Community Cleaning (CCC) at Penang
The environment is one of the more critical issues the world faces today. Locally, there is no shortage in reports of environmental decline. A fundamental condition that ensures the continual
decline of the environment is clear – a rather low level of understanding, appreciation and concern for the environment. Call it eco-consciousness, environmental consciousness, or green consciousness, it is this sense of responsibility towards the environment that we tried to bring about in the Desa Intan area of Ayer Itam in Penang, which is also the home of the Sri Sathya Sai Centre of NED. Held on the 27th of November, this plan was an initiative of the members of the NED centre itself and was brought about as a project under the Community Cleaning Club (CCC).
Devotees started gathering at the Centre at approximately 8.00a.m. and residents living there also joined in. During breakfast we were divided into different groups, and then supplied various equipment to aid the cleaning. Thanks to the generous support of the Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP), everyone was quickly on their way, efficiently doing their part with a broom, rake, spade, sickle or wheelbarrow. The roads were easy but soon we faced boggy quagmires of dirt and rubbish of all sorts.
Some cringing in horror, some carrying on peacefully with an admirable sense of duty, with the help of each other, a surprisingly wide variety of rubbish was collected and gathered in heaps, to be collected and pushed by those with wheelbarrows to the awaiting MPPP lorry. One thing to be noted is the honesty of devotees in plucking out weeds to get out the cigarette butts stuck within. Apart from that, watching some of the rather elderly brothers and sisters work tirelessly performing
strenuous work also did provide some food for thought and reflection. Sweat pouring, by roughly 11:30 a.m., the last wheelbarrow of rubbish had been dumped, and everyone had gathered in the community hall for lunch. Prior to lunch, there was a short presentation Penang Sai Youths on the importance of maintaining a healthy environment.
At the conclusion of the event, things took an unexpected but highly rewarding turn. It so happened that there was a rather large excess of vegetarian nasi lemak which was served for lunch. There were a few suggestions as to what should be done with the remaining packets but unbeknown to us, there was the silent hand of God blocking our plans so that we may execute His plan – Narayanaseva. A group of youths, with Brother Rajiv, our State Youth Co-Ordinator driving, proceeded to a some places where we thought there might be some poor and homeless people. On the way to these places we sometimes saw old, shirtless men sleeping on the street, and our immediate reaction was to stop and offer them a packet or two of food.
This extension of the CCC event was truly touching. We did encounter an old man, very thin and bony from a lack of food, tearing up as he conversed with us briefly. There were beggars with children, people with old, dirty, torn clothes, messy hair, unshaved beards. It was a sight that while we have perhaps become used to seeing, can never imagine ourselves in. Most of them where thankful but there were some who refused, but that isn’t important. What mattered was that these poor, helpless, homeless people with no certainty of from where or how their next meal was going to come, were given food. Many people simply avoid giving help of any sort, arguing that these people are drug addicts, should work for money, don’t deserve charity etc. but we are not in their shoes, and no matter how advanced and complex we like to think our minds are, it is quite impossible for us to truly imagine and get a sense of how these destitute people live their lives on the streets – with no security, no shelter, no food, no money, no clothes.
It is a terrible pity and a painful social injustice that in an age where multi-million dollar malls spring up within miles of each other, there exists a group of human beings that are helpless, with nowhere to go. These humble food packets, not only provided with these people food, but gave us an insight into the lives that we are lucky to not live, and into a standard of living that shouldn’t exist. After handing over the approximately 40 packets of food, we all gathered for a bit of food and drink before going our separate ways. Thanks to the Divine intervention that sent us in the direction of that incidental Narayanaseva, there is now a motion to make it a regular activity. With our beloved Baba’s grace, we hope that we may humbly intercede and help soften the impact of the painful karmas of a group of fellow human beings – strangers in flesh, brothers in spirit.