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Many of us grumble about how things can be done better.

Especially during these recent Covid times, when we are confused and unsure about how to respond to constantly changing rules, it is easy to be negative about what is happening.

But one family took a step beyond just talking about how things can be better and did something about what they believed in.

For Venu Kirubapuri Chandramouli and his family, Covid concerns are real and present but they also feel strongly about sustainability and the environment. These issues have always been a topic of discussion for the 40-year-old chemical engineer and his wife, Murugeswari, at the dinner table.

Then, as Chandramouli (or Mouli, as he prefers to be called) tells The Pride, one day last year, his 10-year old son Krisshaanth struck them with a question out of the blue.

“He said, ‘why are we always sitting and worrying about these conditions, why can’t we do something like superheroes to save our community and the environment?’”

And just like that, it started. Instead of just talking about possible solutions, the family — Mouli, Murugeswari, Krisshaanth and five-year-old Aravind — brainstormed and came up with three local initiatives.

Hand sanitisers in HDB lifts

Hand Sanitizer in lift
Putting hand sanitisers in HDB lifts. Image Source: Venu Kirubapuri Chandramouli

During the Phase 2 heightened measures, Mouli decided, with the support of the Hong Kah North CC and several residents’ committees, to place hand sanitiser dispensers in HDB lifts in 31 blocks in the Hong Kah North area.

Says Mouli: “It is the most common place where everyone gather. I thought this was a good way to develop good spirits and hopefully curb the spread of the virus in my neighbourhood.”

The sanitisers got several responses from fellow residents:

One said: “Thank you for being a caring neighbour to all of us! Hope there will be more kind people like you and your family. Please stay safe always as well and take care of your health! Your kindness will always be appreciated.”

Others were appreciative: “Appreciate it!!! Having sanitizer in the lift is so convenient especially during this COVID-19 period. 👍👍👍”

“Thank you guys for the hand sanitizer in the lift, your small gesture brightened our day, let’s us all stand together, united and win this covid war”

There was even a typically Singaporean response: “I think the sanitizer pressing cap is faulty. Unable to press it. Anyways, thank you so much for having this sanitizer in every lift. Bless you and your family with a healthy life and always stay safe”

Says Mouli: “Receiving these responses and positive feedback motivates me to work harder as I could feel how much they appreciate it”

Safety and cleanliness

Safety and Cleanliness in community
Image Source: Venu Kirubapuri Chandramouli

From the blocks in his neighborhood to a slightly wider area, Mouli and his family created an initiative called icarewalk to report safety and cleanliness issues in the community.

The project encouraged residents to report municipal issues while they were out on a walk or cycling around the neighbourhood. The project utilised the municipal reporting One Service app to help identify more than 100 issues and resolved almost half (44) of them.

Explains Mouli: “I was looking to improve the neighbourhood and I found the One Service app a great tool to report the issues. I wanted to use my walking and cycling time to be more helpful to the community.

Recycling and climate change

I Am Green Campaign
Image Source: Venu Kirubapuri Chandramouli

But the project that was the closest to the family’s heart focused on the issue of climate change.

Mouli and his family practise recycling but decided to take it to the next level with a ground-up campaign called “I am Green” to encourage residents in his community to pick up the habit.

However, with bigger projects came larger problems.

Mouli explains that he needed proper training on how to combat climate change at the ground level.

“I took an online training course by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research to learn about climate change and what we can do to combat its impact. After I completed it, I felt like I could go to organisations and better present my plans”

A source of encouragement

The experience gave him more than just a certification, though.

He says: “When we start to do (things that we believe in), our minds tell us that we are not ready when we meet obstacles. My advice is to try it out first. Just do it.”

“There are a lot of good people out there willing to help. So go out there and ask for help.”

Adds Mouli: “The biggest challenge was finding support. I didn’t know who would support my programme. I wrote so many emails, like 50 to 100 emails, to people, organisations and community centres. Most did not respond but some did, like the Singapore Kindness Movement, National Volunteer Philanthropy Centre’s Groundup Central, Hong Kah North CC and Alba & WH (the designated waste recycling company by NEA).”

Recycling Bin Singapore
Participants of the “I am Green” Campaign. Image Source: Veni Kirubapuri Chandramouli

The main objective of the “I am Green” campaign was not just to create awareness of recycling and climate change but also to develop the habit of recycling among residents.

“We wanted those who signed up for this programme to find out more about climate change and get practical tips to combat climate change. I believe when more of us recycle, although it is a very small contribution each, they add up.”

At the end, the “I am Green” campaign managed to get 133 residents sign up to pledge to reduce 112 tons of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to pollution created by 75 cars.

Most importantly, Mouli says, the campaign helped to create awareness about climate change and provided practical tips for participants.

The first round of the campaign ended in August and the top three residents with the most points won NTUC Fairprice vouchers and goodie bags — reusable cloth bags, of course! — filled with stationery.

Winners for I Am Green Campaign
Winners Lex Lee (far left), Garren Neo (fourth from left) and Lor Kailin with Chandramouli, Murugeswari and Hong Kah North CC representative Peter Har (far right). Image Source: Venu Kirubapuri Chandramouli

Mouli is launching a second campaign called Gold for Trash starting tomorrow (Oct 15). Just like the previous campaign, it aims to increase awareness on recycling and climate change and develop the habit of recycling among participants — this time, with a literal gold reward.

Creating a positive change

It is not always that we find a family so committed to such ground-up campaigns. It wasn’t just time that they spent on their projects, they funded it themselves too. Mouli estimates that they spent about $500 on the hand sanitisers and another $500 on the goodie bags.

He explains that he got his family so interested in sustainability because of his passion to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Mouli says: “I grew up in India, worked in the US for three years and moved to Singapore 10 years ago. But, no matter where I went, I kept my passion to help others. During the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in India, I was in the frontline, helping others; in 2017, when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, I also chipped in to help.

“So when I came to Singapore, I wanted to keep doing something to benefit others. I don’t see it as doing anything special.”

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The biggest difference, Mouli says, is that the projects he embarked on here were done with his family, as well as in a formal capacity with other organisations.

“Behind the scenes, my wife was always there to support me. She did a lot of homework and managed “I am Green” while I was at work. We worked together as a family and put our fair share of work into the programme.”

Mouli believed that instilling positive values in his children and involving them in acts of community service is an important part of growing up.

“This is very important because I want to teach them that money and values are separate. As a parent, I want my kids to be good citizens, that is the key. Instilling good habits helps build character. So I thought this was a good time for them to get started doing these things.”

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Top Image: Venu Kirubapuri Chandramouli