Chances are that you are reading this news letter sitting in a chair. And it’s possible that you have been in your chair for a while.
It is important to realize that you are probably inactive during most of your waking hours. You sit in a car or bus while commuting to work. You sit at your work desk eight hours a day. Then you come back and sit in front of your TV all evening. If you are a student, the only difference is that you sit in the class room and library the whole day and sit at your study table in the evening. Well, the chances are that you develop “sitting disease”- the new buzzword for sedentary lifestyle that may put your health at risk.
A growing body of research shows that long periods of physical inactivity raise your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity. To stay healthy one needs to be physically active. Dr.Anil Bansal, the Chief Cardiologist at Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon says, “Brisk walking for 20-30 minutes daily is considered the best option to prevent heart ailments.” Walking pumps the heart rate, improves blood circulation and oxygen in the body. Walking also lowers pressure, body fat and improves sugar in the blood. Even those who cannot afford to take out time for ‘morning walk’ may consider walking to work or school (at least part of the distance).
How can we encourage people to walk/cycle/ do physical activity? Our roads should be safe to walk. There should be proper foot paths. There should be parks and public places where children can play and seniors can walk or jog. This is what ‘liveable cities’ is all about. We advocate for healthy environment for pedestrians and also for people’s access to parks and public places. As a result of all these, we envision a healthy community, in fact a happy community.
The current issue of “Livable India” brings you articles on the importance of physical activity- walking and cycling for adults as well as children. The experience of Nimisha and Rini is really eye-opening. The article on ‘Children and Nature’ points to the dangers of children’s disconnection from the natural world. The photo story also deserves special credit. You can also read the news of the initiatives taken by the Livable cities teams in Bangalore, Nagpur and Thrissur.
Wish you a great time of reading- and walking too!
Sneha Powar, Sumedha Panja and Mark Peter
Hi, we are students of social work at St. Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, Bangalore doing our internship with ESAF. Orientation to ‘Active and Safe Route to School’ program of ESAF has made us sensitive to the problems faced by children as they go to school. Daily scenes in the streets in and around our college which were ignored earlier have come alive to us. We decided to capture them in our camera. Here we go.
ENSURING SAFETY – WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY?
To what extent is the safety and comfort of children considered by others? Who are to the blamed? Traffic rule breakers? Parents? Traffic police?
Cycling in a busy street??? How safe is it????
(Photos compiled by Manju George & Rosemary F N, ESAF)
ASRTS program in Thrissur was started with a travel pattern analysis at 3 schools. The travel pattern analysis was done to know the number of students commuting to school by using different modes of travel. Based on the analysis Bethlehem High school was selected for implementing SRTS program. Parents, teachers and students were educated about the concept and importance of Safe route to school program during the PTA general body meeting at Bethlehem High School.
Awareness creation in the PTA general body meeting
International Walk to School Day Celebrated: International Walk to School Month gives children, parents, school teachers and community leaders an opportunity to be part of a global event as they celebrate the many benefits of walking. A rally was organized as part of Walk to school day celebration on 09th of October, 2013. Mr. Najeeb, ASI of Mannuthy flagged off the rally which started from Ollukkara junction, Thrissur. Around 200 students, teachers, parents and community leaders participated in the rally. A Seminar was also conducted on the topic ‘Safe walking and cycling’ in which classes were taken by police official M.C Biju.
Walk to school day rally Mr. M.C Biju during the seminar
Traffic Guides Training
School Traffic guides provide a valuable safety check for school children – most commonly at unmarked crossing points. Traffic guides don’t step into the road, stop or control traffic. They use their arms (as ‘barrier arms’) to stop pedestrians crossing the road until it’s clear of approaching traffic. Role of student traffic guides include: 1. Watching for safety issues near the school or on their way to school and bring it to the notice of the school staff 2. Take a lead in helping children to cross roads. Ten students from Bethlehem school were selected as traffic guides and given training on traffic safety.
Awareness creation through Club FM
The whole team at Club FM
The Livable Cities team in association with Club Fm radio organized an awareness program on the health benefits of walking and cycling to school. Two students from Bethlehem school accompanied by a PTA representative reached the radio station to share their experience of going to school by walk and bicycle. “Walking to school every morning keeps me active throughout the day”- says Maria, 8th standard student, who walks to school every day. Mr. Francis who represented the PTA shared his experience of going to school
Children walking or cycling to school was a common sight in Nagpur till recent years. Despite weather changes and extremes, children loved to walk or cycle to school.
But the scenario has changed drastically in the last one decade. The number of children walking or cycling has come down considerably. While going through the data of road accidents, it was shocking to know that the major victims are children below 16 years of age. Probably this is the reason parents are reluctant to let their children walk or cycle to school.
Walking to school with friends is fun and it promotes socialization. Gone are the days when children used to walk together chatting and laughing. Today, the scenario is altogether different, with the children being dropped either by private vehicles or by public transport. Most of the students are transported to schools like ‘goods’ in overloaded auto rickshaws. We tend to ignore the tiny tot’s safety, as fifteen or more small kids are pushed into a small auto rickshaw; their bags/water bottles hanging all over. In case of sudden application of brake, the auto can overturn, which would transform the smiles and cheerfulness of tiny tots into painful agony for all of us. Parents depend upon the school bus or private vehicles to drop their children at school. Even the children who stay nearby are also dropped most of the time. It’s mainly because our roads have become so unsafe for children.
