‘You Gave Lungs to This Neighbourhood’

There is nowhere for us to walk, nor a space for our children to play’, shared a grandparent. 

It all started on one ‘Grandparents’ Day’ at DLF Public School. During a candid discussion with few grandparents, Team DLF learnt that most of them were suffering from muscle atrophy, as they have no place to walk. They shared that most of them feel lonely as they have no place for get together and recreation during their leisure time. Also, there is no place for their children to play. 

Taking cue from this, a team of students and teachers together at DLF Public School-A thinking school with a soul, decided to find a viable solution to the issue. A school where success is measured in terms of usefulness to others. A school that nurtures socially responsible and concerned citizens who are worthy contributors and true change agents capable of making a difference to society. A school that believes real success lies in giving back more to the world than taking from it.
The team explored and visited the locality and found a park but it was a rejected and neglected space. Sadly, it was a garbage dumping space for the people living around and a space for disposing waste from feasts held very frequently at the temple nearby. Children of a slum used it as a toilet. When the idea was shared with students to adopt the park and transform it, they rejected the idea completely. 

As team DLF started working upon the project, people shared that the park is now a garbage dumping space and is not a favorable place for children to play. It seemed to be a distant dream that the situation could be improved. 
The place was horribly filthy and unkempt and it seemed to be a herculean task revamping it. However, students and teachers embarked upon the project with a firm determination and took it upon themselves to turn it into a green lung of the neighbourhood. 

Everyday over 30 students of Classes IV to VIII use to visit the park for an hour and clean it. In the process they learnt too and learnt on their feet rather than on their seat.  They knew the theory about parts of a plant but this hands on experience brought a huge sense of belongingness and ownership. The care and sensitivity with which they handled the saplings- oh, it’s coming out, how should I hold it– Real time enquiry like which is a herb and which one a shrub and will all of them survive. With a sense of genuine caring, they reallized that they’ll survive only if they’re nurtured right. Many children carried back litter from the park to dump in their class dustbins. 

The team had their share of disappointments too. One day teachers and children came back completely demotivated as somebody spitted betel on their painting, done on one of the wall a day before. Next day, when they went after much persuasion, watching the teachers and students work on the project, a boy from the slum joined in. Later more children from the local slums joined in to help. Upon observing their excitement, the school tried to rope in their involvement along with its students and this provided a momentum to the initiative. 

Later, school team created ‘Park Rangers Team’ out of these children and these ‘Rangers’ were officially given ‘Badges’ of ‘Park Ranger’ in the Investiture Ceremony by the senior RWA members and the school IAYP team. Now these park rangers are taking care of the park. They also intervene if anybody misuses the park and take care of the plants which have been grown by our school children. 
Not only this, mindset of the temple priest was changed as the project team suggested him to use the temple donations from feast in disposing off the temple waste appropriately. In order to maximize the utility of this space, school decided to involve its students of IAYP (International Award for Young People) group. As a service they adopted these slum children who live next to the Ekta park and started teaching them under the ‘Each One Teach One Programme’.

The team also wanted to improve the clogging problem due to rain by installing a rain harvesting system in the park, but did not have budgets. And during this phase award for ‘Conserving Green Spaces’ by Disney Friends for Change was announced. DLF Public school applied for it.  Its efforts were recognized and the school was awarded special Jury’s Mention award for involvement of maximum number of children and maximum community engagement and especially for the school’s work with the slum children as Park Rangers and with the temple priest to inspire a mindset change. Hon’ble Environment Minister of Delhi, Mr Imran Hussain, Delhi Govt’s Eco Clubs In-charge Dr Sabata, CEO of Delhi Parks and Gardens Society Dr. S D Singh, and MD – Disney India, Mr Siddharth Roy Kapur were the members of the special Jury. The cash grant of four lakhs that the school received as prize money was thus put into this purpose which eventually helped the project team to make a difference to the entire process. 

It was a challenging task, disposing off stinking garbage, cleaning the clutter, restoring and replenishing the soil over, planting native saplings, painting walls, installing swings and other amenities. Over 700 students and teachers of the school collaboratively with the RWAs of the neighbourhood transformed the garbage dumping space to a park and were successful in changing locals’ perception about the park.

There was real hands on learning about layers of the soil, soil textures, composting –rainwater harvesting. 
A space that was used as a garbage dumping ground, as a urinal area, a space for drug addicts, was unhygienic, unsafe and rather a rejected public space today stands as a thoughtfully designed beautiful park, with butterfly gardens, about 3500 native plants, badminton court, swings, flowers, water harvesting system, compost pit etc. admired by the residents and a place for morning and evening hangouts for children, parents and elders!
This transformation did not come easy to us… but…the efforts to meet the challenges involved rendered the words all, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’- Mahatma Gandhi not just words but a living reality lived at DLF Public School!

Later the school gifted the transformed and revamped ‘Ekta Park’ to the residents and RWA of B-Block Shalimar Garden, Sahibabad as a New Year gift on January 1, 2016. Dr. Rakesh Khullar, School Chairman along with Mr Satyendra Kumar Tiwari, Asst. Commissioner, Horticulture, Nagar Nigam inaugurated the park in the presence of Dr. Mrignaini, Executive Director, Seema Jerath, Principal, members of the RWA, Residents, and Delfite teachers and students.

The park has become the model of the existential framework of ‘learning by doing’ and aims at creating humane individuals.  Ekta Park today stands symbolic to the Delfites’ contribution towards a higher and greater good: the public interest. 

Testimonials:
Ira Patole, Student of Class X 
‘We talked to the residents about disposing garbage by handing it over to the garbage collector instead of dumping it at the gate of the park. We really felt happy when now we find people listening to us and dumping their waste appropriately’
Shikha Srishthi,  Student of Class IX
‘Creating and maintaining a green space by joining hands with the local residents was a big challenge. The project has brought us and our young learners closer to nature and practice as well as preach that they can and should contribute towards a more sustainable environment.’
Ms Gargi Datta Biswas, HOD, Science 
‘We have taken a small step towards change through this project and we have miles to go further. This park and DLf public school will be a role model for the society and other schools.’
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