In my 10th grade, with a desire to work for the betterment of the community, my friend Ismail and I decided to implement a youth club where dedicated students across the school could volunteer in various service projects. After enrolling a handful of sincere volunteers, we finally engaged 9 strong members – with each one taking up specific roles in the club. We named our club S.W.O.T.S (Social Workers of the School).
Our first project was to pick up plastic and other inorganic wastes from the Race Course Area in our city and dump them at destined places. We were set to do something not even the municipal workers could attest success at; however, our school principal, considering that we would miss our routine studies, strongly suggested that we should first initiate this work at a school level. After much thought, we convinced ourselves to implement this project within the school. This decision trained me to look at things much more practically. However, it went against my will.
We decided upon cleaning the school cafeteria area in our first round. There is always a bustling crowd of students and teachers all around a small cafeteria platform during the long breaks in the morning. Even though two dustbins were kept around the four cafeteria counters; students, after having their food, left the paper plates resting on the platform or on the seating area. Some of them just threw away the plates on the floor because the dustbins were a little walking distance according to them. To tackle this callous attitude, I brainstormed with my team to go to the canteen area and pick up the plates in front of those throwing it. We even made an announcement in the Morning Assembly to motivate the students to keep the school clean and dispose the plates appropriately. After 10 days of our activity- picking up about 50 plates each day with many arguments and bitter confrontations- we were disappointed by the response. After 5 days of our discontinuing the activity, there was no change at all. At first, I was thwarted and disappointed. I couldn’t stand the fact that the students wouldn’t change their attitude. Later, I ignored the project altogether.
As we embarked upon our busy schedules at school; our club eventually disintegrated. One fine day, I found my own team member dropping his plate on the floor. I was shaken. But this time, I kept calm. I critically considered the situation and thought of various solutions. The following day, I went to the cafeteria. This time I knew what I wanted to do – to bring a practical and a successful change. I went to the counter and spoke to the person in charge, who was already considering this issue. I requested him to work out a simple plan. I asked him to charge 5 rupees as a deposit from the students for each plate and then return the money for the soiled plates. He liked the idea and soon started implementation.
Over the next week, my club members and teachers complimented me on the change the idea brought. Out of all I realized that patience, critical thinking and understanding the mentality of people can ease the most challenging task. This event changed how I approach real time problems and deliver ethical judgments to resolve them.
[Photo courtesy: CNX.org]