SORTING out garbage is hardly the ideal way to spend your post-SPM break, but for a group of highly motivated 17 year-olds, there could not be a more perfect endeavour.
One of the winners of the Hotlink Nationwide Student Community Service Competition 2003, the group who call themselves The Freelancers, launched a Recycling Campaign in Sungai Buloh last Sunday.
The Freelancers, who comprise leader Jason Cheng, J. Prakash Kumar, Soo Lip Meng, J. Sarvin Roshan, N. Sivaraj and C. Jeevan Viknesh, won RM 5,000 for their project idea and RM10, 000 to implement it in the competition organised by Maxis Communications Bhd in collaboration with The Star.
That was more than three months ago, and now that the arduous task of wheeling and dealing is settled, it is time to begin the crux of the work, the implementation of the campaign.
“The whole experience has been an eye-opener. We have had to go back and forth to negotiate with various people and now it is a relief to finally execute it. The programme has changed slightly due to circumstances – from a static recycling centre, we changed it to a mobile recycling awareness programme,” shares a clearly tired but relieved Jason.
Due to various complications, the SMK Bandar Baru Sungai Buloh group shelved the original plan of centring their campaign solely at the hotspot of the community, the Pasaraya Hiong Kong.
Instead, the Freelancers have decided to take the campaign to where it matters – schools and kindergartens.
“We are still conducting fun activities at the Pasaraya Hiong Kong like games, competitions, as well as talks by guest speakers from Alam Flora.
“However, we found that staying in the supermarket has not been as effective as we had originally planned, so we decided to take the recycling awareness campaign to the schools and get them to adopt the project,” explains Jason.
They contacted the primary schools around the community, including a kindergarten and were happy to find them not only supportive, but also keen to start up their own recycling centres.
The rest, as it goes, is history.
It has been no funfair though for the students as the week-long campaign has culminated from months of hard work.
It all began with a thorough preliminary research as the students conducted a survey in the supermarket to ascertain the level of awareness on recycling among Sungai Buloh residents. Interviewing about 500 people over three days, they discovered that the community was generally aware of the benefits of recycling but did not know how it could be implemented in their neighbourhood.
As the survey showed, as many as 90% of the people interviewed were aware and willing to support a recycling campaign if it was implemented, thus giving them the brainchild of starting a recycling facility in the community.
The project, however, took a hiatus during the SPM examinations as the students sat down for their final exams. With that little matter out of the way, it had been all systems go from December 2003 with the group toiling hard to bring the project to life.
“I am just happy with the way the programme has grown beyond our imagination. The response is more than we expected,” relates Jason.
They started work on their print materials such as leaflets, posters and brochures.
Alam Flora, which has always been interested in starting a campaign in schools, was only too happy to get on board the project, he says.
The schools contacted were also very supportive and before they knew it, he adds, the Mayor of Shah Alam, Datuk Saloman Selamat, got whiff of the project.
“It has been almost like a dream from then on,” says Jason.
Expressing his interest, the mayor insisted on attending the launch of the programme, which was held at Pasaraya Hiong Kong last Sunday.
This past whole week has been hectic to say the least. Conducting fun and alternative ways to inform and educate the public about recycling, the Freelancers have been spending more than 10 hours a day on the project.
“Now I know how it feels like to be working fulltime,” jokes Jason.
It is really no joke though as their day starts at 8am. They go to schools, including SJK © Kampung Baru Sungai Buloh and SK Bukit Rahman Putra, to conduct the awareness campaigns.
Then it’s off to the supermarket where they man their booth and conduct fun-filled activities like treasure hunt, performances, designing competitions and quizzes; calling it a day at 11pm.
It’s worth it, says a beaming Jason as he shares that the Alam Flora has had to pick up the bins more times than scheduled, “they are simply overflowing.”
Personally, each team member has gained tremendously as well. For Jason, he shares that he has learnt to communicate with diverse people but the most valuable lesson, he adds, is to appreciate his friends and former teacher K. Shantini who has been the backbone of the whole project.
“The negotiating skills will certainly come handy in the future, but more importantly, this project has taught me the true meaning of friendship,” he says.
His team mate Prakash has discovered that he likes working with children. “I love working with kids and am keen to do more work with them. I have also learnt how to face the crowd with confidence.”
For Sivaraj, it has been a test of endurance and innovation. “We have learnt valuable lessons in adapting to the different circumstances and problems. Now we know how to handle things when they don’t go according to plan,” he reveals.
With their part done, now it is up to the schools.
“We hope that the heads of the school, who were receptive to the idea of having the bins in their school, will maintain them. We will keep track of course but it is their responsibility now,” says Jason.
A recycling drive will be held today from 8am to 4pm with house-to-house rubbish collection around Phase One of Bandar Baru Sungai Buloh. For details, call 012-669 3667.