NGOs say that children are passionate and their involvement draws more attention to an issue
Divya Subramaniam & Suparna Thombare
Getting young faces to represent social and environmental causes has become a trend. Be it Kids for Tigers or Compassionate Children’s Club, seeing kids work for society and the environment is inspiring. But what drives organisations to involve kids in these causes?
Some say that children add compassion to the cause. In January, at the In Defence of Animals (IDA) animal carnival, students made a great impact through street plays about how to treat animals.
“Kids bring in a lot of passion and compassion to whatever they do. They are assets to any organisation because when they volunteer, they not only become aware citizens themselves, but also influence many other kids and adults. The influence of children in changing the society is underestimated,” says Sudnya Patkar founder of IDA, which started the Compassionate Children’s Club, a children’s wing of the NGO.
Most organisations believe that kids today are more aware of environmental issues than earlier generations and they can make substantial contributions to organisations. “They are sensitised and it becomes easier to work with them.
Their exposure to channels like Animal Planet and National Geographic makes them aware about environmental issues. They can be great ambassadors for an organisation and for other kids too,” says Abodh Aras, chief executive officer, Welfare of Stray Dogs.
Last year, children wrote to the Dalai Lama asking him to help stop animal skin trade in Tibet, which made the central government sit up and take notice. Various such movements have got impetus through the involvement of kids.
Organisations mostly approach kids via schools. “Growing up in Mumbai doesn’t necessarily affect their awareness about nature but they need more exposure. So we conduct audio-visual workshops and take them to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Kids for Tigers has children from 60 Mumbai schools on its rolls,” says Nidhi Jayant, programme coordinator with Kids for Tigers.
NGOs’ involvement with kids is not only for the purpose of educating them. They also tend to bring in funds for NGO projects. Nine-year-old Madhav Subramaniam has been successful in getting funds of around Rs5 lakh for forest wardens.
Is this one of the reason for roping in young faces? “We have not taken the route of asking kids to collect money for us even though funds are very important to an NGO. But they are free to donate any money they want. A kid recently asked all his relatives to give him money instead of gifts so that he could donate it to WSD,” says Aras.
Although Child Rights and You (CRY) is best known for collecting funds through greeting cards, Madhura Kapdi of CRY says revenue brought in by children’s efforts is minimal.
“We are against child labour and also against raising funds through children. The sight of kids doing something for a cause always creates a warm feeling and most people would want to help out. But as a policy we do not encourage fund raising through children,” says Kapdi.