From ‘Talking Pots’ To Low-Cost Water Filters, A Team Of College Students Is Transforming WB Villages

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Wading through a sea of syllabus, assignments and semesters, all the while battling a persistent perplexity about the future, it is never easy to be a youngster in college. However, a group of second-year students from the renowned St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata might challenge our established notion about present-day college goers, as they have chosen to prioritise the society over and above their personal aspirations.

Teaming up with Enactus, the non-profit community in educational institutions across the globe, these group of budding social entrepreneurs have devised first-of-its-kind initiatives to empower women, men and the helpless youth across villages in West Bengal. From clay pots that tell heartwarming stories to water filters that trickle happiness into arsenic-infested communities, Enactus St. Xavier’s College is bringing pathbreaking changes through Project Kalakriti and Project Shuddhi.

All about Project Kalakriti

“It endeavours to spread optimism, grace, dexterity and some thousand stories of perseverance in the disguise of intricately designed pots,” describes Unnati Narsaria from the Enactus team, about their Project Kalakriti, that revolves around the idea of ‘Talking Pots’. The idea came to the fore in 2016, as vibrantly hued plant pots were exhibited in the college premises as an innovative idea for a social venture. Over the years, the students amplified the idea to a larger scale to bring lesser privileged communities under its beneficiary ambit.

Flower bouquets had traditionally been perhaps the most popular form of gift. While their aesthetic appeal is indeed pleasant, one cannot simply overlook the huge amount of waste they generate, especially at a time of dire need of eco-friendly alternatives in every sector. Most of the times, composting or recycling is also not a feasible option since plastic components are profusely included in modern-day bouquets. ‘Talking Pots’ originally emerged as a concept to bring in the sustainability factor in gifting culture. Instead of opting for expensive and wasteful bouquets, people can gift a hand-painted pot with a plant.

Project Kalakriti is empowering marginalised women

Hailing from a remote Bengal hamlet, financial independence was once an alien term for Anjali Ojha. Her family of four had to survive on a monthly earning of less than Rs 8000. This was before Team Enactus got in touch with Anjali. They arranged for a workshop where village women like Anjali were trained by experts in painting pots and other clay items. At present, she is one among the many women whose pots are adorning homes, restaurants, luxury hotels and other retail outlets in Kolkata.

Enactus St Xavier's College Kolkata

Not long ago, Rekha Shaw, Varsha Das and Sushma Rai were ostracised in their community from being drug addicts. Through Project Kalakriti, they have discovered a new meaning of life, where they do not need harmful drugs to seek happiness and peace.

One of the beneficiaries was able to resume her higher education and recently completed her graduation with her own earnings.

‘Talking Pots’ are taking over Kolkata by storm

So far, over 3500 ‘talking pots’ have been sold in the urban market, garnering quite a sizeable revenue for these women. They come in diverse patterns and themes – ranging from Minions to motifs, abstract art to Avengers.

On the other hand, a hefty 360 tonnes of carbon footprint has been reduced through these pots, while 1,650 tonnes of plastic wastage could be prevented.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing

“In 2016, only pots were being made. Now, we have branched out to making diya, candle stands and other clay handicrafts. Sustainability has always been our main focus and we have successfully integrated the marginalised people to work towards the common goal,” Unnati explains.

“We have also collaborated with potters and gardeners to help them with some additional income, while also trying to popularise the dying art of pottery,” she adds.

Project Shuddhi for clean drinking water

While ‘talking pots’ are slowly becoming the talk of the town, another segment of Team Enactus is working with the drinking water crisis in West Bengal villages, notorious for their dreadful arsenic pollution. Under Project Shuddhi, the students of St. Xavier’s College have designed a low-cost gravitational water filter, which sieves out heavy metals, toxic chemicals and pathogens and generates up to 10 litres of clean drinking water in an hour.

Enactus St Xavier's College Kolkata

The plastic body of the filter, which comes in three volumes – 9 Litre + 9 Litre, 24 Litre and 70 Litre – contains a Terafil candle and a mineral cartridge inside. While the candle is made from natural filtration elements like red clay, river sand and sawdust, the cartridge consists of a layer of minerals and has the capacity to filter up to 2000 litres of water.

Raising awareness about water contamination

Before the distribution process ensued, the student team took time out of their packed daily schedule to survey the hinterlands of Srirampur, Dhaniakhali, Raghudevpur, Balarampota, Raghabpur and other areas of West Bengal, to check the feasibility of their ambitious endeavour. With promising results, the initiative was launched on a much wider scale.

Enactus St Xavier's College Kolkata

So how do you convince the uninitiated villagers about the ills of unsafe drinking water? Project Shuddhi opted for the best way to spread awareness – health camps. 10 awareness camps with attendee headcount of 2,500 were organised across West Bengal, where doctors and volunteers convinced people about the need for clean drinking water.

Enactus St Xavier's College Kolkata

In the districts of Purulia, Nadia, and parts of North 24 Parganas, over 1,400 filters have been distributed to families at a very nominal cost, impacting over 4,500 lives. With the help of well-wishing sponsors, sometimes filters are distributed completely free of cost. Data reveals that the filters provide water at less than Re 0.085 per litre. The Project Shuddhi team tries to achieve a target distribution of around 250 filters per week.

Enactus St Xavier's College Kolkata

Collaboration at all levels

Project Shuddhi is not only about drinking water, as evident from the employment it is generating in these target villages. Villagers like Bipin Mahato, Kutubuddin Ansari, Satish Koribato and many more have come forward to work as local distributors and sellers of the Shuddhi filters in their respective areas.

A community upliftment initiative can never thrive unless and until all stakeholders are brought together into a closely-knit network. So the team has joined hands with Panchayats, local Kirana stores and NGOs working in those belts for better execution of their programme.

“Together, we can recognise possibilities, take action and enable progress,” determination resonates in the words of the team Enactus, who considers their two successful projects as the stepping stones to a better society. Driven by sheer goodwill, these youngsters have set a blazing example for the rest of young India to follow.

Also Read: IIT-Madras Students Design Septic Tank Robot Which Can Eliminate Manual Scavenging

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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