Looking into how animals, especially elephants, in the temples in Chennai are being treated, B. Akshaya, a student at Grove School, participating in the Kindness Kids program, found that even when the animals are considered sacred, they are not necessarily being well cared for. Her awareness of the needs of the animals enabled her to notice discomfort they were feeling that many of the worshippers simply were not aware of.
Another student in the Kindness Kids program, R. Santhanalakshmi, took photos of conditions in a goshala, where cows are kept, and found that it was clean and very well managed.
Rishab Dasgupta, at the age of nine, after accompanying his father to a chicken stall, declared that he “didn’t want to eat meat anymore.” Though he is so far the only one in his family to become a vegetarian, his father was very proud of his son’s decision and very supportive.
These young people, between ages 9 and 14, were some of the prize-winners among the thousands of students who took part in the Kindness Kids Program. The program, sponsored by the Australian organization, the Winsome Constance Kindness Trust, and run by the C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation, held a valedictory function on March 22, 2014 to honor the students for their hard work and many acts of compassion towards animals – from giving up eating meat to putting out water bowls for thirsty birds to conducting adoption drives for street animals.
17,000 students took part in the Kindness Kids program in Chennai, Hyderabad, Ooty, and Gudalur.
Dr. Nanditha Krishna, Honorary Director of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, said that there’s been a tremendous increase in the numbers of students involved, and they are engaged in more and more meaningful projects. The C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation is looking into expanding the program to cover ecological issues as well. When the students become aware of an issue that has a impact on animals, they take the message home to their families and friends, and they are remarkably focused when it comes to communicating the message of kindness.
At the award ceremony, awards were given to the children as Kindness Ambassadors and Kindness Champs, as well as to the best schools and the best teachers in the program.
Mr. S. Vinod Kumar, Assistant Secretary of the Animal Welfare Board of India, who presented the awards, stressed that it is essential to impart to every child the principle of kindness to animals.
The CEO of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, Mr. Prashanth Krishna, said that the message of compassion to animals is one that the children will carry throughout their lives. Part of making the world a kinder place is to encourage vegetarianism, as a habit that can carry forward to future generations.
When children are encouraged to be kind, there is a ripple effect that extends far beyond them.
Information for this story was drawn from the following sources:
News Today, Chennai, NT Bureau, Sunday, March 23, 2014,“Educating Students about human-animal relationship”
The Hindu, MetroPlus, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, “Circle of Kindness,” by Sriya Narayanan
The New Indian Express, City Express, Chennai, Monday, March 2014, Express News Service, “When kids set out to check on stray animals”
Photo: Artwork, part of the Kindness Kids program, from an earlier event at the Grove School