'Being an Earth Carer' Projects
1. The Earth Child/Children (& EARTH PARENT) Project
What indeed IS an Earth Child?
Is there a need for these children on Earth?
Can such a child and children be raised and nurtured, consciously or unconsciously?
The future of planet Earth will depend on the increasing consciousness of children towards Earth. I call them the Earth Children.
This project may have had its early beginnings in 1982. When a baby boy of Sri Lankan Tamil parentage was born in the highlands of Scotland. The mother of the child had spent most of her pregnancy with the father of the child within the pristine Scottish highlands.
It was perhaps no coincidence too that this child was born to a father who was an Obstetrician Gynaecologist - who simply loved babies and infant children. While the mother of this child deeply loved nature, and babies and children too.
Let us try to answer the first question.
What indeed is an Earth Child?
The Earth Child is a child raised and nurtured primarily by parents, supported perhaps by grandparents. But not left mainly to the care of nannies, maids or nurseries. There may however be an odd child or two, despite growing up against all odds of circumstances, still emerges to be an Earth Child. Much as the Lotus emerges out of the mud and waters untainted.
An Earth Child is naturally drawn to Nature, delighting in plants and the animal world - the birds, beetles, dragonflies, butterflies.. and with water, the wind and the soil. He or she is thrilled with climbing trees, gentle with plants and with the smaller creatures that walk our Earth. Would such a child be naturally attuned to this special world of creatures and plants? Perhaps. But then again children can be nurtured to feel for plants and this animal world, and to enjoy the feel of the wind, water (they naturally do!) and soil. But even if the child does not reveal this, but enjoys hiking and or camping in the forest as boy scouts and girl guides do, that is a major beginning.
Parents and grandparents of an Earth Child/Children play a vital role in nurturing such children. Gardening at home with parents, weekend hikes in the forest done responsibly, walking silently and slowly in parks with mature trees, flower beds, clear ponds, lotus ponds and clear flowing streams and Nature based holidays are immensely important.
Reaching out to nurture Earth Children
“It just wasn’t enough to have merely personally raised and nurtured two children, that perhaps turned out to be each an Earth Carer - though one was much much more than the other. I had to do far more. How can I do it and where do I begin? These were my thoughts many years ago. Although by 2005 I had already conducted onsite nature training sessions on river and stream conservation for about 20 secondary school children, spent a whole morning in the pristine upper catchment of a stream with 4 of my niece’s classmates - Fifth Formers and had had a small group (4) of my neighbourhood children - aged between 8 to 12 years old (with whom I had built a good relationship during my walks in the neighbourhood) over for an afternoon tea cum nature awareness and play session. There was also the Sunday Tamil School session at an Amman Hindu Temple in Seremban when I had had a teaching session on the Lotus plant for about 15 children ranging in age from 8 to 12 years of age. We had donated a Lotus plant from our garden to this temple. Besides these interventions with children, I had had 4 children ranging in age between 2 to 9 years old - grandchildren of a good friend, over for Nature awareness and play at our Lotus pond and other earth related play and colouring sessions. But I knew deep in my heart these were far from enough. I had had teaching sessions related to Earth no doubt, but with merely 47 children. And they were largely one off sessions. There had to be regular sustained sessions of Earth consciousness and earth caring with the same children. It had to begin preferably before they were 7 years old and sustained over some years.
I began to reflect upon those of my daughter’s childhood classmates. During their school years, they were in and out of our home and had spent many a sleep over at our home too. Moreover because I had worked from Home for a good many years, I had got to know these girls so very well. We developed a bond. So much so that in their adult hood I had a personal relationship with them, irrespective of my daughter’s presence.
I reached out to the one whose wedding I had attended - when she became a mother”
On 9th October 2016, during the holy period of Navarathiri a very special 6-month old baby was invited with her parents into the DayAnidhi Earth Garden Sanctuary. This was the very first time the infant baby was going to be touching the ground - our bountiful Earth, placing her feet on it and sitting on it. This baby girl had fought for her life; she was born grossly premature. She is today a healthy talkative little girl of 3.
Little Dipti, the baby in the photos above and the little girl in the photos below, is the daughter of Thaya’s daughter’s childhood classmate. It is Thaya’s fervent hope that with regular contact and visits to the DayAnidhi Earth Garden over Dipti’s growing years, coupled with of course nurturing by Dipti’s parents, Dipti will grow up to be an Earth Child and an Earth Carer.
