Youth are on the look out for youth leading sustainability and Sparsh Samvedana was proposed as a feature to showcase the work of youth in Asia. With two visionary ideas for a free library for under privileged children and a plastic free environment we learn more about the work of Sparsh Samvedana.
They first told us about the Kalam Library and the plastic free zone initiative.
The free Library is in association with the Kalam Library and this is going to be with the idea to encourage reading with under privileged children because with all the slum projects that we have, we mainly focus on education and to put the school dropouts back in schools. This initiative would encourage children to read more and when they see the benefits of it they will automatically get motivated towards studies. We plan to conduct weekly story reciting competition to keep the motivation going and also we would have the interaction with the kids on regular basis who are using this free library.
PLASTIC FREE ZONE INITIATIVE
Now what we have is another initiative which is the plastic free zone. In India many places ban the use of plastics bags, however in many stores or any mall you go you are charged extra Rs. 5 or Rs. 10 and you will get plastic bag, so this has not worked out for us.
We have surveyed a couple of areas in Anand and there is excessive usage of plastic bags, such as Vegetable and Fruit Vendors, Groceries, etc, purely because the plastic bags are cheaper. Therefore we are working on the concept of introducing good quality paper bags at the same price or even lower than a plastic bag. At the moment it is difficult to find paper bags cheaper than plastic bags so Sparsh Samvedana has come up with an initiative to employ many jobless parents in the slum areas. These parents send their children for laborious work like a construction site because it is easier for a child to get a job than their parent. In view of our initiative we ensure that the parents are self sustained. This will also ensure that the parents work and the children go to school. High unemployment rates continue to pose a challenge so we have a plastic free zone project which will be done by these parents where we provide them with all the raw material. The parents would be paid a decent wage depending upon the number of bags they make per day. By this our purpose is also served and these people have their own jobs and are self sustained.
The papers bags would be distributed at much lesser prices and we would then not only help the parents but also are achieving a plastic free environment.
We have been so far successful in one area market area to convince the shop keepers not to use and sell only the plastic bags by explaining them the environmental benefits and as well as informing them that the price is the same as the paper bag. Now, the only thing remaining is to convince them that the paper bag will do all the functions of a plastic bag.
By the above initiatives we would be getting the parents to be self sustained and hence the kids would not be forced into child labour but rather go through education.
Have you seen the fruits of your efforts?
We had conducted a survey in 5-6 areas of Anand, and from these surveys we found that close to 130 kids in total were school drop outs. Through this survey we could identify the kids and we could put about 50 – 60 kids back in school and we followed up to ensure that they continued our education. This we consider a good success. In cases where the parents are unavailable to afford the education, or need to generate revenue out of their children we can use the above initiatives.
As a sustainability advocate, what would your advice be?
After doing social work for the past 12 years, I have understood that very few people have ideology to do anything for the benefit of the society as a whole. Most people think and act on an individual level. We therefore need to inculcate a culture that people start to think of society in addition to being individualistic. Simple things like saving electricity and water in households goes a long way in conserving the precious resources that we have and kids should take the initiative to do this. So my advice is to start contributing to society by doing simple things within their own homes and Society. A collective effort would then make the area and town a much better place to live in.