Catching them young, STRAW, an NGO in Delhi, helps kids imbibe compassion and empathy towards animals through sessions at schools, so that these have a lasting effect on them. The NGO has also tied up with the CBSE and other education boards and provided content in text books on compassion to animals, thus reaching out to thousands of students
Lessons and values we were taught at a young age are those that stay with us throughout our lives. With that in mind and a love for animals, the husband-wife team of Vasanthi Kumar and Dinesh Kumar founded Stray Relief and Animal Welfare (STRAW), an NGO, in 2002 in New Delhi.
Having been associated with one charitable organisation or another during their stints in the corporate world, the couple decided ‘animal welfare through education’ was the path they wanted to follow when they have their own NGO. STRAW conducts classes by working along with education boards such as CBSE and state boards in classrooms to help promote the qualities of empathy and compassion among children towards animals.
A mere exchange of mails with Vasanthi Kumar is enough to comprehend how close this work is to her heart. “We at STRAW believe that people harm animals only because of unawareness about even simple facts like animals feel pain and suffer when they are hurt. Hence educating them, particularly little children in schools, through humane education programs, sensitises them to be more compassionate to animals,” she mentioned.
“Last year, we sensitised about 2000 school and college students about various animal welfare issues. We also cover environmental issues since both these aspects are interwoven. For example, when we carelessly throw away a plastic bag filled with kitchen waste, a hungry cow on the street, unable to open the bag, eats it along with the plastic bag, which ultimately causes it pain, sometimes even death.”
STRAW offers three kinds of programmes for children – compassionate kids, compassionate scholars and compassionate classrooms.
Under the compassionate kids programme, STRAW conducts humane education and animal welfare awareness sessions — a method of teaching that aims at fostering animals and promoting sensitivity towards all living beings and the environment — from a young age. Delhi Public School, DAV School, Ryan International School and Army Public School are some institutions where these sessions have been held.
The second programme named compassionate scholars is aimed at creating awareness about animal welfare-related issues among college students. STRAW has conducted these sessions in colleges such as IIT-Delhi, Sriram College of Commerce, Maitreyi College, Jawaharlal Nehru University, etc.
As far as compassionate classrooms are concerned, STRAW reaches out to students in their classrooms with the help of textbooks. This ensures that the message is conveyed across India.
“We contribute content to school textbooks published by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and State Educational Boards. Our biggest success in this area has been our contribution of 18 chapters relating to empathy towards all living forms for CBSE textbooks for classes 6, 7 and 8, a few years back. Since the CBSE is affiliated to more than 10,000 schools, both in India and abroad, we are able to inspire and reach out to large numbers, and that too year after year,” elaborated Vasanthi.
STRAW often reaches out to schools and colleges in order to conduct sessions with them. Vasanthi said the team members consider themselves lucky whenever institutions contact them for sessions.
“In the recent past, we have been invited by a few of them in Delhi to carry out animal welfare awareness programs and also to judge their competitions relating to animals and environmental issues during their Annual Fests,” she added.
Everyone has a part to play in ensuring animals are not harmed intentionally or otherwise by human beings. And a person does not need to be formally affiliated with STRAW to help. According to Vasanthi, their compassionate kids programme can be conducted by anybody with a little training by the NGO’s team. Through this programme, they encourage children and students to conduct such sessions in schools and their neighbourhoods to spread the message.
Elaborating, Vasanthi said these programmes include activities, presentations and, depending on the age of the classrooms, films/documentary screening. They also include nature walks for children to understand and appreciate flora and fauna and how they are co-dependent for sustainable life. Other activities include essay writing and painting competitions.
The STRAW team believes that if enough awareness and compassion is created among the people, animal shelters can be removed completely, unless the latter has any medical condition. “Our focus is on promoting awareness… therefore, we do not work with animals hands-on. We do not have a shelter, a veterinary hospital or an ambulance service. But we have a searchable database of animal welfare organisations, veterinarians and volunteers, which can be accessed via our website. However, when we are associated with a school or a college and, if and when, there is a need for it on the campus, we help coordinate animal sterilisation drives and other animal care issues.”
First aid for animals
Here are some of the steps you can follow in case you come across an animal that’s met with minor accidents, according to STRAW:
- Before the veterinarian arrives, move the animal to a safe, shaded area.
- Try to give the animal small amounts of cold water mixed with sugar or glucose.
- Use a cold press towel or ice packs on the animal’s head, forehead and chest.
- If the animal is conscious, give it some cold milk to drink.
Photo caption: The STRAW conducts a session in DAV, New Delhi, for the students of classes 4 and 5.