2. Climate Change Response, Adaptation & Resilience Project
Aspects of this project have begun through the projects on:-
The DayAnidhi Earth Garden Sanctuary
The Conservation, Creation and Compassionate Harvest of The Sacred Lotus
DayAnidhi Earth Living
Towards Zero Plastic Bags: The DayAnidhi Earth Model
Reconnecting Women with the Earth
3. The Indigenous Peoples Basket, Forests and Communities Project
And yet the lands of the Indigenous Peoples especially those living and depending upon the forests for their survival, have been exploited by many other sectors of humankind; denying the Indigenous Peoples their rights to their ancestral lands and to a basic humanitarian life.
Our project idea on “The Indigenous Peoples’ Basket, Forests and Communities” primary goal is to connect urban communities where most populations are located today, to be compassionate about the indigenous peoples. To do that we needed a visible tangible indicator that linked the indigenous peoples, and their forested ancestral lands with an important use that was regular.
Thaya, in 2001, stumbled upon the Indigenous Peoples Basket! in particular the “uyut” and “gaweng” baskets . These hand woven baskets are beautiful and elegant, indeed a great work of art and inspiration of the Indigenous Peoples, but have a practical use in everyday life, as a carrier bag. They are a good alternative to plastic carrier bags. When used and carried around, they are an immediate reminder of the Indigenous Peoples and of their culture and of our tropical rain forests!
Thaya has a small personal collection of these Indigenous Peoples baskets that she regularly uses in shopping for wet produce like fruits and vegetables, take away foods etc. These hand woven baskets were used in her demonstrations, talks and training of Towards Zero Plastic Bags: The DayAnidhi Earth Model.
This project has begun in Malaysia through the Towards Zero Plastic Bags: The DayAnidhi Earth Model, since 2007. However there is much more to this project...
4. Dayanidhi earth living project
DayAnidhi Living is a way of life, of “Living”; that is merciful to the Earth and other beings. It embodies compassion as a very important virtue. This project has a number of sub projects. They are:
4.1 Raise your own children.
4.2 Reconnecting Women with the Earth
4.3 Towards Zero Plastic Bags: The DayAnidhi Earth Model
4.4 Be a Caregiver for your elderly parents
The first two sub projects have begun. The third project “Be the Caregiver of your elderly parents” is in its developmental and implementation stage.
Note: The DayAnidhi Earth Garden Sanctuary is also an important aspect of DayAnidhi Earth Living. However because of the extent and depth of knowledge and wisdom learnt and practised through the creation of this garden sanctuary, we have listed this as a separate program on its own.
4.1 Raise your own children
Raising and caring for our own babies and children is not the done thing of our times. Not the norm, perhaps since the 1980’s to 2010’s in the developed, near developed and developing part of the world. Babies and young children tend to be left to the care of creches, day care centres, maids and nannies. Women have had the opportunity for an education and to work. An opportunity they were crying out for, demanding for, for a long long time! It however, has not been without any repercussions. Naturally!
When one parent stays home willingly to raise the children till they are of school going age or at least till they are ready for play school (3+ years), or even for the first year of the child’s life, the children grow up differently. Perhaps more attuned to the Earth than otherwise - provided of course the parent ensures there is adequate outdoor play. The children perhaps grow up feeling happier, confident, more disciplined in general and more caring.
When one parent stays home to raise the children, it won’t of course be all great quality time with the children; but nonetheless the quantity of time spent with the child/children overrides the often quoted quality time spent by working parents. But it is of course a challenging decision to stay home, and not work at all for some years to raise your children - in an era where the basic costs of running a home and family are so expensive. Not everyone of course is in a position to stay home to raise the children. I refer to those amongst us who are unable to put food on the table and pay the very basic utility and house rental/mortgage bills on a one salary. Similarly too the predicament of a single parent - there is just virtually no choice but to go work and leave the children to maids/nannies/nurseries to look after. BUT there are so many amongst us who can actually stay home to raise our children. But again it will mean putting on hold or deferring family goals and targets related to building up of family assets, be it financial or otherwise.
Thaya believes strongly that one parent does need to stay home or work part time and raise the children till they are at least preferably 3 years old, if not till school going age. The impacts to Earth and the environment and to community well being is profound when one parent stays home or works only part time. The Climate Crisis we are currently experiencing now in 2019 is to a degree due to the greater mobility of people on the roads or in jet travel - due to both parents working away from home and on long hours away from home plus the increased materialism and consumption that tends to accompany a dual salaried run home.
