5 Hours, 12 People & A Conscious Kid: That’s All It Took To Clean Up A Lake Choking With Plastic Waste

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A small, unkempt water body adjoining a bustling railway station failed to catch the attention of the passers-by as well as local residents. The tiny lake next to Sheoraphuli railway station in West Bengal was officially the property of Government Railway Police (GRP), but over the years it had turned into a garbage dump, thanks to negligence from the authorities and localites alike.
It could have stayed like that until plastic completely choked it up, had it not been for a group of local youths, who decided to dedicate only five hours on a Sunday morning to clean it up. Now, the lake is greeting everyone with its newfound grace, adorned with seasonal blooms of water lily and lotus.

That’s what it all took – a group of barely 11-12 people and five hours of a single day.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

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How did the lake turn into a dumping zone

Talking to Efforts For Good, Bivas Gupta, one of the volunteers in the cleaning drive, shares, “Even a year ago, the lake was comparatively cleaner. It would be covered with water lily throughout the year. You could even spot fish playing in the clear water. But, once people started throwing plastic, it did not take long for it to turn into a foul-smelling, dirty eyesore in the middle of the town.”

The rushing crowd of commuters, to and from the railway station, would not mind throwing their share of plastic packets and bottles into the lake. In the evenings, the area around the lake became an adda zone for the local youth, who would unabashedly continue dumping plastic, food packets, cigarette stubs etc. into it.

Nobody seemed bothered about the worsening condition of the lake, as they were accustomed to seeing such clogged up water bodies all around.

Taking responsibility in their own hands

“Our repeated appeals to the authorities went unheard. So, we decided to take the responsibility upon ourselves. My friend Tandril gathered some volunteers from neighbouring areas, and we set to work at around 5 AM on a Sunday morning,” Bivas shares.

The group used some fishing nets and also handpicked the plastic waste from the lake, before disposing it of in the municipal garbage vans. Alongside the grown-ups, 7-year-old Rumjan, who calls the railway platform his home, also lent his helping hand tirelessly for four and a half hours.

By 9:30 AM, the lake was spick and span, with its clean water glistening on the surface. To the delight of the volunteers, within a week, water lilies came back to the lake and fish were spotted again.

To prevent future inaction

The group has also submitted a mass appeal to the concerned railway authorities requesting proper management of the lake henceforth. They have also put up posters all around the lake, prohibiting the public from dumping plastic into it.

“We were astonished by the outcome. We would love to continue our work with other water bodies in our area. If young people everywhere can take some time out of their PUBG matches and sharing memes, we can do so much for our environment,” Bivas asserts with an earnest appeal to everyone.

Efforts For Good take

From Bengaluru to Kolkata, every major Indian city which was once dotted with lakes, ponds and pools is now dealing with the problem of dying water bodies due to human negligence. It begins with a single plastic cup or plate, and it ends with choking up the lifelines of a city.

The volunteers at Sheoraphuli has set a blazing example of how a little bit of effort from a few conscious citizens can do wonders in no time. Efforts For Good urges all their readers to devote just a few hours of their free time and clean up a dying water body near them.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

A Group Of Karnataka Women Pushes Alcoholic, Abusive Husbands & Social Stigma Aside, Earns Through Recycling Workshop

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At thirteen, Neela was married off to a husband much older than her. At sixteen, she became a mother, and at nineteen, she was a widow. Despite having no regular income, she was faced with the daunting task of taking care of her in-laws, her own parents and of course, her little daughter. For young Neela, life has never known a trajectory where her voice is heard and her destiny is not blamed. That was until she came under the ambit of Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation and discovered a new identity for herself. The taste of financial independence was indeed delightful for her, but her zeal to work hard for a newer, better life stood at the helm of it all.

No one has ever become poor by giving – Anne Frank

Founded by Kameshwari from Bengaluru, the foundation works with distressed women in three Karnataka villages, helping them to earn their livelihood by handcrafting a wide range of decorative or daily-use household items. Like Neela, nineteen women with struggles similar or worse, have found a new lease of life at Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation. Every piece of item created at Hosa Belaku is recycled from leftover fabrics, paper, dry waste or scrap metals.

Hosa Belaku – a new dawn

“I have been working in the social sector for the past two decades. Since 2013, I got associated with Belaku Trust, who was working with rural women in Karnataka,” shares Kameshwari, a former legal executive. 

