750 students become future changemakers as they spearhead tree plantation drives across 6 villages.
Maharashtra, Aug 2017
Meet Snehal Konhare, a 4th-grade student from Jawade village’s government school in Latur District. Typically afflicted from stage fright, Snehal today addresses a crowd of 1000 people – which includes not only her own classmates and peer but also other students, teachers, and principles from 6 other schools around the district.
Hands cold and faintly numb, Snehal un-noticeable breaks into a sweat and falters as she shyly utters, “Nithin and Ujwala bhaiya came to teach us the meaning of Om and Pranayam”. As she continues and finds that her audience is intently listening to her, Snehal’sfaltering nervous voice gains more confidence, “The pranayamsmake me more confident and calm. The games they taught were also so much fun. I wish they keep coming back to our school again and again”. By now, Snehal is smiling ear to ear, with an expression of surprise and satisfaction on her face, walking back from the dais with her chest slightly broader and her head a little higher.
Snehal is one of the 750 children in Latur, Maharashtra who recently underwent a transformational experience through the Art of Living’s Bal Chetna Shibir Workshop. The program provides students with a strong foundation in inner peace and human values so that they can develop themselves and contribute to society simultaneously. The children across 6 villages across Latur,learnt breathing and mindfulness techniques to increase awarneness and concentration levels and cultivate positive values of integrity, courage, humility, ambition and resilience so that they can take accountability for themselves and society successfully.
Besides, yoga and mind-training techniques, the children were taught the importance of hygiene and santiation as well the community issues of open defecation, environmental biodiversity, water conservation and sustainable living.
The children, most of them belonging to agrarian families, were also taught the importance of growing their own fruit trees in farms. “Often the farmers sell all their produce and have to buy fruits for themselves from the market itself, which is quite ironic. We are trying to make the farmers self-sustainable so that they can benefit from their own produce and have fruit trees to make a larger profit”, notes Mahadev Gomare, project leader of the Bal Chetna Shibir Program.
Moreover, planting trees would help river rejuvenation efforts of the Manjara river. The roots of the plant would hold the soil together, which would prevent water runoff and soil erosion, thus preventing the siltation of rivers.
To conclude the Bal Chetna Shibhir, each child was given a packet of 5 seeds of local varieties of neem, jamun. Tamarind, custard apple and ber. A total of 3750 of an organic variety of trees to be planted in total.
“Since the Bal Chetna Shibir, there has been a marked change in the behavior, demeanour, and actions of the children. The restlessness in them is gone, their dissipated energy is now channeled.There is also an increased scientific perspective in the students as they now they think on how to maintain and look after their own tree”, shares Ashok Swami, principal of the G.P Prashala school.
“There is an increased sense of responsibility in my child. He is beginning to think how to take care of the tree and realize, like he has a body, the tree is also having a body”, explains Komal Patil, mother of one of the students of the village schools.
Little Snehal’s eyes glitter as she holds the packet of seeds in her hand and looks at them thoughtfully.“These seeds just seem seeds on the surface, but behind them, there is a tree”, the 9-year-old shares her poignant musings.
Each child participating in the Shibir carries the potential of change in them as they hold their little seeds in their hands. Snehal, like her 749 peers, perhaps unknowingly or knowingly, realizes her role as a leader and changemaker, who can, in her own way, make a difference.The seeds of change – the children themselves – plant the seeds of change – towards a better education, a better environment and ultimately, a better India.