Small acts with great love
Atul currently works in a school, as part of Teach For India and has been sharing some amazing school stories during our Laddership Circle. While we pondered upon how the collective can be greater than the sum of its parts, while holding space, we had a chance to hear this amazing and heart-warming story by him.
It was an everyday affair that the housekeeping staff of the school complained to Atul saying- “Bhaiyya, see what your kids are doing in the toilets!” Atul was aware of these state of affairs where all the 6-7 toilets of the school were always dirty and smelly. He started pondering upon what could be done in this situation, such that there is a sustainable solution to this problem.
While at it, Atul was joined by a group of volunteers from Chennai TFI Team, who were just out of their colleges and universities, eager to serve! The first thing Atul heard from them after they settled down was the same complaint that the housekeepers had shared earlier. Taking this opportunity to use the collective power, Atul asked out loud whether there was something they could do to solve this problem!
The volunteers took up the problem statement very seriously and were back to him with an idea.
Volunteers – We have an idea. How about all of us clean the bathrooms ourselves?
Atul – That’s a great offering. But what after you clean it, how can the cleanliness be maintained? Who will continue cleaning it?
The volunteers went back to brainstorm further and came over the next day with a new idea.
Volunteers – How about involving other stakeholders here, like the parents and kids?
Atul – Getting kids onboard at this point might not work, but we can definitely involve parents. But how can we convince them to take part in this toilet cleaning venture?
The volunteers continued racking their brains for more ideas and were back again the next day.
Volunteers – We could do a street-play in the communities, spread awareness about the situation among the parents, and encourage them to join hands.
Atul – That’s an awesome idea. Let’s do this!
The volunteers prepared an informational and educational street-play around toilet hygiene and cleanliness. After Atul acquired the required permission from the village authorities, the volunteers went around three communities while beating drums on the road and asking people to come outside and watch. Lots of people gathered and listened to them very attentively!
The volunteers also figured that though there were taps in these toilets, there were no mugs or buckets that the kids could use. The next day, the volunteers contributed and collected enough funds to buy the necessary equipment to clean the toilets. They also started cleaning the washrooms themselves, and were soon joined by many parents. Watching all this changed the perspective and behavior of students towards the toilets drastically. Further, a large scale community change was also witnessed in this regard, which went on to show how small acts done with great intentions can go such a long way!
Right from the seed to the blossom of this event, nothing was planned or pre-meditated. All it took was the presence of highly motivated and passionate individuals getting together as a group to solve a problem. None of this was a part of their curriculum or training. What Atul bore witness to was a beautiful example of the wonders that simply holding space for each other can do. The sacred space created by Atul and the young fellows became fertile ground for valuable emergence. Their collective efforts portrayed beautifully that 1+1 > 2.
After this incident, the housekeeping staff has never come back with the complaint – “Bhaiyya, see what the kids are doing in the toilet!” ;)