Rotary Club of Deonar (RCD), RID 3141, has been associated with the Chembur Children’s Home (CCH), the biggest and oldest orphanage set up almost 100 years ago in Mumbai, for various initiatives over the last few years. Fortunately, and unusually for a city like Mumbai, CCH had a lot of unused space and last Rotary year, the club put together a project to “invigorate and rejuvenate the environment for the inmates. We wanted to give a sustainable model for their growth and well-being, rather than providing basic facilities to them,” says Vidhya Subramanian, immediate past president of the club.
Due deliberation and brain storming resulted in the evolution of an overall development plan to transform the entire area. The result is dramatic; an entire dumpyard has been converted into a walkway of parks. “The two-acre land has been divided into multiple segments, each one giving a sense of environmental protection. This Biodiversity Park, which was inaugurated by the then incoming RI President Gordon McInally, is now open to students of other educational institutions for field trips, who will be educated by experts on the importance of preservation and supporting the environment.”
Under the able guidance of a horticulturist, multiple local fruit-bearing trees were planted and in barely six months, at the inaugural, the colourful fruits caught all eyes. A kitchen garden has also been put up and the vegetables grown here will be used for the meals of the children living on the campus.
Vidhya explains that the children will be encouraged “to learn agro-techniques and gain an understanding of intensive farming. They will be trained in producing organic vegetables and fruits, branding the produce and ultimately marketing it. Certain sacred areas in the Sahyadri forest in Maharashtra are known as Devrai (God’s forest), so we have named this the Devrai project.”
A part of the area has been earmarked for vermicomposting to sustain the entire park.
Help from Diwaker Thombre, an expert in the field, was taken to set up a butterfly garden, which is attracting different varieties of colourful butterflies. A colourful 9-ft butterfly structure has been put up right in the middle of the park, where a resting area — a gazebo — has also been set up. The bird feeders hanging on the edges keep the place alive with the constant chirping of the winged visitors, she adds.
Under the huge rain tree here, designated as a meditation area, the seven focus areas of RI are displayed prominently. A viewing gallery provides a bird’s eye view of the entire garden. As CCH children didn’t have an area to showcase their talent, a 200-seater open air semicircular area for performing arts has been created.
Vidhya thanked members of her club for contributing their professional expertise in executing the entire project; past president Liladhar Parab, an architect, formulated the layout of Devrai; another past president Rajendra Datye, a civil engineer, offered his team to give shape to this project, with past president Jhankar Gadkari adding the much-required aesthetic touch to the entire project.
“Attractive paintings, colourful pathways and signages have transformed this space from a bedraggled and grubby area to its present state of serenity. We were lucky to have the then president-elect McInally to inaugurate the park. His spouse Heather planted a flowerbed around the idol of the meditating Buddha.”
The then incoming RI director T N Subramanian, PRID Ashok Mahajan and then DGE Arun Bhargava were present at the inaugural; 450 pairs of shoes, sponsored by RC Mumbai Lakers, were presented to the children.
To ensure sustainability and proper maintenance of the beautiful park, RC Deonar has undertaken the responsibility to maintain it for the next 10 years.