MALACCA - Garbage bins are a source of income for a 16-year-old girl from Merlimau who uses the money to help cancer survivors.
By selling recyclable items picked up from the trash, the SMK Dang Anum Fourth Former has become a constant donor to charitable organisations since 2011, giving RM50 to RM70 each month.
After school, J. Shalini spends an hour collecting recyclables such as aluminium cans from her school compound.
National Cancer Society of Malaysia's project manager Miki Chua declared Shalini as the youngest donor who contributed regularly over the past two years.
"Fifty ringgit may sound negligible but it's significant for NCSM as it is used to carry out outreach programmes for cancer survivors in the country," Chua said yesterday.
She said not many teenagers, much less adults, would be willing to rummage through garbage bins for the sake of charity.
"Shalini has been contributing RM50 a month to NCSM without fail since 2013.
"Previously, she was donating to several other organisations for the disabled before signing up as an NCSM donor," she added.
For Shalini, collecting garbage "is something noble" and she feels absolutely no shame in doing it, even if it is at crowded areas.
"People sometimes gawk at a schoolgirl digging through rubbish but I would just ignore them and collect any item that could be turned into money.
"The only time I go around rummaging garbage bins in public areas is when the collection from the school grounds is insufficient to generate the RM50 for a particular month," she said, adding that the idea of using recyclables to help charities came to her from her late grandfather.
"He used to do the same to help estate workers who were facing financial constraints.
"At that time, neighbours would come and ask grandpa for monetary help, and the cash from trash was used to help them," Shalini said.
She now has a corner outside her house where she stores the collected items before the dealers come to take them away.
"If the sum is lower than RM50, my parents would top up the amount," said Shalini, who is eager to encourage her classmates to join her in doing good.
"I guess my idea could work out as being environmentally conscious and has gained grounds among students over the years, and now they could do good with recyclables," she added.
Shalini plans to set up a non-profit organisation to scale things up to encourage fellow students as well as to help keep the school clean.