A pre-school-cum-day care centre at Gandhi Nagar in Adyar is filling the lull caused by the pandemic with a social initiative. With the free time at their disposal, its non-teaching support staff make paper bags and distribute them for free to 15 commercial establishments around Gandhi Nagar. This exercise may be a timely reminder that the Tamil Nadu government has banned single-use plastic in January 2019: For single-use plastic is said to be in circulation due to fewer checks on account of the pandemic.
Play-Coop, a 37-year-old pre-school, has 12 support staff and six teachers, the latter now taking online classes for students.
“For the last three to four months, we have been asking our support staff to come twice a week to clean the centre but we wanted to bring more meaning to this routine and that’s how we got them to make paper bags,” says Princess Naik, founder, Play-Coop.
In the early months, those dependent on public transport were exempt from this weekly assignment.
Princess underlines that many support staff are long-serving employees, some of them employed with the school for around two decades. “We been paying them 60 per cent of their salary every month since the lockdown began,” she says.
The ayammas make paper bags — an average of 10 each — every Wednesday and Saturday to be given to provision stores and pharmaceutical outlets in Gandhi Nagar. A note stuck to each paper bag denotes that it is an eco-friendly community project, and carries the centre’s address.
The distribution is handled by a school staff, Ravi Kumar, who hands the bags to the beneficiaries — at present, 10 stores of different stripes and five pharmacies every Monday.
“The response has been so encouraging — an orthopaedic clinic asked us if we could customise the bags for them. The doctor wanted two to three sheets of paper stuck and shaped like a bed,” says Princess. The newspaper required for this customised offering is sourced from teachers’ and friends’ homes.
Princess points out that paper bag-making is not a new initiative at the centre and explains: “It’s one of the first activities we teach children to make them environment conscious.”
Play-Coop plans to continue with this initiative till support staff can get started on their routine work again.