Little hands of change

Cinema is not just a mode of entertainment. Time and again, it has emerged as an agent of social change. With faith in the strong effect that cinema has on the people's lives, and it's potential to bring about a positive change in society, NGO Identity Foundation goes to slums across the city screening educational films for slum children.

So, when a bunch of kids from the Chuna Basti slum area on Sinhagad Road were shown the 2011 release Chaka Chak, they were so deeply inspired that they formed a group of their own called the Chaka-Chak team. This group has taken up the responsibility of keeping their locality clean by collectinmg and dumping garbage that would otherwise lie scattered in and around the basti. What's more, they are even sensitising the adult population of the slum on sanitation and garbage disposal. "At first, our parents used to think we are talking nonsense and would not listen to us if we told them not to litter the place or to throw garbage in an organised way in the dumping bins. They still used to litter wherever they felt like, and we would then go and pick up the litter and throw it in the right place. They noticed this a few times, and then they realised the importance of what we were telling them, and they started throwing litter in the dumping bins and keeping the surroundings clean," says 13-year-old Saurabh Suryawanshi, a student of class VIII and team leader of the Chaka-Chak. To propagate their message, the children mix chuna, a white powder, with water and write instructions on the walls against littering, urinating and general statements about keeping the environment clean.

The group consists of boys and girls from the basti in the age group of 5 to 13 years. They engage in cleaning the basti, picking up the litter and also teaching others about hygiene and sanitation. "We have told the parents to encourage use of public toilets among their children. We have even written such instructions on the walls. But there are still some parents who do not listen to us and in such cases, we ensure that the kids use the public toilet if we find the doing otherwise," says 10 -year-old Akash Hanumanta. The children also emphasise on personal hygiene and even resort to ensuring that the children in the slum bathe regularly. "If we find a child who is very dirty, we take him and give him a bath and ask his parents to change and wash his clothes. We have learnt about personal hygiene and we spread the knowledge of these good habits to our parents and elders who are ignorant to its importance," he adds.

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