“Most of these women were victims of alcohol abuse and harassment on the domestic front. Some were widowed, single mothers or differently-abled – making life all the more hard for them in a patriarchal society. Unfortunately, circumstances led Belaku Trust to close their operations in 2015. The women were left in a lurch,” she narrates.

Some of these women desperately pleaded with Kameshwari to let them sustain their only source of income and independence. Moved by their plight, Kameshwari resolved to do her best to help as many women as possible. Investing a sizeable proportion of her own savings, she launched the Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation in 2017.

At present, the foundation has active workshops in three villages in the suburbs of Bengaluru, namely, Halasuru, Achalu and Kadahalli. 

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The gritty women of Hosa Belaku

At the prime of her life, Pavithra’s husband left her for another woman. Heartbroken and devastated, she was clueless about how to earn her living. The story is similar for many other women in these villagers, with careless, abusive or estranged husbands, most being alcohol addicts. The pangs of poverty would sometimes become more unbearable than the constant physical abuse by their husbands. Yet, they had no way to have some respite from the ordeal. Few women did work seasonally as agricultural labourers. The backbreaking toil in the sun would take a toll on their health, while the deplorable situation at their homes would haunt them for the rest of the year.

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

Kameshwari mortgaged her jewelery for Rs 6 lakh to start Hosa Belaku Artisian's Foundation. Most of the women employed in this foundation face domestic violence in their homes. Kindly donate here : bit.ly/hosabelaku

Posted by Efforts For Good on Sunday, July 21, 2019

Society, with its primitive doctrines, only made it worse for these women. For instance, nobody was willing to marry Shivlingi because she had a facial deformity. After a point, her own brothers abandoned her as if she had become a liability.

If one visits these women now, they would be found basking in their newfound success with Hosa Belaku. But, not only the women, Hosa Belaku’s workforce comprises a 19-year-old young man as well. All his life, Yogi, who is affected by Polio, had accompanied his mother everywhere. She used to work with the foundation until she recently passed away in an accident. Yogi’s father is visually-challenged, so the entire family received a major emotional and financial setback after his mother’s sudden demise. A helpless Yogi would painstakingly drag himself from door to door in search of work. “We took him in and trained him in toy-making. Now you would find him in a corner, making beautiful toys for children,” shares a proud Kameshwari.

Sunshine, Lamp and Dawn – Illuminating lives

The women groups at the three villages are designated with three unique names and assigned with a unique task each. Kirana (Sunshine), the group at Kadahalli is involved with paper products, making notepads, bags and jewellery.

The Halsuru group Deepa (Lamp) has adopted the art of block printing. Vibrant, stylish and beautiful handbags, cushion covers, stoles and notebooks are curated with the utmost care and precision by the women.

At Ushe (Dawn), needle and thread rules. Women who were already skilled in sewing and embroidery now earn by making stuffed toys, patchwork products and embroidered fabrics.

True to their names, the groups have indeed brought new light into the lives of their employees.

Suma and Jayamma are both senior workers at Kirana who have succeeded in constructing small concrete houses for themselves, a huge step up from the dilapidated huts they spent their youth in. Another aged lady in the same group has another compelling achievement to be proud of. Bearing the taunts and trauma from her drunkard husband all her life, she has single-handedly raised a son and a daughter with proper education. Her son, who is currently an aspiring engineer, was supported with a laptop from Hosa Belaku. Honamma, a young widow from the group Deepa is treading a similar path, raising her son all on her own.

The only solace

How much gratitude these women have towards Hosa Belaku is perhaps evident from Shri’s unwavering dedication. Diabetes is taking a toll on her eyesight yet she refuses to give up and continues etching her grit on the ornate block-printed fabrics.

The reason for such gratitude is manifold. For the conscious urban consumers, Hosa Belaku is striving to save the environment with their 100%-recycled policy. But, for the workers, it is the lifeline which not only offers them economic security but also allows them a place to voice, share and resolve the problems plaguing their lives.

“They come here and find a peaceful break from their household obligations. Some still face domestic violence regularly, the workshop is an escape for them. They discuss their issues and try to find feasible solutions. It takes the load off their tired minds. The work here is a breath of fresh air for them,” Kameshwari asserts.

“We have been assisted time and again by established non-profits and retail chains across Bengaluru, who have graciously showcased and marketed products made by our artisans. We would like more people to know about Hosa Belaku and its incredible women, and respect their brilliant spirit by purchasing their crafts,” Kameshwari expresses her wish.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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