Software Engineer Spends 70% Of Her Salary On Making Ongole & Hyderabad Cleaner

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Once upon a time, like all other cities, Ongole in Andhra Pradesh earned the bad reputation mainly for its pollution. The apathy among citizens and indifference of authorities persisted, until 2015, when a young woman decided to take the onus of ‘doing something’ about the issue.

The deplorable state of her beloved hometown deeply unsettled Tejaswi Podapati, a software engineer by profession. Around 4 years ago, she expressed to her parents her wish to start a solo cleaning drive. One of her main agendas was to render Ongole free of posters and flyers, nailed or pasted haphazardly on walls or tree trunks. Walls, stripped of their original coat of paint and covered with patches of torn posters used to be an eyesore for onlookers.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

“Cleaning Streets With A Broom? Find A Suitable Groom Instead.”

“At first, my family was strongly opposed to my idea. My mother was worried about what society will say if her daughter started cleaning streets. She was rather keen on finding me a suitable groom instead. Thankfully, I received my father’s unwavering support and I started the work,” shares Tejaswi.

Fast forward to present, Tejaswi is the founder of Bhoomi Foundation – a non-profit organisation dedicated to cleaning and beautifying the cities of Ongole and Hyderabad, one spot fix weekend at a time. As a social crusader who contributes 70% of her salary towards her selfless endeavours, Tejaswi’s journey has been a series of hurdles, each one harder than the other. Today, Efforts For Good does not present the story of her success, but the story of her struggles; the story of the sweat and tears behind the impact she has made.

Travelling 300 Km Every Weekend For Cleaning Ongole

After Tejaswi secured a job in Hyderabad, she used to travel back 300 km every weekend to Ongole, to carry on with her cleaning drives. “I thought I was doing a good job, performing my duties as a conscious citizen. I hoped everything would be perfect with Bhoomi. But, corruption at every level of governance proved to be a huge hindrance for us,” shares Tejaswi.

During the registration process for Bhoomi, the paperwork needed at most 5-6 days. But, the registration office took around three months to complete it. “But, I stood my ground. Let it be slow, but I wouldn’t bribe or cave into corruption,” she expresses with integrity.

Bhoomi Volunteers at work in Ongole

Resistance From The Citizens

Not all the resistance came from the government’s side. When citizens would see Tejaswi and her team cleaning up litter in front of a park entrance or paint murals on a wall after removing all posters, they would dub it as ‘useless’.

“For a certain period, it wouldn’t take long for trash to pile up at a place once after we had cleaned it. We held onto our Gandhian principles and carried on cleaning the same spot again and again until the littering stopped,” Tejaswi says with a smile.

When word spread about Bhoomi Foundation’s work, the municipal authorities and local politicians did not take it in a good heart. Citizens were hailing the work of a few youngsters and reflecting on the incompetence of the government. Obviously, this angered the lawmakers.

Battling Wrath Of The Lawmakers

In a bid to counter Bhoomi’s progress, the corporation workers were instructed to whitewash the walls where they had painted murals and frescoes. Once the walls were painted white, posters started appearing again.

Tejaswi and her spirited team of volunteers approached the officials to ask why they are trying to thwart Bhoomi Foundation’s efforts. The answer she got was – “You started a good work. We are only trying to make it better.”

Though Tejaswi was gravely disheartened at the government’s apathy, she continued her work relentlessly.

Dealing With Drunken Menace

Once the fruit of Tejaswi and her team’s efforts started showing in the streets of Ongole, she decided to take the beautification a notch higher. She was inspired by the decor at the popular Shilparamam Park in Hyderabad.

For a few weeks before Diwali, Tejaswi purchased and single-handedly transported huge, embellished flower pots from the capital city to her hometown. Seasonal flowers and ornamental plants were maintained in those pots, which now adorned both sides of the busiest road in Ongole.

“The flower pots offered a visual delight to every passer-by. That was until I received shocking news on the very morning of New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Eve, a group of drunk hooligans had completely destroyed nearly half of the pots, leaving the road in a filthy mess,” recalls Tejaswi. The incident was devastating for her, but she stood her ground, as she had done many times before. Shortly afterwards, she expanded her operations to Hyderabad.

Still Trying Her Best

Tejaswi believes none of her work would have been successful without the backing of her incredibly enthusiastic and socially conscious team of volunteers. “Most of them are young students. collegegoers or freshers at work. They face a lot of resistance from their families to dedicate so much time and effort towards cleaning streets and painting walls. But, I am inspired to see that nothing can subdue their zeal even a little bit,” shares a proud Tejaswi.

“I am still trying to do as much as possible, battling challenges at every step. I wish to work with farmers and rural communities in the future,” she shares. As of now, she wants Hyderabad to regain their former glory of being one of the most attractive tourist destinations in India.

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

70-Yr-Old Grandmother Cleans Up 52 Beaches In One Year To Keep Her New Year Resolution

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For most of us, a new year resolution ends up being an unfulfilled promise to yourself. But, a 70-year-old grandmother from the UK has cleaned up 52 British beaches in 2018 – to keep up with her new year resolution of cleaning up one beach each week.

‘Action Nan’ kept a beach-cleaning diary

Pat Smith, an active environmental activist, is now known as ‘Action Nan’ for cleaning 52 popular beaches in Devon and Cornwall in the south-west of UK. She collected plastic, rubber and other non-biodegradable items discarded at the beach by the visitors. Every week in 2018, one would find her in a different British beach, armed with trash bags, rubber gloves and a small garbage picker. Her contagious enthusiasm sometimes inspired her family, friends or other volunteers to join her.

As reported by Daily Mail UK, Pat Smith maintained a beach-cleaning diary online chronicling her day-to-day experiences during the yearlong campaign. She has detailed about the nature of pollution at each of the 52 beaches, most of which are battling plastic menace. At times, Smith has expressed her frustration over the callousness of the visitors who litter rampantly.

“It is so disappointing when I cleared the same beach last week and find it in a worse state this week,” she shared a Week 11 excerpt from her diary with Mother Nature Network. Sometimes, onlookers would mistake her for any petty offender doing community service as her penalty, but Pat Smith’s determination remained unperturbed. “Doing 52 beach cleans in 2018 was my New Year’s Resolution and it’s finally done. I won’t stop, as our beaches need me,” she wrote after accomplishing the 2018 resolution.

No plans of stopping

Smith is the owner of a bed-and-breakfast inn at Cornwall and also founded an environmental awareness group ‘Final Straw Cornwall’ which is actively campaigning to stop plastic straw usage in the area. In 2017, watched the award-winning documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’ – where the unfiltered presentation of marine pollution scared her to the core. Being a part of the generation which gave rise to the plastic revolution, she felt responsible for the menace and decided to do something at the earliest. That was how her 2018 operation was planned.

Pat Smith has no plan of stopping now, as she aims to continue her beach-cleaning drive in 2019. Talking about her 2019 agenda, Smith appeals to all to try being more thoughtful in this coming year.

Pat Smith believes that picking up litters is not the ultimate solution. She feels that politicians and lawmakers should come forward to address this issue. “A closed-loop system needs to be developed so that single-use plastics must be recyclable and have an end of life reuse programmed in so they never become waste,” she shared on her online journal.
Efforts For Good applauds the amazing initiative by Pat Smith at such an age. We believe her work would inspire people of all ages globally to protect their beaches.

Also Read: After Victory At Versova, “Beach-Warrior” Afroz Shah To Clean Up Mithi River In Mumbai

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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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