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Home > Discover Pune > NGO Watch > Arbutus

Arbutus, working for a greener tomorrow

Twenty-five years ago when Meera and Arwind Bondre admitted their son to school, the lack of intellectual stimulation in a regular classroom environment bothered them. While they noticed that the city had several schools catering to the special needs of handicapped children there was not much attention paid to the developmental needs of normal, intelligent enthusiastic children. Not the one's to sit back and blame the educational system; they decided that as concerned parents they needed to take the initiative. Arbutus was set up by the Bondres to help nurture the all round development of the child & youth. Like Arbutus, an evergreen tree, the Bondres hope to make one think green forever, in mind and in spirit.

'Learning can be a fun ' Meera & Arwind sArbutus, an NGO, was registered as a public charitable trust, a non-profit organisation comprising of children, parents and teachers. The aim was to develop the talents of children through environmental education. The key issue reckons Arwind, is to catch them young, as children besides being highly receptive, are the citizens of tomorrow. At Arbutus, the focus is on stimulating young minds. This could take the form of challenging and verifying a scientific fact, teaching Maths creatively or getting children to express their thoughts on environmental issues through poetry, essays, debates and discussions. In the beginning, the group met on Saturdays, they have now changed that to informal meetings with no strict schedules. Vacations are peak activity time.

However, for the Bondres, there is never a period of inactivity. Environmental concern is an issue close to their heart and they are always thinking of ways to promote it. This includes activities such as distribution of leaflets and handbills requesting citizens to refrain from burning garbage or fallen leaves and getting school children to campaign for the nonuse of plastic bags. Meera, an ecologist, has brought out a booklet on environmental education that serves as guidelines to teachers of environmental studies. She has also devised highly innovative games, study material and projects to promote environmental education. A remarkable example of how Arbutus helps children think of environmental issues in the right perspective has been the preservation of the water quarry lake in Model Colony. In 1985, the lake was being taken over for commercial purposes and Meera, a PhD in hydrobiology, spearheaded a mini revolution, almost a 'Model Colony Lake Bacchao Andolan.' Lecture and discussions with experts were arranged, articles written. Arbutus organised an 'Open air laboratory’, where with the help of microscopes, experiments and colourful charts, the concepts of eco-balance and the interdependence of the life forms were explained and the importance of water bodies in the fast industrialising cities emphasised. The fact that the lake area had tremendous diversity and had the potential of being treated as a Bioreserve was highlighted. Ultimately, because of the collective efforts of aware citizens and environmental groups the lake was preserved.

Arbutus has also established strong links with several persons and institutions in Bremen, Germany, with a regular exchange of ideas and experiences and common environmental projects being initiated in both places. Primarily an open forum for children and youth, Arbutus is keen to have parents and teachers participate too, as adults often exhibit an indifferent attitude to environmental issues. Casual tossing of food wrappers from the car window, indiscriminate use of plastic bags and indulging children with fire crackers during Diwali are hardly the right signals to transmit to impressionable minds.

At Arbutus, entertainment is the focus of learning. For the coming academic year; Arbutus has planned an exciting drama competition in educational institutions with environment as the theme. As Arwind succinctly puts it, "Harmony in nature is sought through dance, drama and music."

According to Meera and Arwind, 'Exposure' is crucial. They wish to get children to think about solutions to environmental
problems and jointly find the answers. "We act as mere catalysts making things happen for the children without coming in their way," says Arwind modestly. The unassuming couple have indeed served as catalysts with remarkable candor.

The Bondres can be contacted at: 'Megdooth', 12th lane,
Prabhat Road, Pune 411 004;
Phone: 5677452; Fax: 5463959;

Shabari Shetty

 NGO Watch
Ashta No Kai
Green Thumb
National Society for Clean Cities
Blue Cross Society
of Pune
Social Animation Towards United Liberative Action (Santulan)
Gomukh Environmental Trust for sustainable development
St John's Home
Bharatiya Samaj
Seva Kendra
Vision for Prisons
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