CHENNAI : You are never too young or immature to start making a difference in the community. Making a difference does not only mean doing something that is going to change the world. You can do things that make a difference to yourself, your family, friends or community,” said A Sasikala, a class 12 student.
Sasikala was one of the three students who recently featured in a video released by the Greater Chennai Corporation, emphasising the need to maintain general sanitation and cleanliness. The three ‘health ambassadors’ talk to CE about their idea of change and how they plan to execute it.
“Though my house has always been clean, the path leading to my home never was. There is constant foul smell emanating from the garbage discarded right outside the homes. Having grown up in such surroundings, even I never felt the need to bring a change till we started with the video,” says Sasikala.
However, when the seed of maintaining cleanliness was planted in her head, it changed her outlook on how waste must be managed, she says. “This Diwali, my mother was going to throw food leftovers on the road. Not only did I stop her, but also stopped families in three other houses in our locality. They all waited till the conservancy worker arrived the next morning. This might seem like a small change, but at least I did not wake up to a foul smell,” she says.
Class 7 student Nandhitha had to learn the importance of hygiene the hard way. “There is a rise in mosquitoes if your surroundings are unclean. A year ago, I fell sick and had to be on medication for a long time. The doctor said the primary reason was the lack of cleanliness. As medication was a costly affair, we understood the seriousness,” she says.
“The campaign gave me the courage to speak openly about it. In the locality where I live, fights over discarded garbage are common. They do not throw the waste in the bin, but on the other person’s terrace and then begins the problem. After I started talking about the issue, they now know where to throw the garbage now, at the very least,” she says.
The students are also addressing another important issue — plastic pollution. “Most of us got plastic lunch boxes and water bottles to school, despite the announcement. However, following the video, I felt I had to change something in myself. I saved some money and got a steel box for myself. The next week, two friends of mine also got it. Now, their friends will take a cue from them. I believe change can spread quickly through peers,” said Naviya Sri, another health ambassador.
Similarly, Sasikala made a wooden mop for her home and Nandhitha stuck ‘bring your own cloth bag’ notices outside the departmental stores in her locality. “None of these were told to us. It was one change that led to other changes,” she said.
Chennai Corporation has taken a series of initiatives to create awareness about cleanliness and sanitation among the city dwellers. Based on the suggestion from the Chennai Corporation Commissioner, G Prakash, student health ambassadors were selected from various educational institutions in the city.
The campaign began with the ‘Clean homes, clean streets’ audio-visual message, and stressed on the need for self-motivation to keep homes and neighbourhoods clean. The Corporation has also planned rallies in all 15 zones, with the participation of 20,000 Corporation school students, to spread awareness on prevention of mosquito-borne diseases during monsoon, open defecation, stopping usage of plastic, preventing stagnation of sewage or clean water, and rainwater harvesting.