- 15 Nov 2023
Growing up in the bustling city of Chennai, my world was equipped with school, family, and playing with friends in the neighborhood. Yet, as I grew older, something extraordinary happened. I discovered a passion that filled my life with boundless joy and a profound sense of fulfillment. It was Mother Nature herself. I'm a 10-year-old from Tamil Nadu, who lives with her working parents. My journey into the world of environmentalism began when I was in kindergarten.
I found delight in the smoothness of stones, took refuge under the comforting shade of trees, and was endlessly fascinated by the magic of soil nurturing enormous trees. I would often return home with muddy clothes, a pocket full of rocks and seeds, and a huge smile on my face. It was my sacred place.
By the age of five, I had managed to persuade my parents to let me have a small garden on our balcony. There, I cultivated my own plants from seeds collected during my adventures. I'll never forget the sheer ecstasy on my face the day a seed sprouted into a sapling, and my father noticed it right away. Before long, I was growing tomatoes, chilies, and lemons, creating a little farm of my own right on our balcony.
My heart sank when an unavoidable trip out of town left my beloved plants dry and withering. I felt powerless, and that's when I decided I would plant saplings in my neighborhood. This way, someone could care for them even when I was gone.
Jogging with my father became a cherished daily ritual, a time when we both bonded with nature. However, a life-changing incident was about to transform the way I looked at trees. In 2016, the Vardha Cyclone ravaged Tamil Nadu, stripping our neighborhood of its green cover. It was a heartbreaking sight. But amidst the devastation, I noticed that some trees, native to our land with deep, strong roots, had endured. It struck me that by planting more of these native trees, we could potentially prevent disasters like the Vardha Cyclone. Thus, I made a solemn promise to myself: I would plant 100,000 saplings within a year, and the Prasiddhi Forest Foundation was born.
I was 6 years old when I started, and the first question was, "Who would listen to a 6-year-old?" Convincing people to support my cause and gathering the necessary funds for my projects was a challenge. But challenges like these taught me valuable lessons. I decided to reach out to government schools first. So, I started selling handmade bookmarks and paintings, but that wouldn’t be enough to fund my plans. That’s when nature came to my aid. I observed how bees pollinated flowers and how the flowers, in return, offered nectar to the bees. This mutual collaboration inspired me to form an "eco-army" and collect fruit seeds door-to-door, eventually leading to the creation of our community, school, and farmer nurseries with 30,000 saplings.
Over the past four years, my journey has evolved significantly. What began as a simple love for nature has transformed into a full-fledged environmental movement, Prasiddhi Forest, with over 60,000 impact creators. We've planted more than 130,000 trees across 78 locations, partnering with villagers, farmers, groups, companies, youth, volunteers, and nature enthusiasts.
Balancing my school responsibilities, extracurricular activities, and running the foundation was no easy feat. But when you're passionate about a cause and have a clear goal, the boundaries between studies and purpose-driven activities blur. I learned to manage my time efficiently, often studying while traveling to keep up with my academic commitments.
To those who may feel they're too young to make a difference, I want to emphasize the incredible potential you hold. Your imagination, determination, and energy can create a profound impact. Just as a tiny 4mm seed can grow into a 400ft tall tree, you may be small individually, but together we can bring about significant change and heal our planet. Throughout my journey as an environmentalist, every day has brought memorable moments and valuable lessons. In 2021, I was honoured to receive the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar, the highest civilian award for children. I have also been awarded The Diana Award, but for me, success isn't just measured in grand achievements. It’s in the small joys of life.
Whether it's seeing some fruit on a tree in one of my forests, students eager to make a difference, villagers taking pride in participating in a plantation, or witnessing a child tenderly watering a plant, each of these moments represents growth, and that matters most to me.
The Prasiddhi Forest Foundation is continually working on multiple projects, including nature-based solutions, community development, water management, waste management, Web 3 technology, climate education, and creating green brigades in schools. One of our recent initiatives is the Green Brigade, aimed at covering 200 schools and providing each student with a fruit sapling to nurture. We also plan to plant at least 10 banyan trees in every school, all part of our broader mission to promote tree plantation and environmental awareness.
I've drawn inspiration from nature to keep learning and growing throughout my journey. Trees taught me never to give up and to keep growing even after being cut down. Bees taught me how to collaborate, and the seas taught me how to celebrate, always enjoying their tides. My message to the world is clear: every action we take matters. Our planet faces unprecedented challenges, and we have a choice to make. We can either continue down an unsustainable path or learn from nature's wisdom and embrace the solutions it offers. This is our opportunity to protect the planet, and we cannot afford to delay. The world needs changemakers, and together, we can make a difference.
My journey has been shaped by the support and collaboration of countless individuals and organizations. I've learned that to bring about meaningful change, we need the collective efforts of students, farmers, villagers, companies, groups, NGOs, and nature enthusiasts. Everyone has a role to play in building a better future. I'm committed to expanding the impact of Prasiddhi Forest and associating with as many people as possible. My vision is to create a greener, healthier planet for all, and I invite everyone to join me in this journey to plant hope, one tree at a time. Together, we can make a significant difference and ensure a better future for generations to come. All we have to do is dream big, think deep, and act like the trees, bees, and seas, living in harmony with nature and creating a brighter tomorrow for us all.
Exclusively written for Giving for Good Foundation by Bhairavi Hiremath
With words as her medium and a diary full of scribbled ideas, she is usually found looking for ways to use her writing to impact for Good. If she’s out of sight, she’s probably either reading, petting cats, jamming to retro Bollywood, or of course, writing!