Fellow Since 1992
Living Over Value Equity Program
This profile was prepared when Punya Chaiyakum was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.
The New Idea
Children have been the first to grasp the environmental problems caused by man's blindness. Punya, a sensitive environmentalist, artist, and Buddhist, is a fellow spirit.Drawing on a decade's work in the Thai environmental movement, Punya has developed an approach that he believes will enable children to understand environmental issues more deeply, to lead their elders and to ultimately become a new generation that treats the land and its living creatures with respect.With permission from a school's principal, Punya and his volunteers enter a school and give its one to two hundred students intensive exposure to environmental concerns. While working and interacting with that original group of students, he searches for a much smaller group of leaders who then constitute that school's environmental club.He elicits their attention by using his repertoire of artistic and story-telling skills. From that first beachhead, he then moves quickly to give the club a set of activities they can successfully pursue. For example, he helps them build a statue of one of the area's endangered species on the school grounds. He also initiates a practical on-going activity that produces income for the participating children- he teaches them how to make souvenir models of endangered species in the area using waste materials (plastic bags molded together and covered with sand, for example). The environmental club then purchases and markets the children's products. After the club is established, he and his volunteers only provide them with new materials and visit several times a year. On occasion, successful groups are rewarded with an inexpensive telescope.