“Whenever I have time, I go to Amiyapur,” Shailesh tells us. “Even though I don’t live there, people considerI could even go there in the middle of the night, and be welcomed.”
For the past one year, Shailesh, a member of E.S.I, has been working on the Amrut Sanitation Project at Amiyapur (Gandhnigar District), 1 km from the Institute. He has been dedicating his time and heart to uplifting the sanitary conditions in the village and educating the children about proper sanitation.
Imagine, once a month, all the children of the village come excitedly to take part in all-day festivities called “Safai Divas” (Day of Cleaning). Waking up bright and early, the children have the chance to come to school by 7 AM. After a morning prayer, 200 school children are ready with brooms, bags, and dustpans in
For 3 hours, the children sweep the village, collect trash from their homes and surrounding areas, and fix broken plumbing. When approached by elders, the children fold their hands politely and say, “Gramjano Namaste, khachro na feko raste (Namaste people of the village, do not throw trash in the way).” They share their spirit of cleanliness with village. A little dirty, but happy with excitement, they compare their piles when they come back to school. Who has collected the most trash? After sorting, Shailash awards the top three winners with prizes. The top 3 winners are the proud Safai Seniks (Cleanliness Captains) of the month. Following the award ceremony and picture session, the entire group hauls the heaps of trash to the local landfill. Instead of throwing trash outside their homes orThe trash will either be burnt or composted…and we hope, one day, recycled.
The children’s hands are dirty, and now Shailash is provided with a perfect opportunity to teach about hygiene. Soap and water buckets lined up, the children learn to thoroughly wash their hands before going home. After their baths, they will be ready for the next part of the day. Safai Divas is not yet over. Several boys are huddled around Shailash. They are practicing for the speech competition to be held after prayer. “What is the importance of cleanliness?” After the second prayer, boys stand up and take theirLoud claps and cheers follow the boys’ speeches. Three winners return to their seats with prizes in hand. The power of cleanliness is evident to all.
Noon-time comes, and children are busy admiring the artwork several of the schoolgirls have done. “What does an ideal village look like?,” was the competition question. The girls have spent the past one hour drawing and coloring a perfect Amiyapur. Beautiful sunsets, clean streets, and smiling people accompany the village scene. In admiration, three of the girls are selected as the prize winners of the month. Beauty and art are“Building the trust has been a process." Shailesh says. "I’ve done small acts like cleaning the streets myself, cutting the children’s nails, visiting children’s homes. This project is about building trust and relationships,” he adds. "I'm here to share the importance of cleanliness and inculcate good habits in children and the villagers through these drives. I love the children. Through their work, we will have a beautiful Amiyapur."
I am a Muslim and a Hindu and a Christian and a Jew…… and so are all of you. Non- violence is the first article of my faith it is also last article of my creed.- Gandhiji