ASPIRE For A Doctor : A Waste-Collector’s Determination To Rewrite Family History

Monday, 29 January 2024 12:49

ASPIRE For A Doctor A Waste Collector s Determination To Rewrite Family History

Businesscafe - In the delicate dance of life, where hardships often drown out dreams, Manjula Ramalingam's story is a testament to the resilience that can emerge from the most unlikely of places.

"Marriage at 17, a mother at 18—more burden than dreams," she reflects, recalling the early chapters of her journey into adulthood.

Decades later, challenges persist, but nothing will sway her from the path of making her daughter the first doctor in their entire lineage.

In a tale that spans the breadth of personal trials, Manjula faced adversity with unwavering determination.

The echoes of her husband's battle with alcoholism, a staggering debt of 1 crore, and the incessant knocking of relentless creditors framed her early years.

However, within these challenges, she discovered a resilience that would set the stage for an inspiring transformation, and simultaneously drive a solution to one of Sri Lanka’s current and growing concerns, mismanaged waste!

Sri Lanka grapples with the weight of its own waste—over 9,000 MT of solid waste generated daily, a figure growing by 1.2% each year.

The repercussions extend far beyond mere statistics, manifesting in environmental degradation, health hazards, and social challenges.

The improper disposal of waste, especially plastic, emerges as a particularly troubling issue - causing litter, polluting precious water bodies and threatening eco-systems.

Amidst the dilemmas of waste mismanagement, Manjula found a lifeline in the ASPIRE program when her brother-in-law recommended it to her.

A collaborative endeavor of World Vision Lanka with financial support from The Coca-Cola Foundation, ASPIRE sought to address the urgent issue of waste mismanagement.

The project aimed not just to collect plastic but to fortify plastic collection, enhance recycling efforts, advocate for responsible PET plastic disposal, and uplift the lives of those who play a pivotal part in the system of waste management.

Open to learning, Manjula's decision to join ASPIRE gained strength after her impressive first workshop.

Eager to contribute more, she became an active participant, embodying the spirit of empowerment and growth ASPIRE aims to instill.

When ASPIRE's vision meets a mother’s mission

Led by World Vision Lanka, ASPIRE envisioned a comprehensive approach to tackle waste mismanagement.

The 'Accelerating and Strengthening the Plastic Informal Recycling Eco-system in Sri Lanka' Project (ASPIRE) emerged as a beacon of change.

Fifty resource collectors within the Western province received formal training as 'Recycle Industry Assistants,' equipped with technical training, scalers, jumbo bags, and safety kits.

The project set its sights on expanding across the country, evaluating progress and empowering successful collectors with additional facilities.

For Manjula however, ASPIRE wasn't merely a program—it was a lifeline that altered the trajectory of her family's narrative.

With limited education and experience, Manjula had initially embarked on her journey in Colombo, unaware of the significance that waste held.

Her primary focus had been navigating the challenges of supporting a spouse struggling with alcohol addiction and coping with his escalating physical ailments.

Additionally, she faced the emotional and financial strains of ensuring necessary medical interventions for her second child, who was born differently-abled.

In the midst of these formidable challenges, the ASPIRE program emerged as a beacon of hope, providing much-needed support and opportunities for Manjula to overcome the hurdles and transform her life.

"I did what I could do best – see the best in the worst situation and get my hands dirty, literally, to make a change," she shares.

As a waste collector, she transcended her seemingly ‘undignified’ job, turning it into a mission by recognizing the value of trash, particularly plastics, in the grand scheme of waste management.

"ASPIRE unleashed so much potential, transforming even me into a businesswoman!" Manjula recalls with pride.

"The program taught me how to create a proper payroll, understand business management, upscale my business, and determine where I should focus next, among other valuable insights."

With guidance, tools, and equipment provided by the ASPIRE team, Manjula's PET waste collection skyrocketed from 500kg to an impressive 12,000kg in just a few months.

This newfound efficiency not only contributed to environmental sustainability but also became the cornerstone of a substantial boost in her income.

Soon, a mother's dream, once threatened by life's misfortunes, found a lifeline through this increase in income and an enhanced quality of life.

Manjula's determination and tireless efforts not only transformed her own life but also paved the way for her daughter's academic success.

Fueled by her mother's resilience and inspired by her unwavering spirit, Manjula's daughter is now enrolled in a recognized university in Colombo, pursuing a degree in Biomedicine – the first to do so in her entire family.

She is all set to embark on the journey of becoming a doctor who changes and saves lives - a testament to the profound impact that Manjula's vision and perseverance have had on shaping a brighter future for her family.

Where others saw waste and pollution, Manjula envisioned herself as the solution, leaving an indelible mark on both her own destiny and that of her daughter.

"My daughter will be the first doctor in my family, and I will proudly continue to collect trash until I achieve that dream," Manjula shared proudly.

A 'Singapenn' in every woman

Manjula’s children often call her a 'Singapenn,' a word fondly resonated in the Tamil community to signify a successful, resilient, strong role model who stands tall in the face of challenges.

Given her rough start in life, the title is well-earned! Manjula's dream to create the first doctor in her family is not just a personal aspiration—it aligns with the collaborative efforts of World Vision Lanka and organizations like The Coca-Cola Foundation to turn stories like hers into the norm.

Manjula soon blossomed into a visionary entrepreneur, sharing her success and blessings with the wider community.

"I created a life where others saw trash, and now I aspire to assist others in forging a transformative journey, guiding them toward a brighter and more promising future."

Employing a team of ten, Manjula shares her knowledge, expertise, and guidance while offering a stable financial lifeline to five underprivileged women in the community.

She has now transcended the role of a 'waste-collector', now becoming an enabler of better livelihoods, on a mission to create a 'Singapenn' in every woman.

World Vision Lanka, with the support of organizations like The Coca-Cola Foundation, stands right by her side.

Now, Manjula's journey extends beyond a personal triumph; it serves as a compelling call to action! ASPIRE, as a guiding force fosters a powerful narrative.

Focused on upskilling and empowering resource collectors, the project enhances livelihoods and establishes a model for sustainable practices.

Through training, business management education, and essential equipment, ASPIRE creates an atmosphere where female waste collectors thrive economically and contribute to environmental sustainability.

This framework envisions a ripple effect, inspiring broader empowerment and sustainable change within the female waste collection community in Sri Lanka.

It signifies a waste-collector's hope evolving into that of a visionary entrepreneur, reshaping her family's destiny, and inspiring the community toward sustainable change.

As Manjula consistently directs her path, the impact of her journey reverberates well beyond the confines of waste collection—an impactful transformation unfolding on the broader stage of possibilities.

Last modified on Monday, 29 January 2024 13:06