April 16th, 2017
Have you come across a pothole on the road? An overflowing dustbin? Or a choked drain?
What did you do? Or can you really do anything?
We all come across these questions, and so did 19-year-old Brian and his friends. But they did something different than most of us.They decided to act for bringing change in the society and be active citizens.
Brian Fernandes mobilised 21 students of St. Andrew’s College, Bandra to solve the civic issues of the community in Chimbai Village, Bandra (adjoining the Chimbai Beach).
He conducted skill building sessions for his volunteers to be well prepared to understand and respond to the issues in the chosen community. They then began conducting surveys with the locals at Chimbai to know the major civic issues they face. Post analysis and discussions based on the survey findings, they arrived at a conclusion that accumulated garbage and absence of a disposal system were the core issues. The place was filled with heaps of garbage that made the sand totally invisible! People in the area were very troubled with these issues, but in spite of trying several measures, there was no relief.
They then approached the H-west ward office and submitted complaint letters to get the issue solved. They were very sweetly assured of it being solved within the same week on an immediate basis. Although the big fat dusty bundles of complaint letters filling the entire room did make them feel otherwise and gave them an idea of what they were up for. For almost a month, follow-ups were done but no positive outcomes. Already feeling defeated, he happened to have a talk with his mother about it, who was reading the newspapers. At that time she advised him to write to Times of India on their app for civic issues. Although he didn’t feel it would work at that point, he did write to the Times of India on their Citizens Reporter App about the issue to give it a try.About a few weeks later, on 26th November 2016, much to surprise the complaint got published in the news paper and that very day the Solid Waste Management Dept. (H West Ward) of the BMC sent quite a many trucks and bulldozers leading to a massive cleanup (In fact this happened within just 4 hours of the newspapers coming in the stands that morning).They even had that article on their phone highlighted and were wanting to know who wrote it. Upon knowing that it was Brian, they first told him “Aisa nahi karne ka beta, naam karaab hota hai na hamaare department ka,” as he recalls that day.
He did firmly specify that it wouldn’t have been necessary to write this complaint had attention been paid earlier. Also, they ensured levelling of the land was done for easy passage of the boats to the shore. They were overjoyed but at the same time made sure through on-site discussions and regular calls with the ward officer that it should not be just a ‘one day show’ and ensured that the cleaning work continues in the long run. The cleanup has been happening continuously since then although the frequency seems to reduce now and then until reminders are sent by calls to the cleanup in charge. Although still, it makes him question every day “What if it hadn’t been for the newspaper article or media intervention, would they still have achieved solutions at all? Or would the struggle be on till now? Why does the BMC not pay urgent heed to the complaints people write to them and just have bundles of complaints in the office lying around?” These questions are still on the path to seek answers!
Not letting things just remain in the hands of the BMC, they then decided to create awareness among the locals to avoid such a situation in the future and help them become self-sufficient to keep their area clean by themselves. They began with street plays in the beach area as to how the citizens can reduce waste, conducted a drawing competition with the kids on the topic ‘The world they perceive to live in’ as they would be the ideal way to lead a message to their families at large. They also made a mannequin challenge video on their project as online awareness and had a New Year activity with the locals to take a pledge from them to join this initiative of keeping their area clean even in the new year as well as the years to come.
“Community Connect Fellowship was an experience I will always cherish. The transition CCF journey brought in me from being an onlooker wanting betterment to being the action makers for the same, from cribbing about problems to seeking solutions, from being individualistic to a team player, from ‘why’ to ‘why not’, the learnings have been precious. The real feeling of happiness and contentment comes in when I see the volunteers correct and reprimand their friends or even each other if a small wafers packet or a piece of scrap paper is thrown on the road by one of them today. This level of self-awareness is what the youth needs to build a better system and a better tomorrow. Before the change in OTHERS, comes a change in YOU,” says Brian, Fellow CCF 2016 -17.
Brian’s work is a fantastic example of how different stakeholders (Youth, citizens, M.C.G.M, NGOs, NSS, Media and supportive parents) can come together to create a positive change in the society. This intervention by Brain was a part of The Community Connect Fellowship and NSS program. It not only solved civic issues in Chimbai village but also changed Brian from being a shy, reserved person to an assertive team player. He has become a responsible person who knows to plan, execute, communicate and lead a team.
The Community Connect Fellowship (CCF) builds active citizenship in young individuals by solving local civic issues. These young people bridge the gap between the Government and citizens to strengthen governance. It includes skill building sessions, constructive dialogue and awareness activities.
It is part-time, free of cost program offered to young individuals (16-26 years) who want to transform themselves and the city. Interested young people apply for the fellowship and get self-selected on completing the selection tasks. Later, once every week they participate in skill building sessions which help them to understand civic issues, teamwork and build listening, sensing, execution and communication skills. In the past four years, it has trained 260+ young individuals mobilising 1500+ volunteers who together filed 6000+ civic complaints with the Government and created awareness among 22,000+ citizens. Globally, CCF was voted as the 2nd best initiative at The World Forum for Democracy 2014 at France.
“We need to channelize the youth energy and potential to take up the responsibility of the society. Only then we would have a new generation of socially aware leaders who think independently and have creative solutions for the new emerging issues.” – Kejal Savla, Fellow 2013 and Current Program Lead CCF
Know more and register at www.ccf.brmworld.org
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