Two students from University Belgium Ghent who are students of Environmental management joined Tarumitra for a three month Internship in March 2012.
Willem who give guitar courses to young people and adults said, “The last two years, I frequently heard of the possibility to go on a foreign internship. Although this was during my first year in university college, I was already very enthusiastic. My sister had her internship in South-Africa and she advised me very seriously to take this unique chance.”
Jens the leader of the duo said, “The goal of the internship is to learn as how to solve a problem, on a bachelor level, all by ourselves. We are environmental managers not engineers, so we can’t do anything technical. The most important part of our internship is that we have to find an answer on a certain question. In other words, we have to solve a certain problem.”
Both wrote to us “We will work on your question 5 days a week, 8 hours a day with support of your organisation.”
The two Belgians had to accomplish the internship between 5March and 25 May and help Patna and improve the environment. And they did. They put in daily eight hours of work and often they worked seven days of the week.
Sr. Prema SCC of Tarumitra was concerned since their arrival coincided with the arrival of the summer in Patna. The temperatures could vary between 25-45 degrees Celsius. Concerned also were the parents of the two Belgian students. So the families of the students turned up to see their wards within a few weeks!
Margaret Molomoo and Kanchan Pathak who supervised the Internship from Tarumitra found that the two students worked like buldozers! The four students from Zamorano, Honduras who were already doing their internship, Paulina, Andre, Hazel and Samuel reached out to them.
Jens and Willem identified the issues of Garbage, especially the non-biodegradable plastics as the main garbage problem of Patna, the city with a minimum of three milllion people. Both moved around and met students, their teachers and parents, bureaucrats and politicians, law enforcement police personnel and the people on the streets.
Both of them wanted their research to be action-oriented and therefore the attempt was as to move the garbage! They collected non-degradable materials and worked on them to convert them into re-cycled, reusable resources.
Suddenly polythene bags changed their looks. Hundreds of them got fused into strong plastic sheets to become bags and boxes. The four students from Zamorano University helped them to convert plastic bottles into ear-rings! Thrown away coca cola bottles changed appearances as water pumps and Water reservoirs for plants.
The campaign manager at Tarumitra Sr (Dr) Mudita Soddder and the regent Bro. Ramesh IMS often joined the duo to clean up the place and level up the grouds. Many of the visiting groups joined them with bubbling enthusiasm.
Sr.Mudita suggested the possibility of an Exhibtion titled Art from Waste where Patna students could bring in waste materials and convert them into art pieces. Finally when it was done, the program was scaled up to a large event. Students from 20 schools participated.
The Chief Guest was the Deputy Chief Minister of the State of Bihar, Sri Sushil Kumar Modi who also holds the ministry of Forests and Environment. Sr. Mudita and team organized the show so well, the chief guest commented, “ What a splendit idea showcased so well!”
Honorable Minister Mr. Modi moved around and saw the exhibition spread out in 20 tables. A team of judges headed by Srs. Milliscent, Malini and Ms Paulina Kamacho moved around to judge the best entries.
The many hundreds of visitors to Tarumitra left behind non-degradable plastic garbage. The specially dug pit for plastics overflowed. Jens and Willem along with the South Americans felt that they garbage must be buried underground until viable technologies were around to recycle them.
The final 102 page report they submitted to their university in Belgium was down to earth and full of wisdom. The two left Tarumitra after passing on to their counter parts in India that there were ways of working together to make the city waste-free.
Whenever groups of students arrived (almost every day there was a group), both of them addressed on the on the issues. They also promoted Shweta Marandi’s campaign to save electricity. When the temperature shot up Jens and Willem traveled to the hill district of Darjeeling and visited the Notre Dame Schools in Rimbick, Sumbuck, Kainjalia and the Cluny Schools of St. Philomena’s and St. Joseph’s in Kalimpong.
A student leader and a prodigious contestant at the national level, Sharad Vivek Sagar met up with the Belgians at the Art from Waste exhibition. He said that the presence of the Belgians in Tarumitra certainly helps the students to experience that we are globally connected as taught by the Vedic scholars Vasudhaiva kudumbakam “the whole world is a family!”
Jens and Willem left Tarumitra by the end of May. The summer sent the mercury up to 46 degrees Celsius. The community in Tarumitra felt that the students deserved the clement climate of their home province in Belgium badly. Both promised to return to Tarumitra at the earliest instance.