April 2012: The Vivekanand Environment Awareness Brigade (VEAB) was formed in 2001 in Sattari-Goa by Rajendra Kerkar and his wife Pournima Kerkar, Sanctuary Green Teacher Award 2011 winners, and for the last decade, it has been creating change-makers in the state.
Through a comprehensive set of activities, VEAB introduces people to the amazing world of nature and empowers them to be environmental defenders. They describe their mission as creating a base of environmentally-conscious individuals who can help find solutions to local environmental issues.
The organisation routinely conducts nature orientation camps for schools and the general public. Kids and adults are taken to forests in Goa where they spend time learning about wildlife, its importance and how they can help protect it. Nature trails and birding trips are held regularly and participants visit gardens and nearby forests where they are guided by resource people and learn how to observe wild animals. Trekking, camping and rock climbing are added to the itinerary to encourage people to spend more time outdoors.
Educational institutions, corporate and local citizen groups often approach VEAB to conduct slideshows and workshops on wildlife, waste management, water harvesting and other topics. In an initiative supported by DST-Goa, VEAB was able to reach out to 16 rural schools in Sattari under which the kids learned about environmental issues, attended nature walks and even went on a three day camp to the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary. By reaching out to rural children, VEAB successfully targetted and influenced the people living in close proximity to wildlife.
A key tool used by VEAB to spread their message is street plays. These pithy enactments help attract new members to VEAB and are often focussed on local issues that urgently need attention or larger national issues like large dams and illegal mining. VEAB has organized several street plays since their inception and they have all been very well-received, often spurring citizens to take action on neighbourhood environmental problems. Tree plantations and photography exhibitions are also held by VEAB with the former focussing on returning indigenous species of flora to the region. The photography exhibitions have been a huge success and the funds generated from the sales of the frames help support other activities.
One of VEAB’s major programmes is wildlife rescue. The number of rescues needed in Goa has shot up due to increasing urbanisation and VEAB constantly receives calls about injured wild animals in need of help. Coordinating with the Forest Department and other NGOs, VEAB picks up the animals, treats them and releases them back into the wild once they have recovered. Raids on illegal captive wild animals have also been conducted and their list of rescues spans from birds, snakes, monkeys, mongoose and even civet cats to leopards and crocodiles!
The VEAB website has a list of upcoming events. To join them or to help VEAB check out their site: www.veabgoa.org