CHENNAI: In the wee hours of January 22, when eco-warrior Prasiddhi Singh was still tucked away in bed, dreaming about a clean, green and healthy Earth, she was woken up by her father Praveen. “You’ve been selected for the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar award!” he exclaimed.
A calm Prasiddhi got out of bed and walked to her lush garden. She planted a sapling, watered it and whispered “Thank you”.“It is because of these plants and trees that I have been able to achieve this milestone. They have given me this joy, and planting that sapling was my thanksgiving for everything they have done and continue to do for us,” shares the class 3 student of Mahindra World School.
Earrlier this week, via a virtual ceremony, she was honoured with the prestigious award for excellence in the field of Social Service. The Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar is India’s highest civilian honour bestowed upon exceptional achievers under the age of 18. Prasiddhi is the youngest among the 32 awardees and the only child from Tamil Nadu to receive this award.
Fruits of labour
Two years ago, when we met the then five-year-old eco crusader, she was a girl on a mission. “I want to grow micro fruit forests at schools to feed the depleting bird population in the city, plant one lakh fruit trees and create a ‘Kids Army’ wherein children from the schools will become caretakers of the trees we plant. This will make us accountable,” said Prasiddhi, who was then raising funds for her first fruit forest.
On January 11, 2019, she set up her first fruit forest at a government school in Anjur, and since then, her vision and mission have only grown from strength to strength. In two years, the founder of Prasiddhi Forest Foundation has created 13 fruit forests across government schools, offices and public places and has planted over 13,500 fruit trees to feed birds, squirrels and provide fresh fruits to everyone.
“Receiving this recognition has only further motivated me to fulfil my aim of planting one lakh trees and I am hoping to do it within the next two years. It is a great feeling to know that leaders of this country believe that I can make a change and it pushes me to work harder towards my goal,” says Prasiddhi, whose name also finds a place in the India Book of Records as the youngest fruit forest creator in India.
Recalling where it all started, Suganthi Medasani, principal at Mahindra World School narrates, “We initiated a plantation programme in 2018 at our school for students of all classes. The aim was to plant one lakh trees in and around the neighbourhood. As part of the initiative, we gave every student a sapling, planted it in our campus, discussed the importance of trees in the ecosystem and the need to develop a green cover and protect them for the future.
Prasiddhi, who was in UKG then, took it all to her heart, went home and discussed with her parents the possibility of planting one lakh saplings herself. That marked the beginning of this journey for her.” Proud of Prasiddhi’s achievements, the educator gushes. “She has profound knowledge about plants and trees and understands their value even at such a young age. Besides academic development, environment and biodiversity awareness is one of the values that we inculcate among students.
In Prasiddhi’s journey, we are happy to play the role of small agents, supporting her and enabling her to reach her goals. Her love for nature is unconditional and that will take her to greater heights,” she emphasises. For Stuti and Praveen, the young achiever’s parents, Prasiddhi has been the driving force in their lives. “We are often occupied in our corporate jobs. However, every weekend, you can find us on our toes, either planning a plantation drive, conducting one or discussing sustainability and learning new things about the ecosystem.
Prasiddhi’s passion is what drives us and we are very proud of her,” beams Praveen. Nodding in agreement, Stuti shares how her daughter’s passion pursuits didn’t stop even amid the pandemic. “She told us she won’t stop because the trees and plants were still working round the clock, giving oxygen and protecting the Earth. So even during the pandemic, following all the SOPs, two plantation drives were conducted at government schools in Puducherry,” she shares. Through 2020, Prasiddhi has planted over 5,000 trees in government schools, various trusts and corporates.
Walking the talk
Committed to being an agent of change, Prasiddhi has also conducted over 20 global workshops, sessions and talks across schools, colleges and corporate offices, and has been a part of several biodiversity conservation initiatives. “Through her interactions, workshops and engagements, she has been able to connect with over 10,000 eco-warriors from across the globe, who work with the vision of making our planet greener,” shares Stuti. Besides her mission to plant one lakh fruit trees, Prasiddhi also aspires to create a clean, green and healthy planet through her G3 Project.
“Through this, I want to spread knowledge on ‘Generating our own oxygen’, ‘Growing our own food’ and ‘Gifting the community’. Over the past two years, I have noticed a change in the mindsets of people around me. They have become more mindful of conservation and sustainability. My friends too are part of my initiative. So it motivates me to go the extra mile,” says Prasiddhi, who has locally created and maintained a community nursery along with her eco-army.
“To raise funds for my drives, I set up stalls, make paper pencils and seed balls, gift saplings and conduct yoga awareness sessions for schools. It has been an interesting journey,” shares the environmentalist, who looks up to personalities like Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry Kiran Bedi, Tree Scientist and former president of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, and Primatologist Jane Goodall. Besides her eco pursuits, she enjoys practising yoga, painting, singing and dancing, and also hopes to author books on trees, biodiversity and heal thy l iving.
“Wi th a supportive environment, I have been able to grow and walk on a path that will someday lead me to the zenith of my purpose. Similarly, if we provide nature with such an environment, they too can asserts. Reciting one of her favourite quotes by Walt Disney, ‘All our dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them’, she concludes, “All of us can create our own eco systems and become change-makers. I hope more eco-warriors rise to make the world a better place.” For details, visit Facebook page: Prasiddhi Forest
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Rarin’ to go
On January 11, 2019, she set up her first fruit forest at a government school in Anjur. So far, Prasiddhi Forest has set up 13 fruit forests.