By Greeshma Rai
Pretty self explanatory, eh? But trust me on this, not as easy as it seems! Definitely not.
What started off as a brainstorming session a few weeks back, led to a chain of events and surfaced as an awesome, brilliant, mind-blowing and oh-my-god-its-happening moment today.
Yes, we are talking about DFC and yes we are talking about how our kids successfully designed for change. But it was not easy. NOT AT ALL.
Week 1, Week 2 and Week 3 at Balika Ashram, Kankanady, Mangalore went on without any major glitches. Kids are seriously the best when it comes to being creative. Give them any Idea, they will find 100 solutions. The ideas were selected, solutions drafted and plans were made.
But ever heard of it’s always easier said than done? This is exactly what was probably going through each volunteers mind when they started preparing for the final stage of DFC i.e. implementing the solution.
At least I thought I was done for. Me and Lakshmi (my co-mentor) had a few anxiety attacks too. The problem my kids had taken up for DFC was the problem of Malaria in the Ashram. Girls kept falling sick repeatedly and the disease spreads like wildfire especially since all the kids sleep under a single roof.
They pretty much knew what had to be done i.e. keep taps closed, not allow water to stagnate, etc but there was obviously more to it. They took us around the ashram and showed us the places from where the problem probably had its origin.
1. An open well which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
2. Open drains right outside the Ashram.
3. Private Dump yard located behind the Ashram.
4. Most of the kids except a few didn’t know much about Malaria and prevention measures. So the girls had to be educated.
Keeping all these problems in mind, we decided to go about solving the following problems in the below mentioned ways:
STEP 1. Cover the well! By hook or by crook, get something to cover the well!
STEP 2 and 3. The only way this can get sorted out was to talk to the authorities at Mangalore City Corporation and submit a petition. So we thought, why not meet the Mayor himself?
STEP 4. As mentors, we would educate our group about Malaria, its causes and preventive measures. The kids would then educate the rest of the Ashram. Cos we knew that they would do a better job than us!
So here we were, with the problems and solutions in front of us. We were rather desperate to make sure this works because the kids were banking on us. And if we didn’t do our homework right, then we would have to look at a lot of disappointed faces. *Panic attack 1*
The day of implementation dawned on us and I was so freaking scared, I just randomly yelled at people on the road, around me, National Team members (Ha, yes, that would be Jr and Nadheem) and basically just yelled. Ya, people were just laughing at me but still!
So the agenda for the day was meet the Mayor (Yes, we had an appointment with the Mayor!), cover the well and educate the kids who will educate the other kids! We got to the Center at 3 PM and there was this really well-built/cute guy teaching the kids Self-Defence (Another teams DFC Project). We had an appointment with the Mayor at 4 PM and the Self-Defence Training went on till 3 50. Yes, we were running late! *Panic attack 2*
We rounded up our kids and rushed to the City Corporation Office. We reached at 4.02 p.m. and were ushered into a Hall. We had told the kids that the Mayor will be meeting us but when we entered the hall, there were 20 other Corporators and Department Heads seated there who were pretty amused to see a bunch of kids and highly disoriented volunteers wearing a tee which says MAD. Seriously, you should’ve seen the expression on their faces.
So, now that we were inside the Hall, our kids had to talk to the Mayor regarding their problems. We had the kids from Aparna’s team too, who were there to talk about the problem they had taken up i.e. Banning Plastics. But then, our kids got Stage Fright! None of them would talk.
This led to a highly comical situation where I had to talk because we had 21 faces staring at us and our kids kept giggling and hiding behind each other and as soon as I started off with my blurting, the looks on the faces of the ‘Important’ people went from partial amusement to complete amusement. Luckily the kids came to my rescue and started off with their set of problems.
They explained to the Mayor about the situation in their Ashram and everybody listened in rapt attention and when they finished, they awwweed in perfect symmetry! (Ya, I was pretty offended! They laughed at me but awweed at the kids!) What followed was even more brilliant!
The Chairman of the Health Department and the Assistant Health Officer were summoned and were bombarded with questions. Both were set a deadline to report back to the Mayor. The Chairman told me to update him and the AHO was told to visit the Ashram and Inspect the Ashram by 5 p.m.! I was not sure whether this would happen but there is more to come. With Step 2 and 3 partially done, we headed back to the Ashram. Step 1 and 4 was still to be completed.
We had brought along with us a used Flex which could be used for covering the well. The kids did their wonder and in less than half an hour, the Well was covered! So, breeding ground for mosquitoes, shut. Sorry fellas, try another well! By the time we were done covering the well, we had a surprise visitor. Visitors, rather.
The AHO with 5 officers from the Department of Health and Sanitation were at the Ashram! the kids took the AHO to the private dump yard and explained to him how the people dump all their wastes there and also burn used plastics there everyday. Then they took him outside and showed him the open drains.
Additionally, the records of the Ashram were checked to see the number of times the Govt Authorities visited the Center to treat the kids. The AHO increased the frequency of visits to the Ashram, set new deadlines to his team and basically made life a little tough for them. But the AHO sealed the deal with a letter and his signature.
As far as the Private dump yard was concerned, a notice was served on them to stop the dumping with immediate effect. The Sanitation Department will be visiting Baalika Ashram to figure out a method to shut the drains and clean up the place. STEP 1, 2 and 3 done.
Then, Laksmi – The Doctor Amma taught the kids and showed them videos of how malaria spreads, how malaria could be prevented and all the Malaria related gyan. Once this was done, it was time for them to educate their friends in the Ashram The kids rehearsed for an hour so and confidently presented a very effective speech on Dos and Don’ts for Malaria. They also promised us that they’ll make sure they follow these steps. STEP 1, 2, 3 and 4, DONE.
Your kids come up to you “Akka, aayyithhu! DFC madithivi!”. Toothy Smiles. Woohoos and Woots. Amazement. Sense of accomplishment. Relief spreads to the tip of your fingers. Oh yes, they DID it! :D