The celebrations were solemnised at the National Coaching Stadium, with the ‘Earth Synergy’- Pledge Taking Ceremony, where over five thousand students, from private, government and DMC schools participated. ‘Earth Synergy’ had been conceptualised in the Philippines as an event where we, the inhabitants, would join hands and remind ourselves to accept our individual and collective responsibility to heal the earth.
Like several participating countries, we translated the pledge into Urdu and set it to the popular tune of ‘Dil dil Pakistan’ so that all participating students would be familiar with it… hearing the stadium resound with the energetic voices of 5000 students on April 22, Earth Day, knowing that others around the world were doing the same, made all the effort seem worthwhile. The students were accompanied in taking the Pledge by Professor Anita Ghulam Ali, Minister of Education, GoS, who later addressed the children.
Managing 5000 students and their teachers, was no easy task. Yet some students rewarded us by picking up wrappers and empty drink packs and trashing them properly.
The Panel Discussion was truly a thought provoking process, held befittingly at the Quaid’s school, the Sindh Madressah. For weeks prior to the event, students researched civic and environmental issues such as, child labour, air, water and noise pollution, waste management and hospital facilities. Along with their teachers, they visited agencies, interviewed relevant individuals, carried out Internet and newspaper searches. They presented these through role play, slides and statistics. We were overwhelmed by their compassion for the environment, for their collective rights, their passion, their seriousness and – their sense of responsibility.
The panellists comprised of functionaries from government departments, industry and non-governmental organisations ; the Department of Environment was represented by its Minister, Mr Iftikhar Ahmed Soomro. The students asked them several pertinent questions and offered some solutions too!
TRC culminated its celebrations at the three day Earth Festival. Set up in collaboration with a number of private and public schools this event was an interesting mosaic of displays and activities depicting the themes identified for the year – the needs of a healthy child… love, air and sunshine, shelter, food and water. Prior to the event, schools worked in close contact with TRC, on activities suggested by us for various age groups. At the event, there were puppet shows, songs, skits and a dance; stalls where the emphasis was on the recycling and reusing of items and games that had under lying environmental themes. Words cannot capture the energy and interactivity participants experienced. Some highlights, however, are shared below:
Air & Sunshine
The Air & Sunshine area attempted to create awareness about pollution and its origin from varied sources. Children carried out ‘Environmental Audits’ at home and school to find out how green their environment was. Different interactive games and activities were organised, for example, the ‘Energy Report Card’ which helped participants understand good and bad habits in relation to energy conservation and ‘Drowning in Paper’ which encouraged reflection on paper usage and finding alternatives to reduce waste. A pledge tree was set up and visitors wrote on realistically crafted paper leaves, the one thing they would do that would make a difference to our world.
Co-operation, care, consideration and respect for others were key words in this area. TRC developed activities for schools and prior to the event, children spent time in their classrooms discussing issues such as sharing, team work, respect for people of different cultures and discrimination between “good and bad” actions. They visited Special Children Centres, gave them gifts and spent time playing with them. Various interactive games were organised at the event, aimed at making children and adults alike, think about the key words. One game, ‘Secret Friend’ helped promote caring for others and appreciating their positive qualities. In the spirit of the area, TRC invited two partner NGO’s Sahil and HREP to set up their stalls in the Love area.
The games, activities and displays in the water area highlighted the uses and methods of conservation of this precious resource. The area was structured to allow visitors to view the uses of water, move on to the problems of pollution and conservation and finally view the solutions.
The ‘Water through Generations’ survey, allowed students to see how the use of water had changed over time. In the ‘Extinct Species Conference’ students discussed the concerns of marine life in danger of becoming extinct. As an organisation working for the preservation of our oceans, the National Institute of Oceanography was invited to set up a stall here.
In the food area topics ranged from agriculture to table setting. Activities were based around themes such as food around the world, healthy food, agriculture, and animals as food. ‘Take What You Can Eat’ encouraged participants to reflect on wastage; this math exercise demonstrated how much one spoon of rice left on each child’s plate, would actually amount to. This led to discussions on wastage of food, specially at weddings and parties. Interactive games were organised for the event like ‘ The Supermarket’. A consultation room was also set up with a doctor on duty. Height and weight were measured with the help of children. Charts according to age and gender suggested the appropriate calorie intake to visitors.
This area encompassed shelter in its widest sense. From sheltering the body with protective clothing to the emotional and physical shelter provided in an “ideal” home. Students learnt about how to address civic issues through an activity titled ‘Un-Safe Buildings’ and about safety procedures in case of emergencies and minor injuries in ‘Civil Defence’. Participants appreciated displays and activities on ‘Alternative Medicine’, and ‘Preserving our Heritage’ at the event.
Self Expression through the Arts
Based on the focal themes of the event, (love, air & sunshine, water, food and shelter) puppet shows, skits, songs and the ‘Dance of Hope’ comprised the concert, which children had put together with help from TRC and their teachers; the concert was performed in the evenings.
The puppet shows were of 10-15 minute duration each in which serious issues were acted out and discussed in a simple manner, focusing on what can be done to improve the environment.
The skits represented various issues. Parental negligence, water and electricity conservation and junk food are a few examples. There was variety in presentation of songs, while some were sung solo, others were performed as a pantomime to a popular beat.
The Dance of Hope was a sensitive composition, set in the life of a community where there is harmony and sharing of resources until the outbreak of violence caused by shortage of food and water. A “healer” finally emerges and leads the community back to harmony through her positive attitude and spirit of hope. It was truly an emotional and spiritual experience, simply, yet beautifully performed by children of varying ages from public and private sector schools.