4.2 reconnecting women (& Humanity) with the earth
This project began in the late 1990’s with a small invited tea session of women friends to the garden sanctuary at DayAnidhi Earth. Discussions were preliminary and centred around time spent at home, the use of plastic bags in the household, and daily transport travel. Many more issues remain to be explored and discussed.
4.2 Towards zero plastic bags: The Dayanidhi Earth Model
This is an approach with tried and tested solutions to the problem of plastic bags generated by a typical household. Plastic bag use is a real example of our current unsustainable and uncompassionate lifestyles. The DayAnidhi Earth Model approach began with the individual, moved on to friends and family, and the Malaysian Environmental NGO’s.
Towards Zero Plastic Bags: The DayAnidhi Earth Model links and integrates urban living with freshwater ecosystems, forests, rural livelihoods/economies, disadvantaged and challenged groups like single mothers, women working from and at home, the disabled, indigenous communities, farmers etc. It is a holistic model focusing on and integrating ecosystems with human well being – it is essentially an ecological and social model for compassionate living. Through this model economic needs are also met. This model addresses in depth, issues far more than sustainable development as we know it today.
The model was designed, developed and tested in the DayAnidhi Earth household over a 6 year period from mid 2001 to 2007. This model with regards towards zero plastic bags, was proposed as a training programme for the Malaysian Environmental NGOs (MENGO’S) in 2007, during Phase II of the Biodiversity Component of the Danida Environmental Co-operation Programme (ECP). This environmental co-operation programme was between the Government of Denmark and the Government of Malaysia, specifically for the Civil Society Sub Component on the Urban Environment. It was to serve as a model for community demonstrations and training.
Between October 2007 – March 2009, talks, training and demonstrations were conducted for members of civil society, including corporate organisations, as a result of invitations received. Firstly to SHELL Malaysia – a talk and demonstration, then to the Malaysian Environmental NGO’s (MENGO’s), then with the Sustainable Development Network of Malaysia (SUSDEN), and with the Consumer Association of Penang and to Technip Malaysia.
Towards Zero Plastic Bags:The DayAnidhi Earth Model was developed by Thayanithi Kulenthran. It is the copyright of DayAnidhi Earth.
4.3 Be a caregiver for youR elderly parents
Filial piety is very much a traditional Asian way of life. However with the economic developmental era of the 1980’s and onwards, with women going to work, the care of elderly parents has become relegated to domestic maids and to Old Folks Homes. It has become a convenient and practical option, at least in Malaysia.
This project was in its developmental stage seven (2012) to four (2015) years ago. For the past four years it is in full implementation stage. The project is based somewhat on a value system and personal experiences.
Way back in 2012, two sisters took over the management and operations of their elderly parents’ home with the support of a live in maid. Their parents were then 85 and 89 years old. Both were then mentally sound and physically capable and independent. However in mid 2015, their mother had a fall, fracturing her elbow and wrist. She needed and had an operation.
Both sisters were subsequently advised by the Rehab Specialist that their mother would subsequently need help with her bath and her toilet - so as to avoid any further falls and to prevent the possibility of being bedridden should another fall occur. Both sisters, rather than engage another maid to be a primary caregiver to their mother, decided that they would both between them became primary care givers to their ageing parents. The sisters were still working then. Both parents were by then 92 and 89 years of age and showing signs of needing physical and emotional support. Thus became a sustained committed journey of personally caring for very elderly ailing parents by two sisters, whose own homes and family were located an hour away from their parents home. The sisters were supported by their doctor brother who took charge of the medical care and needs of their parents. Not to forget most importantly, the compassionate husbands of both sisters. Both men gave their wives as much support as they each could. To undertake the challenging task of coping at home without their wives for extended regular periods.
A younger sister who had migrated to Australia would when she was back on holiday in Malaysia come by and do her part to the best of her ability.
The above journey of the four siblings was by no means a smooth one. Having to juggle the needs and responsibilities of their own families and homes, plus coordinate with each other to undertake the caring of their elderly parents was a journey that tested each and every one of them. But the journey had to be undertaken.
Note: Photos below of the four siblings parents in March and May 2017 - at 90 and 94 years of age, two years after being fully cared for by their children.