India generates nearly 26,000 tonnes of plastic every day, making it the 15 biggest plastic polluter globally.
While the adults in this country are scouring to find the best suitable alternatives to this environment harming material, two teen brothers from Chennai have stepped forward and shown what can be done.
Jai Aswani (17) and Preet Aswani (13) are not like other school-going kids one might see these days. Both of them are driven with a passion for protecting the environment and are committed to serve the underserved.
In the year 2018, a year before the state of Tamil Nadu banned plastic waste, both the brothers found a way to provide a sustainable income to the mentally disabled women and curb the growing menace of plastic bags.
The brothers decided to use old bedsheets from hotels and convert them into cloth bags.
One Mission Led To Another
Jai and Preet have been on a mission to create social awareness among the masses. In 2012, when Jai was 12 years old, he went door to door to educate people not to burst crackers on Diwali.
In five years, Jai and Preet managed to get the support of Dr Kiran Bedi along with 3,000 students and families. These children and families pledged not to burst crackers.
Both the boys have been conferred with several awards and recognition. Jai is the youngest recipient of the 'Param Award' and the 'Young Achiever Award' from Bharat Nirma, Delhi.
It was Kiran Bedi, who encouraged the duo to spread more awareness and asked them to name their organisation.
Preet named their yet to register NGO - Born To Win after his clan name in Clash of Clans.
After naming the organisation, Born To Win conducted a marathon to collect 5 tonnes of rice for the poor in a month. However, the duo ended up receiving 6 tonnes of rice.
"It was when distributing the rice to an old age home, the idea of cloth bags came in Jai's mind," recalls Varsha Aswani, proud mother of the two.
When Jai went inside an old age home - Little Drops, he noticed that mentally disabled women were stitching cloth bags.
"One of the old women held his hand and said that nobody thinks about us, but you have. She said that he is the "chosen" one," Varsha informs us.
The whole incident etched upon his heart. He wanted to do something for them. "After he returned, he pitched the idea of taking those women's help to stitch more cloth bags and eradicate the single-use plastics," says Varsha.
However, the brothers were met their first hurdle at an early stage. They had the idea, but they did not know where to get clothes from.
One day at a dinner table, while the family was discussing the plan, Preet said that hotels could provide us with old bedsheets, which can be used as raw material for the cloth bags.
Thus began the start of a new mission.
Bedsheets To Bags
Jai started giving presentations to various hotels seeking old bedsheets. Impressed with the presentation, hotels started approaching the duo.
"The bedsheets were washed and ironed before they were sent to the NGO," adds Varsha.
They also started multiple collection drive to get more clothes for the bags.
The clothes were directly taken to the Little Drops NGO where the women with their skills shaped them into cloth bags.
The women were paid Rs 5 for each bag. The first bag was made on December 14, 2018.
Within a month, the brothers managed to distribute one lakh of cloth bags to street vendors.
"We distributed to the street vendors because they don't have any alternatives. How can they buy clothes bags when they are selling vegetables at Rs 5 - 10," informs Varsha.
Sharing more details on the cloth bags, Varsha says that one bedsheet will make 20 cloth bags.
"One cloth bag can replace twenty plastic bags, as they can be washed multiple times," adds Varsha.
"My vision 2020 is to get Born To Win electric trucks which will go to various colleges, housing complexes to collect bedsheets. These trucks will go to various other NGOs where the bags will be made," says Jay on his way to the tuition.
"We want to expand our initiative. Right now, we are only helping people of this state. But my dream is to go national. To distribute cloth bags to more vendors in the country, to provide a sustainable income to the needy," adds Jay.
Throwing light on why they are particular about the electric trucks, Jay says, "We are fighting against pollution, so if we take a diesel-run truck, then we are back to square one."
Currently, Born To Win also plans to collaborate with Tamil Nadu Blind Association to produce more cloth bags.
"I see people always voicing their concern over environmental pollution. But I have never seen them stepping out of their comfort zone to do something for our green belt," Jay says when asked about adults' role in preserving the environment.
"Social Responsibility Is Not A Choice and Let's Make It One Voice," Jay concludes.
Born To Win in their vision 2020 is hoping to do more CSR activities with corporate companies. "We want more companies and organisation to come and support us in our actions," Varsha adds.
If you wish to contribute to the cause in any way, the boys can be reached at +91-9884361161