem that surrounds us. He firmly believes that no educational mobile app can match the thrilling moment that one experiences while seeing so much life buzzing under the surface upon exploring a tiny 50-square-foot area in the real world.

He also demonstrates to children how resilient even a barren patch of land can be, by encouraging them to collect seeds and throw them in areas where nothing grows. He tried the experiment in Siddarapetta and Didigulpetta and was happy to see that two years later, 20-30% of the seeds had sprouted and grown. The farmers in the area believe that it could take a decade to see significant results.

 

*geology

Ravishankar reveals that while he doesn’t have the resources to own or operate farmlands, he hopes that these initiatives encourage his students and shape their choices. He observes that many young people do care deeply about environmental protection but are often at a loss for what exactly to do.  He hopes that his camps and educational programmes are the seeds that lay the foundation of everything they will do next. He’s proud to report that his success rate is fairly high, and that between 3 and 4 students out of every 20 become conservers of nature when they grow up. Even if it feels like a tortuously long wait, as a man who has spent nearly his entire adult life working with Mother Nature, Ravishankar knows that anything worth accomplishing takes good intentions, relentlessness… and most importantly – patience.

 

Sriya Narayanna is the Senior Editor at Karadi Tales, a children’s publishing house in Chennai, India. https://www.karaditales.com

 

How you can help

The Centre for Environmental Education
(C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Centre for Environmental Education)
in Chennai, India

– Safeguards water

– Revives tribal arts

– Runs ecological study projects for students

– Restores forest groves – planting trees, improving water sources, and providing places of peace and joy for both wildlife and village people.

To help, click on Donate and choose Centre for Environmental Education.

Sending this link to a friend is another great way to help.

Bless you for caring!

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In among the trees dozens and dozens of spotted deer munched on their breakfast of leaves and grass.

 

This August morning, Ravi Shankar, the CPREEC field officer for Karnataka, in south India, was taking a group of college students into Devarayanadurga Forest, where they soon encountered the herd of deer.

 

The students were from the nearby Sri Siddaganga College of Arts, Science, and Commerce.

 

Their task for the day however, wasn’t just to stand there in awe of the deer, it was to clean up a section of the forest.

 

The younger sister of one of the college students had tagged along. No one could discourage her because she had been quite determined to join the outing.

 

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When they set to work to gather up some of the trash to make the area clean as part of their service project, she picked up more litter than anyone else. Late that afternoon, not tired at all from a hard day’s work, she was all smiles.

 

Villagers and water birds

 

Throughout the school year, Ravi Shankar leads groups of students on outings away from city centers, crammed with shops and motorcycles, and out into the green, beautiful world of nature.

 

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In Kokkrebelur, a village near Mandia, in the state of Karnataka, the people have an extraordinary bond with water birds. In fact, “Kokkare”, the name of the village, means painted stork. Ravi Shankar took a group of students there to learn about the way that the villagers and the birds interact with each other. The whole village is a sanctuary for the birds. Instead of relating to the birds as a nuisance, they have long welcomed them and, over the centuries, have built up a close bond with them, viewing them as harbingers of good luck and prosperity. The villagers watch over and care for the painted storks, pelicans, and the other migrating species — little cormorants, black ibises, and herons.

 

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On this occasion, one of the baby storks had fallen out of his nest. When this happens, parent birds, unlike mammals, aren’t able to pick up and move the baby, much as they would like to. So, the villagers had picked him up and stepped in to become foster parents, feeding and caring for the youngster. Since he was still surrounded by his flock, he would have no trouble rejoining them later as soon as he was old enough to fly and could feed on his own.

 

Watching how much the villagers loved the birds was an amazing experience for the students. The village women even sang songs to the birds to welcome their return; they viewed them as friends and companions, as blessings sent from heaven.

 

The situation of wild birds is rather different in India compared to that in the U.S.

 

In the U.S. people are rightfully encouraged to leave wild birds alone, not to interfere with them, and especially not ever to try to tame them, so that the birds will always be well adjusted to their lives in the wild.

 

But India is a country of over one billion people. There are villages everywhere, and many villages are located right near or even inside forests, so the people and the wild birds are already living together in the forest. The ideal situation in India is just what is happening in this village – to have a very close bond between the people and the birds. The birds fly free, and yet they live close to humans and are comfortable around them. This is in keeping with the age-old reverence that has always existed in the culture of India for nature and wild creatures.

 

The Indian Forest Service encourages the villagers to live in harmony with the birds. In this area there are crops of sugar cane and also many large artificial lakes, called “tanks.” During the nesting season, nearby trees are overflowing with water birds. Because they can’t grow crops directly underneath trees filled with nests, the villagers are compensated with a fixed sum for each tree in which there are nesting birds, which provides a much-needed supplement to their income.

 

This is a wonderful example of co-existence. The trees too, which are the homes of the birds, are nurtured and cared for. The population of spot-billed pelicans is thriving and has doubled in recent years.

