Chennai, India: Kindness Kids spread a message of compassion



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”


Kindness Kids on Facebook 


Photo: Artwork, part of the Kindness Kids program, from an earlier event at the Grove School


World Environment Day – Think before you eat



By NANDITHA KRISHNA, Director, CPR Environmental Education Centre

First published by The Hindu, June 5, 2013



This year’s World Environment Day message is targeting food wastage and campaigning for correct food choices.  This is a problem of nations in North America and Europe, East Asia, and urban India.  For every child who goes to sleep hungry, an urban child probably throws away his plate of vegetables.


It is estimated by the FAO that approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food is being wasted every day throughout the world.  This is equivalent to the entire annual agricultural production of sub-Saharan Africa.  It is also estimated that one in seven people in the world goes to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of five die daily from hunger.


India was a food deficient country till the 1960’s when a terrible famine engulfed the whole country.  The Green Revolution made the country self-sufficient in food grains. India’s food grain output for the year 2011-12 was 252.56 million tonnes.  The stocks of food grain with the government reached 82.4 million tonnes.  However, the lack of adequate storage facilities and the absence of a proper distribution system meant that much of the food did not reach those who really needed it.  First and foremost, urgent action should be initiated by the Government to prevent wastage.  But it is more than food grains.  Our consumption of meat is growing.  One billion people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water.  Yet the chicken industry uses 3,900 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of chicken, while only 900 litres is required for 1 kilogram of grain. India is now one of the world’s largest producers of milk, with an annual production of about 127 million tonnes, much of which is exported.  The effect of this cattle population on our land is disastrous.  It takes more fossil fuels (diesel/petrol) to produce and transport animals and animal-based food than locally procured grains and vegetables.  The ecological consequences of our insatiable appetite for meat, which has grown 500% since 1950, is frightening.


The intensive farming of animals negatively impacts biodiversity through habitat loss, climate change and the introduction of alien species which compete for limited natural resources.  For example, although the capacity of the world’s fishing fleets has increased five-fold in the last 40 years, the productivity of the world’s fishing grounds has declined. 15 out of 17 of the world’s major fisheries are either depleted or over-exploited. Prawn fisheries on the Tamilnadu coastline have resulted in saline groundwater.  And so on.


Today, rice output is growing.  The consumption of cereals and pulses is going up.  India has been able to meet the demand for rice, wheat, and sugarcane.  Production is now adequate to meet the domestic demand.  However, a growing population requires a continuous augmentation of food production.  In the case of pulses and vegetable oils there is the gap between supply and demand. Hence, during the year 2010-11 India imported about 8 million tonnes of vegetable oils and 3 million tonnes of pulses.


Simultaneously, our eating habits are becoming unhealthier.  Problems like obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other lifestyle diseases are a direct result of poor food choices.  A hearty meal of pizza and coke is not conducive to good health.  Child obesity and diabetes are becoming more common in the world and among affluent Indians.  Good health is directly linked to our food.  If we think before eating, we can make a difference and reduce our “food” print.


The world is home to more that seven billion people.  Feeding such a huge number of people is a gargantuan task.  Sub-Saharan Africa is still subject to periodic famines.  In this scenario, it becomes imperative on our part to eat correctly, avoid wastage, and ensure that every hungry person on this planet has food to eat.  If precious natural resources are protected, and correct food choices are made, there will be enough food for everybody.


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