Every monsoon, Sonu Prasad, a 13-year-old boy from Jadavpur area in Kolkata, noticed that birds were falling off trees and injuring themselves. He would pick them up and bring them home but, in time, he’d find that his mother would leave the birds back outside. Wanting to do something to lend a helping hand to his feathered friends, who could not speak for themselves, without having to bring them home, he gathered his friends and set about designing birdhouses to offer them shelter, and bird-feeders to give them food.
With the help of Gitanjali Ghosh, the Founder-Director of Anando – an NGO in Kolkata that works with disadvantaged children – the Class VI and VII students collected waste materials. Anando organises regular activity clubs during weekends, where children from slum areas in and around Jadavpur are encouraged to explore their creative side and work independently. The framework of Design for Change – a not-for-profit organisation that challenges children to solve problems in their community – forms a crucial part of what Anando does.
\The framework encourages children to first ‘feel’ for an issue, then ‘imagine’ a way out of it, then ‘do’ something about it, and go on to ‘share’ their idea with more people. Five stories from Anando have, since 2010, made it to the top 20 stories at the ‘I CAN Awards’ organised by Design for Change, with this being the fifth one, selected from amongst 1,992 Stories of Change in 2014.
The students – Sonu Prasad, Tinku Tanti, Aditya Das, Vishal Roy, Dheeraj Roy, Sonu Shaw, Deepak, and Ajit Pandit – created birdhouses using thermocol and cardboard, with feeding trays inside and a small swing for the birds to entertain themselves. They painted these using leftover paint.
Ghosh says that soon after installing these birdhouses, one of them became home to a crow, and another to a pigeon.
The students then set about designing a simple bird-feeder from waste plastic bottles. This is a typical design, where two sticks are inserted into the bottle. One acts as a perch for the bird to sit on, and the other as a dispenser for seeds. A small hole allows the birds to feed on the grass seeds inside. The second stick was abandoned in later models as it did not work.
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After a trial, the students also realised that the feeder had to be made waterproof, otherwise all the seeds would be reduced to a lump in the rain. The students used dry leaves to create a ‘cap’ around the bottle top, and varnished the leaves to make them waterproof, so that rainwater would flow off. While this worked, the feeders – painted in bright colours – turned out to be so attractive that passers-by started stealing them to take home!
The students decided that installing simpler feeders would do the job better. They also installed the feeders higher up in the trees to prevent them from being stolen.
They found half-litre plastic bottles more effective, as 1-litre bottles attracted more squirrels than birds.
The birdhouses and feeders have since inspired many visitors and children who come to Anando, and they have replicated these birdhouses and feeders at their own homes. Ghosh says that these feeders, which are still hanging at the Anando centre today, are especially popular with sparrows. The sparrow population in India is rapidly declining today. Simple birdhouses, bird-feeders, and water baths can do a great deal to help these winged creatures find refuge.
Jagat Kinkhabwala – the Sparrow Man of Ahmedabad – has often argued that sparrows do not have the acumen to build nests. Trees are their only source of shelter. Hence, deforestation has made them more susceptible to predators. A simple DIY creation such as these, devised by the children at Anando, can help our feathered friends immensely. More people need to adopt these birdhouses and feeders in their verandahs and gardens.
Be a part of one of the largest global movements of children driving change in their communities. Take up the ‘I CAN School Challenge’ in your classroom. Find out more online, or reach out to Design For Change on +91-95999-16181.