Something really interesting happened when the Dutch students from Hilversum International School came for the Outreach program.
Let me just talk a little bit more about what our sanitation program is about.
Basically there is no point on people coming to India to pick up plastic in the villages if in the next week there will be an event in the temple and people will trow plastic all over the place again.
Also, it is complicated to go to them and say: don’t trow plastic on the street, if they don’t have access to trash bins, proper ones that will be strong enough to remain under the heat and protected enough not to flood when monsoon comes.
So what we did was to work with the kids. The young people from the villages are the ones who will take the decisions and who can represent every single household from the community. Akshara, being lucky enough to being able to reach them, started the Sanitation program which consists on teams with students from each village collecting plastic from their own village on a continuous process.
Yes, it was frustrating for us when after the first week of hard work there was plastic all over the place, but it was indeed also frustrating for the kids, who went to talk to their parents.
The situation was then different on the next week, when we even had some parents joining us on collecting plastic.
There is a visible change on the landscape of our villages around Bhadas Road right now.
We have collected over 100 big bags of recyclable material over a period of 2 months.
Not only plastic, we also collect bottles. Alcohol bottles.
I recall an interesting conversation we heard – with Prashant.
Two men were standing there watching the kids collecting plastic and glass bottles and one said:
– Isn’t that from our party of yesterday?
and the other replied
– How shameful of us, we drink and litter and now I see my kids having to clean up our mess.
The next day they were helping us.
That is social engineering, that is building something without interfering, without imposing any values. That is respecting people. Forcing people to what we think is right does not seem to be reasonable to me, but sharing something gradually do will give the freedom to decide to do what they think is right.
I have some many things to learn, but this is definitely something I would never learn if I had spent one or two weeks here.
So many reasons to be glad and it is hard to communicate how strong such experience can be. It is indeed a small thing but the impacts of it are long term and are real. And I am glad I am not the one who created this impact, the one who did it was the man who decided to join us that next day.