In the months of September and October, children and volunteers of Make A Difference, across India, participated in the global phenomenon that is Design For Change. DFC is a platform which encourages children to identify, find solutions and implement solutions to fix their own environments, thereby changing their own worlds.
Ever thought that a child cannot do something this momentous? Well, then you’re about to be proved wrong! Thousands upon thousands of children across the world (33 countries, this year) have participated in Design for Change, and by being the extraordinary talents they are, they’ve changed the world we live in, some way or the other!
At MAD, we were excited by the possibilities. So were our volunteers, and so were our children. A bevy of projects were implemented up and down the country. We were awed, inspired, shocked at times by how aware our kids were about the issues surrounding them!
The children took to it so fast that some of us had trouble keeping up. (One particular group came up with 80 ideas for DFC!) In fact, there were so many that we decided to organise a small internal competition to celebrate the best of the best of the best!
Over the course of this week and the next, we’ll be bringing to you the stories of those who stood out from amongst the rest. These are MAD’s superheroes. The volunteers and chidren who inspire us day in, day out!
This bunch of children from Hyderabad decided they wanted to fight for Mother Nature. And hence they hit the roads, as they campaigned mercilessly against plastic pollution.
By Gitanjali S
We all know it’s never too late for change but recently I found out, one is never too young to bring change around. When I became a part of ‘Design For Change’ I was in it only to encourage the children. I wasn’t a believer then. As I sat in that discussion room, I couldn’t have possibly been ready for what I witnessed.
They were asked only one simple question ‘what would you like to change about our society?’ The response we got just made me speechless. I dint have to speak. They had so much to say. I was not aware that children of that age were exposed to such social issues.
The answers just poured in with emotion. There were so many things they wanted to change. They drew ideas from their own personal experience. Some were brave enough to say ‘ I do not want anybody else to experience what I did’. I think it takes courage to say that.
And when we asked ‘what do you want to change’ they were again ready with what change they would like to see. Issues beginning from child labour and child marriage went up to abandoning old people. They wanted to see all this gone.
So my journey of DFC began with a group of spirited children and an equally spirited fellow volunteer. Among the issues that the children mentioned there was one environmental issue. They said they don’t like how people litter the city.
We thought it would be timely to address the ‘ban plastic’ issue. When we put forth the idea of asking people to snap out of their comfortable habit of using plastic bags and changing to paper bags, the children were eager about it. Along with my little troopers of change and a committed volunteer, the plotting began.
The children know what has to change and why. We just gave them some scientific and environmental reasons to back them up. We discussed why plastic bags were harmful for the environment and why there is a need to switch to paper bags.
We decided the best way to go about changing this habit of the people would be to talk to them and give them reasons as to why they should change. My fellow volunteer obtained a few recycled bags made of jute and paper. With that we marched along the streets of Sitaphalmandi to bring about the change that our children believed in.
Holding hands in pairs, we walked along as the passers-by smiled and wondered what we could be up to on such a glorious evening. Our children, in pairs, walked up to small shops and big alike and presented them with a recycled bag and told them why they should not use plastics bags as much as possible and why they should encourage use of recycled bags.
The shop keepers accepted the bags and thanked them. It was not as if they were merely being polite to the children, this really took the point home. It was a not-so-easily forgotten reminder of what the government is trying to push so hard for.
How do you easily forget a 9-year-old walking up to you tell you how to save our environment? The children were glad that they were being taken seriously. They believed that they really were going to make all those people stop using plastic bags.
My favourite part was when we went to my university to spread the change further. My fellow volunteer and I attend the same university. And it is conveniently located near our center. So we led the kids to our university.
They loved it instantly. They were all smiles and told each other that one day they should all go to such a university. I could not but feel cheerful. They bravely walked up to our dada ,the owner of a shop that is inside the university (who feeds us most of the times. so you see how important he is) and told him that he should use recycled bags.
It was one fun ride. I felt so proud of my little kids as they put forth in their own style and cute gestures why we need to change.
The best thing about DFC is that it starts with children and it involves them in every step along the way. It also carries the point across that no one is too young to lead change. It not only gives the children the opportunity to change, it also makes them believe that if they work hard enough, they can change what they don’t like about this world.
Also, that they are capable of making this world a better place.
The change that DFC brings goes both ways. It changes people and the society in small, but significant, ways while more importantly it changes the child involved. It gives the child confidence and hope that they are capable of changing others for good.
Will we be ‘changing’ next year? I might not be a believer yet, but the children I teach are sure to prove me wrong!