Clean Community Campaign
Nepal is full of litter so a campaign was designed to tackle the problem. The main problem was that people consider picking up litter a low status act, while throwing away litter is okay.
Changing the mindset was necessary so the campaign targeted students in schools to start learning about the practical aspect of their environmental education. In the starting phase in 2013, our team approached schools and colleges and requested a couple periods to raise awareness and motivate students to analyze the problem and identify their individual roles as well as those of their family members, neighbors and all other citizens.
They were then motivated to take action as individuals, keep their classrooms clean, then their schools and a public spot near their schools. Every Saturday, there was a community cleaning campaign, where students educated people in the community, distributed pamphlets, displayed informational placards, and launched a campaign to make their area clean and healthy.
It was important to present the problem in a new light so that students learned to care for the environment. Second, they had to understand the social, cultural and health consequences of improper waste management practice.
Third, it was necessary for the new generation to start questioning the cultural belief that picking up litter was a lowly task. Fourth, we had to present picking up litter as a virtuous deed as taught by the Vedic texts.
Fifth, students had to practice a daily habit of cleaning as a personal responsibility, Sixth, they had to encourage others not to litter, or intervene politely, if they saw such incidents at home or in public. Seventh, students were to become agents of change to persuade their family and neighbors.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
EduVision board members approved the concept. Placards and educational visuals were made that had information and slogans with information on hazardous plastics and daily chemicals, and motivational poems to be civilized by proper disposal, segregation of waste, and care for the community and mother Earth.
Then over the last 2 and a half years more than 30 schools and colleges were approached and Awareness/ Motivation/ Action classes were conducted. The impact on students was electric. Large numbers started turning out for weekly campaigns in the neighborhood.
They started finding ways to keep their classrooms and schools clean. During the neighborhood campaigns, young students were confidently speaking to adults and urging them to keep the areas around their homes free of litter. Kids were talking to their parents to keep their homes clean.
Teachers requested us to keep coming to their schools. Our model of motivating worked wonders and people took pride in participating.
Education system in Nepal has failed to give proper practical education to make a difference in society. Our campaign made activism fun by using positive associations with a dirty task.
We had songs, dances, rewards, recognition of effort, and friendly competitions as essential to the program. Lowly task like rag picking was turned into a virtuous deed, and a way to lift our town's image in the whole country.
Instead of just launching a cleaning campaign like other organizations yearly, we made it a sustained effort consisting of educational classes, fun activities with music, dance, sports and helping talented and eager students get more opportunities to advance their dreams. Targeting the mindset of students was the main innovation.
The best impact in the community was that our city Hetauda has been awarded the title of being the cleanest city in Nepal for two years in a row. This has encouraged the citizens to realize that everyone's action can actually make a difference, and that there should not be social stigma associated with cleaning the litter in our community. Even young children have shown remarkable cleverness and taken initiative to find solution to the problem they face. For instance, they learned not to expect someone to bring them dust bins, but instead, find empty cartons or boxes to use as dust bins. When we started the campaign, people used to call us crazy, or that it was an impossible task to clean the city, but now after being selected as one of the top three youth projects by Energy Globe Award, our community members have started understanding out message. We now have an Advisory Board consisting of prominent members of our city, who are willing to support our effort to spread to other parts.
The biggest challenge was that the people in the community have developed a habit of littering as a normal thing. While picking up litter is culturally considered a job for untouchable people, there has been no attempt to educate about environmental issues on a sustained and continuous campaign targeted towards the new generation through educational means.
Another challenge when we cleaned up a neighborhood was that it would become littered again within a week, so the campaign remained in an area for weeks at a time.
The pace of change is slow and some people get discouraged rather quickly and feel like giving up. Funding the campaign was also a challenge. Things like disposable gloves and sacks to collect litter meant spending money.
After two years, we stopped using the rubber gloves and just use bare hands and then wash with soap. The last challenge is the academic calendar. During exams and tests, student participation is minimum and we rely on our core youth team members.
1) It is better to attempt a task that everyone says is impossible.
2) The best solution to any problem is to target the mindset responsible for the problem.
3) Young students of grades 4 to 7 are amazingly motivated to listen, learn, and act on our message.
4) Students from grades 8 and higher need a different approach to excite them to overcome their hesitation.
5) Lack of money and support cannot be excuses not to initiate and keep a campaign of great social benefit running.
6) Persisting with the vision of a clean city can bear good result sooner than expected, as in being acclaimed as the cleanest city.
7) Even a small campaign in a small city in a poor country can win international recognition for its ability to motivate young people.
8) Once a lesson has been found to be successful, it can be modified to suit other pressing needs and problems.
9) A good idea is welcome anywhere and there will be people who take notice and request to learn.
10) Children are the change.