Imagine this. You’ve just had a lip-smacking dinner and are ready to call it a night. You go to the cluster commons kitchen to wash your plate … only to be greeted by thick chunks of food waste coagulating at the bottom of the sink, made worse by the pile of oily unwashed dishes that have been fermenting there for days. Not only is the sight unbearable, the stench that comes with it feels almost toxic.
Having witnessed this scenario one too many times herself, Louissa Liau decided to take matters into her own hands. Spearheading the Cluster Common Cleanliness Initiative in 2018, she wanted to raise awareness amongst Prince George’s Park House (PH) residents on the importance of hygiene, and impress upon them that cleanliness is a shared responsibility.
Staying at PH since 2016, Louissa perhaps feels a greater sense of duty towards the house she calls home. Now in her fourth and final year of study, she hopes to contribute to PH’s continued success by nurturing the mindset that when it comes to maintaining communal cleanliness, a little effort and consideration goes a long way.
“It occurred to me how important it was for everyone to play a part, not only for themselves but also for the sake of others. PH is a communal living space where the facilities are shared. That, cleanliness, and other seemingly insignificant living practices possessed by one individual can easily affect another,” she muses.
But Louissa had her work cut out for her. Changing behaviour, beliefs, or thought patterns (in other people, no less) has been widely documented as one of the hardest things to do. Just think of all the New Year’s resolutions you’ve made–whether it’s more exercise or a better diet–and how difficult it was to keep to them. Along with that, one of the biggest hurdles she has yet to overcome is managing the differing cleanliness expectations and hygiene practices among residents.
With full support from the PH management team, she devised an incentive-based system which encourages residents from a cluster to work together to upkeep the common areas. If they achieve a certain standard of cleanliness, cash vouchers are given to reward and reinforce this conduct. Her peers may have been resistant to the initiative at first, but Louissa says they are slowly coming to their ways.
“The table tops in the cluster commons are no longer used as drying racks. This shows that residents are becoming more aware and considerate for others. I’m proud to see they are actually taking this opportunity to make a change,” she happily shares.
It’s the small wins that count. While change will not happen overnight, encouraging residents to be part of the solution will allow both the movement and cleanliness of PH to be sustainable in the long term.
For the Global Studies major, being able to do her bit for PH before she leaves next year has been most rewarding, and she hopes the house will continue to flourish and improve for the benefit of her juniors.