SCAD, Tamil Nadu, plants a SEED
by Tim Willmott : Be the first to leave a comment
“Seeing and hearing Cletus Babu talk and work in building SCAD from nothing to helping over half a million people has taught me that one person can make a difference”
It’s very difficult for a non-profit organisation to get funding for an international project, yet the benefits of these can vastly outweigh the costs, as this story from The Web of Hope (sustainapedia’s predecessor) demonstrates:
Bright-eyed and full of enthusiasm, our team of young people from our SEED project are back from their life-changing 10 days in Southern India. Led by our own Tilly Jarvis, SEED (Sustainable Economic and Environmental Development) is the Web of Hope’s 12 month project working with predominantly disadvantaged young people. The aim is to give them the tools to raise awareness amongst other young people about global sustainable development issues in a way that will inspire lifestyle changes in the UK. From the feedback so far, SEED has gone above and beyond these aims. As one young volunteer in the project reflected, “I expected to change but the way I feel now is so hard to explain in words. It’s been the most fantastic journey.”
The high point of that journey was the trip in December to the pioneering centre for Social Change and Development (SCAD), who are based in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, Southern India, for eight of the more than 100 young people involved in SEED.
For what SEED got up to at SCAD last month, we hand over to Project Leader Tilly Jarvis:
“During our intensive 10 day trip the group got a real understanding of what Sustainable Development really means: that it has to come from an holistic approach to really work. We met many people and visited many villages but it wasn’t until near the end of our stay that it became clear how all these parts of the puzzle fit together to create the big picture of Sustainable Development.
“Our group were especially moved by visiting the special schools SCAD have created for saltpan children, gypsy children, children with learning difficulties and those with physical disabilities. One thing all the children we met had in common was that they were highly motivated and happy. They knew that without SCAD they would not have had access to an education. The contrast of attitude in our own schools was evident; as one SEED volunteer told me, “Seeing children so willing to be educated and proud of their school was nice to see. I now feel very guilty about my education. I didn’t make the most of my opportunities”.
“It was interesting to see the differences in the way ‘Western’ development was seen by SEED’s young people, and those we visited at SCAD. Some of the latter thought that the ‘Developed’ society we came from must be working better than theirs, whereas our young people felt it was the other way around. As one of our group described, “There were waste problems and their way of re-using things was an incredible clash. All the things that were wasted were from Western ideas – chocolate, snacks etc”. Another told me, “No longer do I think ‘poor India’. These people are so proud, so determined and focused. They don’t mess around and waste time making decisions like us. They do it and they do it good… I want to take home their wonderful attitudes and motivation.”
“Before going to India the group raised enough money to donate 600 trees to SCAD’s tree planting programme. It just so happened that we were on site to take part in the Guinness World Record attempt to plant the most trees in one hour, worldwide, during which our team managed to haul 67 tamarind trees 1km down a track to where they were planted – a great effort! On that day, world wide, over half a million trees were planted.
“Kitchen and herbal gardens were shown to us by many proud recipients in a number of villages; these help to promote indigenous medicinal practices and healthy eating. Eye camps, dental camps and other medical check ups are conducted in villages without basic health facilities, with SCAD’s medical programme specifically meeting the healthcare needs of leprosy patients, saltpan workers, elders, women and children. This insight was particularly inspiring to one of our young people, who had been unsure whether to study to become a medical doctor before our trip; she’s now definite that this is what she wants to do. When qualified she wants to provide medical care in developing countries.
“The vast knowledge and practical experience in sustainable living evident at SCAD was so inspiring and impressive. We met the scientists who work with small and marginal farmers to promote sustainable farming practices during our 2 day stay at SCAD’s Farm Science Centre. Organic farming, vermin-compost units, soil composition testing, bio fertilizer and pesticide use, bio-char production and use, alternate agricultural practices like nursery raising, tree planting, fresh water fish rearing and mushroom cultivation as well as sustainable animal husbandry and rainwater harvesting were all explained to us in great detail.
“SEED has been a journey for everyone involved, and I know when I started the project I questioned how an organisation that promotes Education for Sustainable Development could justify the environmental cost of 10 return flights to India. However, I now believe that the environmental and social benefits of inspiring disadvantaged young people far out-weigh the environmental costs of the flights. (Although also controversial, Al Gore couldn’t have won his Nobel Peace prize for raising awareness about man-made climate change without significant world travel.) As an example of the huge motivation the trip produced, just a sample of the group’s short-term plans include:
- Swimming the channel to raise money for a community centre in one particular village they saw,
- Awareness-raising presentations in local colleges, schools, YMCAs and rotary clubs,
- Making a film to put on You Tube and to distribute on DVDs that will be more ‘youth orientated’ than environmental films usually are (they have been awarded a training session with professional film editors at Apple),
- Running a 16.3km marathon to raise awareness and money for SCAD,
- Meeting with local organisations to help advise them how they can work more sustainably,
- Writing press releases for newspapers and articles for various magazines and organising a big local event to raise awareness.
“In the long term, one young person who had studied tourism but is currently working in a coffee bar has decided she wants to pursue a career in eco-responsible tourism and is already making contacts. A young man whose dream is to design his own clothes and have his own online and high street shops would like to investigate the possibility of having his clothes made by some of the villagers he met so he can provide them with a fair wage and working conditions. One of the young volunteers was between jobs and not too sure what he wanted to do but has now secured a part-time paid contract to help offices ‘green up’ and is planning a return trip to SCAD so that he can volunteer to help in the school for disabled children. Others are dedicated to raising awareness and/or fundraising for SCAD long term – even to the extent that one person plans to raise enough money to be able to buy a wind turbine through The Converging World which would provide a continual income for SCAD.”