Through ‘Active and Safe Route to School’ (ASRTS) program, ESAF not only tries to ensure the safety of children on the road but also promotes walking to school as an activity that will improve their health. Through this program ESAF tries to develop a traffic sense among the students. ESAF also tries to motivate them to adopt walking and cycling as the mode of travel to the school. As a result, many children have stopped using motor vehicle and have started walking or cycling to school. Livable cities Nagpur team dreams of a city where children will have a safer and healthier future.
Young children discover the wonders of nature through direct hands-on experiences; they develop a reverence for life that cannot be fostered as profoundly in any other way. Reading about insects in books or watching nature videos is never as compelling as seeing a real butterfly emerge from its chrysalis or tasting the first tomato that ripens on a plant you’ve watered yourself. When children have opportunities to care for plants and trees, animals and insects, they practice nurturing behaviors that help them interact in kind and gentle ways with people as well. Sadly, though, many young children today do not have such opportunities.
Children’s disconnection from the natural world
Much has been written about children’s disconnection from the natural world. Children are losing natural green spaces in the cities by way of city development. And news about crimes against children make parents reluctant to allow children to explore the outdoors freely. Add to that the indoor seductions of TV, video, computer games, and internet. It is no wonder that young children are growing up more familiar with BlackBerry smart phones than wild blackberries. Researchers say the lack of outdoor contact contributes to problems such as childhood obesity, children’s dislike and even fear of the outdoors (often made worse by the media), and increased reliance on behavior-regulating medications
Children need nature
Contact with nature “may be as important to children as good nutrition and adequate sleep” (Gill, 2005). Preschool and primary children gain skills in a number of academic areas from regular experiences in a garden as part of an early childhood program (Miller 2007). Studies at the University of Illinois’s Human-Environment Research Laboratory show how connection with green outdoor spaces can help relieve the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children (Taylor, Kuo, & Sullivan, 2001). Other compelling arguments for nature experiences abound (Sobel, 1996; Kahn & Kellert, 2002). Families and educators read about the importance of children’s contact with nature, but do not know how to respond. The first step may be to simply acknowledge the fact that the world has changed. For many children, chances to explore nature do not “just happen” anymore. We adults need to ensure that nature-child connections are made by bringing them to a parks or gardens which are blessed with natural beauty.
Creating nature-based outdoor space
As young children spend more and more time in early childhood programs, elementary schools, and special tuitions, it is essential to find ways to bring nature to them. We need to think beyond traditional playgrounds, which are often constructed without grass, flowers, or trees, and envision and create nature-based outdoor classrooms. Unfortunately, the term outdoor classroom is often associated with plots of ground where children go to learn the names of plants and identify trees. While there’s nothing wrong with this, if that’s all that happens outdoors, neither the child nor the teacher has the opportunity to experience the profound joys of connecting on an emotional level with nature’s bounty.
Initiative to bridge the gap
With the guidance and support of Health Bridge, ESAF initiated a program to bridge the gap between nature and children by giving them a natural environment where they can also enjoy the beauty of nature and improve their health. The name of the program is “Making cities livable for children”. In this project ESAF works with the Nagpur Municipal Cooperation for the development of parks in Nagpur as Nagpur is blessed with 119 parks. As a result of this initiative some parks regained their natural beauty. Then ESAF motivated the children from the community around the park to enjoy the natural environment in the park and lead a healthy life.
ESAF dreams of cities where children walk to school enjoying the nature around and where children grow up in communion with nature.
Children look forward to ‘Children’s day’! That’s the day when they will get full freedom to play and enjoy!. But what about special children? Can Children’s day be made a special day for them too? Livable cities team in Nagpur decided to do something about it. Lendra park, the first inclusive park in Nagpur became the venue for the Children’s day celebrations for special children. The team organized games which special children could enjoy and made the event a special one for all the 35 special children who participated. The activities were designed not only for enjoyment but also for the improvement of their mental concentration and physical fitness. Evan 15 teachers joined the special children’s day celebration. They appreciated the initiative and expressed their wish if more NGOs had come forward to make the lives of special children enjoyable.
ESAF Observed World Disability day:
International Day of Persons with Disabilities is held annually to focus on issues that affect people with disabilities. On 6th December 2013 ESAF observed the day with the special children from the School for Special Children in Nagpur. The program was organized in Lendra park and 25 special children accompanied by 6 teachers participated. These special children who belong to underprivileged families were excited to play with the special play equipments that are installed in the park.
Children love winter holidays. It’s the time to play and enjoy throughout the day. In order to help the children to adopt an active and healthy life style, a winter camp was organized by the Nagpur team of the Livable Cities Project from 2 November to 11 November 2013. 71 children participated in this camp. What made the camp special was that all of them were from underprivileged families. Along with various games, there were Yoga training and life skills programmes. It goes without saying that children thoroughly enjoyed the camp.
International Walk to School Day
Active and Safe Route to School program is a part of the Livable cities project of ESAF. Through this programme ESAF is trying to promote active mode of travel among children. As part of program, ESAF organized various awareness programs in many schools of Nagpur. October 9th is celebrated as International Walk to School Day. ESAF celebrated International Walk to School Day in partnership with Pandit Nehru School, near Katol road, Nagpur. 300 students along with the teachers and Head Master of the school participated in the program. An awareness rally started from the school at 8 AM.. Students shouted slogans like “Walk to School for health life”, “Save Petrol” and “Make Nagpur a Congestion-free city”. The Students were really excited as they participated in the rally and it attracted even many people living near the school. It was interesting to see many people joining the rally, shouting slogans along with the students. After covering an area of 3kms, the rally returned to the school at 9 AM.