Our team of educators has been raising awareness about Waste Management and Personal Hygiene in the Vandrapet slum behind the Railway station for over six months almost on a daily basis. It has been challenging but fun!

It was just another day for our team of educators at Vandrapet, when they noticed something new as they reached the small open ground where children play. Two bins, cement rings that used to be municipal dustbins, were placed at strategic distances so that they were accessible by most houses. This was a pleasant surprise!
The educators were curious to know who had placed these rather heavy rings and from where had they come. As the children came running towards them, the educators asked who had done this.

All the children pointed at two teenagers playing marbles in one corner. The educators recognized these boys well; they had participated in the games earlier. They went up to them to confirm what the other children were saying.
As Dharma and Vinayagamurthi saw the educators they shouted: “Dustbin patikangla?” (Did you see the dustbins?)

There was excitement and pride in their voice and the educators admittedly couldn’t help but smile. The educators were bursting with questions and the proud fourteen year olds were enjoying this individual attention.
Here is a brief summary of what they told us.
“We have been asking you for dustbins ever since we played those games on the dangers of non organic waste and the importance of dustbins but you didn’t bring us dustbins so we went and found our own bins. We rolled them from an area that is two streets away. They were not being used and even though they are in poor condition they will have to do for now.

Before you started coming here, teachers in school often told us to use dustbins and scolded us if we didn’t but we don’t like to be told what to do. You made us realize the importance of dustbins, the role they play and the many dangers of plastic and other non-organic waste. When we learnt of the dangers we decided to do something about it. So we went and brought these. All the families now throw their waste in them.”

The boys then take the educators by the hand to the other end of the area and show them a third dustbin they have also brought. The dustbin is almost full and there are patches that are charred. The boys look down, disappointed with themselves, and admit that they have to burn the waste because the municipal team that cleans other areas doesn’t come to take their waste and that is the only option they are left with. They know it is wrong but it is only as a last resort.

Is Vandrapet significantly cleaner? Not yet, no; but these boys instill confidence that it will happen soon. We need to get the government service to install proper dust bins and collect the waste but the first step of making children aware and responsible has happened.
The Seeds of Change have been sown.
– written by Pranjal Tiwari, assitant coordinator of the Seeds of Change program