(By Jhankar Gadkari and Prabodh Sharma)
Certain sacred areas in the Sahyadri forests in Maharashtra are known as Dev-Rai.
[ Dev = God + Rai = Forest , Dev-Rai …..A grove where divinity resides ]
These sacred areas are protected, revered and worshipped by the local tribals. One may also find temples of local deities or a spot for worship .
Living with nature, respecting every living being’s habitat is no new concept in India and has been practiced by local tribes for centuries.
Today with rapid urbanisation it is a forgotten practice.
Hence, Eco-conservation and Biodiversity have to be emulated for the Urbanites to see and experience. These forest patches traditionally protected by native communities are sustained due to religious beliefs and traditions.
Chembur Childrens Home (CCH) established almost a 100 years ago, works under the umbrella body of Children’s Aid Society. It is an organisation for protection, treatment, vocational training & education for opportunity development and rehabilitation is provided to children who are destitute, orphan, homeless, runways, street children, rescued child beggars, physically challenged, victimized, rescued child labourers, mentally challenged, conflict with law etc..
CCH, Mankhurd, Mumbai, has 7 verticals for children between 1 day to 18 years.
Rotary Club of Deonar, District 3141, embarked upon an ambitious project to give a feel and touch of Dev-Rai , to the biggest and the oldest child care institution in the city of Mumbai.
Rotary Club of Deonar ,has been associated with CCH, for sometime now, however the idea of using the unused space of the huge campus began taking shape at the beginning of this Rotary year which commenced on July 1 2022.
The thought of giving the children of the CCH a sustainable model for their growth and maintenance was the compelling cause for launching this project.
Several brain storming sessions resulted in the idea to create the right environment towards an overall development of the inmates – with newer vocational angles for their growth as responsible and skilled citizens post their tenure in the Protection home.
A bio-diversity park, Dev-Rai with a difference emerged.
It is a 3 acre land which is divided thoughtfully into multiple segments.
The Organic Park, [ सेंद्रिय बाग ] :
Under the able guidance of Ms Dolly Chappia, who offered her expertise in horticulture we laid out and subdivided the land parcel into multiple fruit bearing trees and vegetable garden segment.
Here children will be encouraged to learn agro-technics and have an in depth insight and understanding of intensive farming.
They will be trained in producing exotic organic vegetables and fruits, these efforts will be furthered by understanding how to standardize and brand the product and finally market it .
Indeed it would be a real time market experience to match for their future growth .
Butter-fly Garden [ तितली उद्यान],
Mr. Diwaker Thombre and his years of experience helped us set up a butterfly garden, the segment. It has specifically chosen colourful flowering plants which are already attracting swarns of butterflies. One cannot miss the colourful 9 feet Butterfly Structure right in the middle of the segment.
The Pergola , Gazebo,
A huge Pergola serves as a resting area and a very inviting meeting place for general chit-chat for the children. This is in the midst of the natural goodness of edible plants at the Herb Garden.
The Humanity Garden मानवता बाग ,
One cannot miss the Tranquil Buddha meditating under the huge rain tree , the area and the aura is self-explanatory, children can just sit here and experience the calm and the serenity of the place.
Ampi-theatre = कला सादर.
A 150 seater open semi circular area for performing arts for these children is another highlight of the Dev-Rai, surprisingly it was observed that many children had latent talents but could not express them due to paucity of a platform , Kala-Sadar fills in this gap.
The Information Centre
The information centre in the middle of Dev-Rai will have good reading material and films on Eco balance and conservation.
This will be an hands on information centre .
The Execution ,
Rotary Club of Deonar drew on its internal resources in executing the entire project .
Rtn Liladhar Parab , an architect by profession put in his expert inputs in the layout of Dev-Rai . Rtn Rajendra Datey ,a Civil Engineer, offered his team to give a shape to this project.
The Aesthetics ,
A professional artist Mr Anil Digankar along with Rtn Jhankar Gadkari added a lot of artistic touch to make it a very vibrant area. Today it is laid out with series of attractive paintings, colourful pathways and signages.
The space certainly has been transformed from a bedraggled and grubby area to its present state of serenity under the President of the Club, Rtn Vidya Subramanian and her team.
On 24th Apr 2023 the project had blessings from The RI President 2023-24 Rtn Gordon MacInally and Ms Heather who also planted flower bearing trees around the meditating Buddha .
Rotary International Director Elect, Rtn T N Subramanian and Past Rotary International Director Rtn. Ashok Mahajan along with District Governor Elect Rtn Arun Bhargava were present for this milestone moment.
Children of the society performed a small skit for the benefit of the dignitaries, also on this occasion 450 shoes were distributed to the children. This gift was sponsored by Rotary Club of Mumbai Lakers President of the Lakers Ms Manju and Senior Rotarin Ms Ekta were present .
Five deserving student with extraordinary talent were duly recognised. The contribution and the support of the CCH officials was sincerely acknowledged.
The efforts and the resource utilization of the Rotary Club of Deonar were fulfilled when during the execution of the project they experienced a complete involvement of the resident inmates: The Children, The Beneficiaries .
We are sure any project can be a success only if it passes the test of sustainability. Sustainability is assured with ownership, involvement, and sense of belonging. In project Dev-Rai, the children have taken the ownership, it is a success by already .