This 63-year-old ex-maths teacher is doing tree plantation, commendable work in Goa. Meet Alka Damle, whose efforts have brought about a significant change in Vasco city.
It is not unusual to see garbage heaps near our homes, people throwing litter on the streets, and trees dying for lack of care. We just complain about the lack of civic sense in India and move on. But one lady in Goa actually took matters into her own hands to ensure that the community around her became better, safer and cleaner again.
Meet Alka Damle, a 63-year-old ex-maths professor, who started a small initiative to improve her hometown of Vasco in Goa. Her initiative is now encouraging many others to follow the same path.
“We often blame the government and municipality for everything. We think they are the only ones responsible for the mess around us. The truth is we all are equally responsible for the problems we create,” says Alka.
When Alka’s husband, a Navy officer, retired from service, the family shifted to Goa. Alka, who had always been inclined towards social work and now had a lot of spare time on her hands, wrote an article for a local news publication.
A local business house was so impressed by what she wrote that it invited her for a discussion on how the local community could be motivated to bring about change in Vasco.
This gave Alka the boost she needed to kickstart an initiative for the holistic development of the city and involve several NGOs as well.
“There was no point in starting a new NGO. Vasco is such a small town and it already has over 70 to 80 NGOs. I thought it would be better to leverage their resources and bring them together for a common cause,” she says.
Alka gathered a few volunteers around her and took on the task of clearing garbage near a hospital, an issue of concern to a lot of people. Although the project did not require much time, she faced a lot of challenges in the form of government interference. But eventually, after six months, the job was complete.
Alka and her team also started painting walls in the locality to discourage public urination.
“I painted the walls white instead of making any patterns on them. If something appears so clean and white, people tend to be reluctant to spoil it and this actually worked,” she recalls.
When Alka saw the poor state of the vegetable market, she mounted garbage bins near the stalls.
She also started a tree plantation drive in a nearby ground and asked community members to adopt the 30 trees that were planted.
“Planting is easy but sustaining the plants is difficult. Especially in the dry season. So I asked the community members to start pouring whatever little water they could on those plants. This initiative picked up really well,” she says.
Once her efforts started to pay dividends, many senior citizens in the area got in touch, asking if they could help. So, she started a 50+ group to bring the elderly together, and got 35 members on board to engage in various activities.
Though her journey has not been easy, Alka has constantly tried to bring change and spread awareness. Using donations from business house and a few friends, she has managed to get volunteers on board and given shape to many successful initiatives.
“Now my main focus is to target the ladies. Many of them are at home and can give a good amount of time to the activities,” concludes an enthusiastic Alka.
To know more about her work, you can check out her Facebook group Jagrut Nagrik Manch.