Dirty beaches get clean bill of health

Making a difference: Dr Valarmathy doing her bit in keeping our beaches clean. She also noticed the ripple effect of her efforts when a few volunteers for her beach clean-up programme were inspired to start similar programmes in their hometowns.

PETALING JAYA: Ophthalmologist Dr Valarmathy Vaiyavari is one among scores of Malaysians who lead by example, preferring to let her good deeds do all the talking.

She wears many hats in her charity work, from offering health services to the needy to donating secondhand books to schoolchildren.

Every month, the animal lover also organises a beach clean-up to collect garbage littering beaches in Selangor, Kedah and Penang, together with volunteers.

“Personally, I believe kindness is contagious and people are often inspired by the compassion of others to do good as well.

“When passers-by observe what we are doing, they get motivated to follow suit and when I started this project a lot of my friends called me up to say they were keen to take part, ” she said of her initiative, which started in 2018.

One of the participants whom she inspired was a volunteer called Madam Kim, who would come all the way from Kedah.

“She and her friends would drive down to Selangor to help out. They are all retired teachers, hoping to do a small part in cleaning and preserving the environment.

“Once I asked her: Why do you drive all the way here?” and her answer was: ‘To join all of you and do some good things together’, ” Dr Valarmathy said.

Madam Kim later started a similar beach cleaning programme in Kedah, and one of her former students also organised another exercise in Penang.

Dr Valarmathy shared that their efforts in these states did not go unnoticed as it had inspired the locals there to change their habits.

“After carrying out the beach cleaning activities, we could see the difference after a few weeks.

“The local food vendors there have also stopped littering.

“Some smokers who joined our programme and saw the many cigarette butts collected have pledged not to litter anymore.

“It’s a slow process but you can see the ripple effects, ” she said.

For Dr Valarmathy, it is sometimes a challenge for her to juggle her many altruistic ventures, especially when she has a demanding schedule as a doctor.

“It was quite tough before this as I was finishing my Masters in eye specialisation. I try to manage my time by having my events mostly on the weekends, ” she said.

Asked if she got tired from doing such initiatives continuously, Dr Valarmathy said she drew energy from performing good deeds with a group of friends.

“Cleaning nature is a kind of therapy, and you always end up feeling good about yourself, ” she said.

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