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August 2, 2023

Power of the Waste Pickers and the Inventive Skills of the Children – Aanya Arora, BArch 24

by Aanya Arora

Sunday 30th July 2023

Power of the waste pickers and inventive skills of the children

What an exhilarating first week it has been at Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group! From delving into the impactful programs to witnessing the extraordinary accomplishments, I am utterly amazed by the positive changes they bring to waste pickers, students, and the entire community!
The best part was diving right into action, kickstarting workshops with the children as part of the thrilling No Child in Trash program. The sheer joy and enthusiasm of the young minds were infectious, and I could feel the transformative power of education. I had the privilege of joining a training session for Scavengers to Managers where 20 determined women waste pickers harnessed their leadership skills in the mission to create a cleaner and greener future.

The 3 main programs which Chintan runs –

Scavengers to Managers – Turning Waste Pickers into Leaders:

Chintan’s Scavengers to Managers program focuses on transforming waste pickers into community leaders who actively contribute to waste management efforts. In the area of Belasva, 20 waste pickers have been identified as driven individuals with a passion for resolving their community’s waste-related challenges. These women receive formal training and workshops weekly, equipping them with valuable knowledge about current  topics which they then share within their communities. The waste pickers operate two waste management facilities, where they segregate waste and partner with bulk generators like hotels, schools, and malls to collect waste efficiently. The management have created partnerships with bulk generators (e.g. hotels, schools and malls) and have a ‘Pick My Trash’ vehicle which goes door to door to collect waste. A noteworthy initiative launched in 2023 involved upgrading the cycle rickshaws used for waste collection. The waste pickers now have color-coded boxes on their cycle rickshaws to separate recyclable waste from compost, ensuring proper segregation as they collect.

Voice of Waste – Advocating for Climate Change:

Under the Voice of Waste program, Chintan advocates for climate change awareness and action. They engage with waste pickers to provide them with social security numbers and educate them about their legal rights, negotiation skills, and reporting procedures. Furthermore, training sessions on heat waves and air pollution are conducted to equip them with the knowledge needed to tackle environmental challenges. Chintan has also taken a proactive approach to involve the youth in climate change initiatives. They have established climate change youth clubs across New Delhi, aiming to introduce students to the importance of environmental preservation. Some interventions which they spearheaded are the cool roof project where they painted 100 roofs with reflective white paint to reduce the temperatures and sea balance partnerships where they used aluminum foil to reduce the heat indoors and have temperature regulations meters so they can track heat levels indoors.

No Child in Trash – Nurturing Young Minds:

The No Child in Trash program is dedicated to empowering children through life skills and educational activities. Chintan works with 1400 first-generation students from all over Delhi, with a focus on promoting education, especially for girls. The teachers at these centers are from the communities itself, allowing the children to create stronger bonds with their teachers and be more likely to learn. This is the program that I have mostly been working with and have started the workshops with the children this week.

The 2 workshops I conducted were ‘Design Your Own Superhero’ and ‘Bridge Building’.

  1. Design Your Own Superhero

I challenged the kids to unleash their imagination and create their very own superheroes. Many of them found it tricky to think of different superpowers but after individual discussions with the children I was able to ask them questions which made them consider other possibilities and think about how their superhero could ignite this power. Some notable examples were – ladybug woman, waterman, beauty queen and colorful man.

Build Your Own Superhero Workshop Report
Build Your Own Superhero Student Work
  1. Bridge Building & Testing

The second workshop was a great success! Armed with ice-lollipop sticks and tape, our teams set out to construct sturdy bridges that could withstand the weight of books. The challenge was exhilarating, and the atmosphere crackled with enthusiasm as they embraced the role of young architects and engineers.
To kick things up a notch, we watched awe-inspiring videos of bridges from around the world, showcasing their grandeur and resilience. The kids were spellbound by the magnificent structures and were eager to put their newfound knowledge into practice.
But as with any daring endeavor, challenges arose. The kids grappled with the idea of building complete bridges with limited materials. Some grew frustrated when their initial designs didn’t pan out as expected. That’s when I shared my own experiences of studying architecture, reassuring them that failure is a natural part of the creative process and that we always have a budget and limited materials so we have to think about how we can efficiently use these resources  in our design to create a strong bridge.
Finally, the moment of truth – testing the bridges! Excitement reached its peak as the kids carefully placed books one by one on their ingenious creations. Some bridges proved resilient, while others collapsed on themselves and formed a flat surface but we still tested these flattened bridges as they could hold more books and so the children could see how a bridge fails. One particularly remarkable bridge defied all odds, holding a staggering 47 books without breaking a sweat! 

Bridge Building & Testing Workshop Report
Students working together to construct their bridges
Bridge Testing
Bridge Testing

Scavengers to Managers Training:

I had the privilege to participate in the weekly training which was conducted by Bilal and Shruti and Kriti. This particular week, the focus was on a pressing health concern in New Delhi – conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye disease. With the number of cases on the rise, it was vital to equip the waste pickers with essential knowledge about this infectious condition. The training covered various aspects, including the causes, symptoms, prevention, and available cures for conjunctivitis. Moreover, it aimed to dispel any misconceptions or false beliefs surrounding the disease. The training was not limited to conjunctivitis alone; the waste pickers also learned about the distinctions between viruses, bacteria, and fungi, essential knowledge that empowers them to protect themselves and their communities from potential health hazards. To enhance the learning experience, we ventured outside for a hands-on exercise. We identified common environmental elements that could lead to illnesses, like open stagnant water bodies, which become breeding grounds for harmful larvae and mosquitoes. With the monsoon season in full swing, it became evident that mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and malaria posed additional risks. As a preventive measure, the waste pickers were educated on the significance of using mosquito repellent and mosquito repellent incense at home. Overall, the training session not only equipped the waste pickers with valuable information to safeguard their health but also empowered them to share this knowledge within their communities. It was truly inspiring to witness their dedication to making a positive impact on their surroundings, and I left the session with a profound admiration for their resilience and commitment to creating a healthier and safer environment for all.

Scavengers to Managers Training
Scavengers to Managers Training – Symptoms, Causes, Prevention and Cures Exercise

A random but fun note – I went on a heritage walking tour this weekend in the Lodhi Art District and saw such amazing artwork with deep meanings by artists from around the world. I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of the murals was done in collaboration with an Indian artist, Shilo Shiv Suleman, and the waste pickers of Chintan!!

Art Mural in Lodhi Art District by Indian artist, Shilo Shiv Suleman, and the waste pickers of Chintan

In just one exhilarating week at Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group, I witnessed impactful programs transforming waste pickers into leaders, advocating for climate change awareness, and empowering young minds through education. The dedication of waste pickers in managing waste and the commitment to creating a greener future inspired me. I am honored to be part of this inspiring mission and look forward to contributing further to their noble cause.

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