 

Forming a deep appreciation of nature

 

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Spending a day keeping the forest clean and picking up litter formed a tie between the forest and the students. Now they will truly care about the well-being of the trees and the wildlife there.

 

Meeting the young pelican being raised by the villagers and watching people happy to be surrounded by thousands of migratory birds made a lasting impression on the students – a vivid memory of harmony with birds in the forest that will shape their future views of the natural world.

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How much water does a train use?

 

Does a train use water? Who knew? Well, some high school students in Chennai, in the south of India, can tell you all about it.

 

As part of a school project at the Daniel Thomas Matriculation School in Koyambedu, to the west of Chennai, they did a study of the water usage of the Mangalore Express.

 

Visiting the railway station and talking with the yard manager in charge of keeping the trains ready, they learned about the storage points of water on the train. Most of the water is kept on top of the train. When the compartments are air conditioned, then water is stored underneath the train and has to be pumped.

 

The students calculated the amount of water being used – and how it can be conserved. “Even we didn’t know that much information,” one of the train officials commented.

 

The C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC), based in Chennai, conducts programs like this in schools all across south India, and even in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The program is offered jointly by Wipro, an Indian IT company based in Bangalore and CPREEC, Chennai.

 

Generating data that can be useful to engineers and scientists, these studies engage students in scientific field work that is precise and meaningful.

 

 

Who needs water?

 

Why is it important for students to know about water use? As we all know the world is running out of water. In India, with over a billion people, with widespread drought conditions, and with disputes between states over river water,  there is already a growing crisis.

 

But there is hope and a ray of light around the corner when a future generation is being trained to think and act in terms of conservation.

 

This work gives these students an eye-opening glimpse of the problems at hand and tools for knowing how to search for solutions.

 

 

Birds, squirrels, frogs, and fish

 

At another school, L’École Chempka in Trivundram, Kerala, also in south India, every student in the school is involved. Assigned to a particular wetland and guided by a teacher who has been specially trained for this program, the students visit the wetland three or four times. They come up with a report, cataloguing the biodiversity of this spot – the trees, plants, insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, and fish. They develop a complete map of all the species and how they are all interrelated as part of the eco-system.

 

In a world where species are going extinct faster than we can discover them, what better way to shine a light on the inter-connectedness of natural species and the need for preserving them?

 

 

Catching rainwater

 

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In Nerul, in Goa, on the west coast, in a village school run by the parish, students installed a percolation pond for their school. Working hard out in the sun for two months, they dug up the ground and carried away stones. Now, water flows into the pond from surrounding areas, for storage. The Parish Priest, Father Bolmax Periera, could often be spotted among the students, encouraging them and lending a hand.

 

A percolation pond, a shallow pond that catches rainwater, prevents excess evaporation and erosion. It helps the water to be conserved and filtered into the ground, improving soil moisture and mitigating drought.

 

 

Working together with Wipro

 

Mr. Arasu, the Senior Environmental Education Officer who administers CPREEC’s Earthian program, explains that the projects chosen may relate either to water or to biodiversity.

 

Recalling the day he met the Wipro Earthian team – Mr. Mr. Abhijit, Mr. Paul Zacharia, and Ms. Arathi Hanumanthappa in early 2015, Mr. Arasu muses, “Dr. Sudhakar of CPREEC introduced us, and this was the start of a really great time working together.”

 

A major highlight of the program happens every year in February Wipro when holds an annual award event to recognize the accomplishments of the students.

 

Mr. Arasu reflects, “The children travel to Bangalore for the event. They are shown royal hospitality and treated like special guests. The Chairman of Wipro, Mr. Azimpremji takes their questions, ranging from “Why do you care about the environment?” to “What do you think of smart cities?” Music, wildlife photographers, and artists make for a lively atmosphere, and the students get to know others who, like themselves, are captivated by the world of nature.

 

 

Reaching tens of thousands of students

 

Every year CPREEC promotes over 400 of these projects in nine Indian states and two union territories: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Goa, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

 

Just in these states alone, CPREEC enriches the lives of tens of thousands of students with the Earthian program.

 

There is no lack of enthusiasm among the students. Getting out of the classroom for a day in the countryside is a big hit, and learning is fun. Each project to be undertaken is designed and submitted by a group of five students guided by a teacher. Then the students carry out their project.

 

Some of the students go on to become scientists or engineers; others, no matter what their chosen field, will always carry with them a deeper understanding and an enduring love for nature and the environment.

 

This innovative program is working to create a new generation of environmentalists in India, a land where the environmental movement first got its start many centuries ago.

 

Traditionally, in India, there has always been a deep reverence for nature. In recent decades, the overwhelming influences of the modern age have sometimes pushed this ancient worldview into the background.

 

 

 

But now this age-old love of nature is finding ways to reassert itself in a new generation of environmentalists.