Volunteering to clean up Colombo!

By Abhishek Perera

I first got to know about “No Kunu” initiative, through the John Keells Foundation, when they approached John Keells Group to be involved in their drive to clean up Colombo.  I felt passionate towards this campaign as I see that pollution is a major issue in the city of Colombo and I was keen to take part in an opportunity to be involved, where I could go beyond my desk job and make a difference in the community and environment.

On the day of the campaign, I was thrilled to see that there were so many familiar faces from John Keells Group who had volunteered and were just as passionate as I was towards this cause.

To begin with, together with volunteers from all over Colombo, we were assigned to teams and each team were assigned to different areas in Colombo. The team goal was not just to clean the streets for the day, but also to take measures to help keep the streets clean every day. To do this, we spoke to various people in the neighbourhoods and raised awareness and gave suggestions as to how they could also contribute to keep Colombo clean.

I first came across a gentleman who is a lottery seller. I noticed that there were several tickets just strewn on the ground all around his lottery booth. Seeing that he did have a bin already, I suggested that he placed it in a more visible place and to request from his customers to use the bin to discard their tickets.

Also, along the same road was a busy  bakery and grocery store. As I entered the bakery, I saw that they had placed a bin for the customers to use although the store-front area was littered. I went and spoke to the owner and told him that he could inform his customers to use bins. I also suggested to label the bins as Degradable and Non-Degradable as they were not sorted accordingly. Many store owners were enthusiastic to see us and to talk to us and they appreciated the support and advise immensely. Some of them even agreed to clean the public street and pavement area in front of their store voluntarily.

Afterwards, we came across a small beverage shop and saw that there were a lot of bottle caps on the pavement in front of the store. I walked in to have a little chat with the store owner. I asked him why there were so many bottle caps on the ground and his response was that his customers who come to grab a drink, just flip the caps to the ground for their convenience and leave. I suggested that he should leave a small plastic bin and request his customers to drop the bottle caps into that. I also told him that he could collect those metal caps and send for recycling. As a sign of gratitude towards the task being done by us he generously gave us refreshments on the house!

Then we all got together to clean up the biggest pile of the day. We had a lot of support to overcome the challenge before us. In addition, what made this project a success was, when the youngsters from the neighborhood joined to help us. That gave us the confidence that we had made a difference and had made people aware of the initiative and that together, we can make a difference.