Building a caring community

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Volunteers helping people set of isolated cartoon style compositions of young humanitarian characters in various situations vector illustration

Community activities are a great way to inculcate values among students and make them sensitive towards others. 
NT KURIOCITY learns how colleges inculcate this in their curriculum and how it has benefitted students

RAMANDEEP KAUR|NT KURIOCITY

In this day and age, when life has become a rat race, it’s easy for youngsters to become self-centred. But in order to build character and make them more sensitive towards fellow human beings, many educational institutions in the state include community activities in their curriculum.

Among these is Carmel College for Women, Nuvem which under the banner of NSS (National Service Scheme), conducts a number of activities like plastic and e-waste collection drives; fitness plog runs; plantation programmes; visit to prisons, orphanages, and aged homes; street plays; composting and making seed bombs; giving food for street people; and more.

“These activities make them conscious of the needs of the community and how each of them can serve to make a difference,” says head, Department of Economics, and NSS Program Officer in Charge at the college, Rovina Fernandes, adding that students learn values like love, empathy, responsibility and leadership.

In fact, their volunteers were also active during the lockdown last year, creating over 1500 masks for people. Some also arranged food items for migrants stranded at the Margao Railway Station. Besides this, they have been creating awareness on COVID-19 through motivational videos and posters.

Meanwhile, the Department of Sociology, Parvatibai Chowgule College of Arts and Science, Margao has been doing community outreach through the HUMAN (Human, U and Me in Aid of Needy) Club which focuses its activities on themes like childhood development, caring for the aged, differently abled, sick and underprivileged groups, welfare of the youth, health, and clean environment.

Head, Department of Sociology, Sachin Moraes says that the activities have a clear cut objectives ie to enable students to learn social responsibility, to provide an exposure about underprivileged groups and create an ambience to reflect on the possible ways of intervention in their development, to learn from peoples’ experience and try to create facilities that would empower them, and to make their institution and individuals realise their duty towards serving the neighbourhood communities. “Through these activities, we want to create a platform for the students where they could contribute after their graduation. Some students have also found their calling and gone on to specialise in courses like Masters in Social Work,” he says.

But conducting activities with students being online has been quite challenging as the very essence of the club is to be there in person. “We did take up a small project during this period where students reached out to the labour class or anyone who was not wearing a mask. Our students reached out to 100 people who did not wear mask in public places in Margao, explained to them the importance and compelled them to wear a mask by giving them a cloth mask stitched by our student free of cost,” says Moraes who is also the dean of Social Sciences and Languages.

The experience of students through these activities, says assistant professor, Department of Sociology, Sayali Gaunkar, will ignite the fire within some of the students to make social work/welfare as their mission of life.

S S Dempo College of Commerce & Economics, Cujira also offers students a platform to render service to the community under NSS. Assistant Professor in Commerce and NSS Programme Officer in Charge at the college, Amit Naik says that these activities enable students to consider the perspective of the community and understand them. “Students recognise the needs of the society, making them more compassionate and responsible. This in turn brings about holistic development in students.”

And during the pandemic all activities were carried out in virtual mode. These included making digital posters on various issues like health and fitness, COVID-19 awareness, awareness on road safety week, etc. A plastic free campaign was also carried out by the students who themselves stitched and distributed cloth bags. Besides this, there were other activities like an awareness talk on e- waste, followed by an e-waste collection drive.

Students have also stitched and distributed face masks and made collages on the different ways to stay fit during the spread of the virus. “Students also participated in the government’s initiative of Tika Utsav through the making of videos to create awareness and persuade people to not shun away from taking the vaccine,” says Naik.

At Dnyanprassarak Mandal’s College, Assagao, the Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat cell conducts various competitions and awareness programmes on social issues. At present, these are being done online. And associate professor, Department of English, and nodal officer of the cell at the college, Shanthi Muninathan says that these awareness programmes make the students think about society›s problems.

In fact, under the Department of English, they also have a programme called Dan Utsav which they organise every year during the first week of October. “We collect money from students and college staff and then buy food ingredients, bed sheets, bath towels, napkins and toiletries, etc which are then donated to old age homes,” says Muninathan adding that the English Department also organises a Spoken English workshop as an extension activity for school children from remote areas like Keri.

In the capital city, Don Bosco College, Panaji via their eco club ‘Ecotiva’ conducts various community awareness and outreach programmes. “The community consciousness programmes instil certain values in the students like reaching out to the less privileged or marginalised,” says assistant professor in environmental education at the college, Glenda Mascarenhas, adding that she is proud to see many of their current and former students involved and associated with different groups associations like Goenkar Sangathi, YUVA and Vivekanand Environment Awareness Brigade (VEAB).

And the students themselves attest to the many benefits of being part of community outreach programmes.

Rosanne Fernandes from Parvatibai Chowgule College of Arts and Science, Margao reveals that she joined the club because from a young age she was always taught about the need to give back to society. At the same time, she also wanted the academic credits that came with it. But looking back, she is glad she took it up. “That one decision has definitely provided me the opportunity to give back to the society even if it has been in a very small way,” she says, adding that among the many experience she has had includes conducting a street play by Childline NGO and being part of a palliative care learning programme.

Each of the activities, says Rosanne, have been really educative in terms of obtaining real life lessons. “It has made me look at things in a different way and also brought about a desire in me to actually do something by myself and not have someone else ask me to do such activities for the people in my community,” she says, adding that now whenever an opportunity to do something comes up irrespective of how challenging it might be, her past experiences motivate her to take it up. “The satisfaction I get at the end of the day only builds up my desire to continue the service for the members of the community,”
she says.

Rachel Rodrigues from Carmel College for Women, Nuvem also agrees that each experience has taught her so much about the society. “As I was going about doing community services along with my classmates, I have realised that there is so much to see and experience if only we open our eyes and observe. It has also taught me what it means to empathise with those who are poor or suffering,” she says adding that on a personal level, participating and learning from community service has helped her in becoming a better person and being aware of the outside world, how there is so much happening and there is still so much to be done. “At the end of the day, I think what matters is knowing that someone out there is happy because
of you.”

However, for Ivo Goncalves who is pursuing his Masters in Social Work at Don Bosco College, Panaji, the experience has been a challenging one. According to him, reaching out to people and getting their attention isn’t easy. “We have grown ignorant and selfish to the issues that truly matter. But I started working with three-four youth and ended getting more youth involved. We have to make people truly believe in a common issue for them to feel what we feel,” he says, adding that it has given him a better understanding of the deeper issues and techniques to deal with it. He has learned to motivate people and encourage them to participate. And these activities have helped him recognise people that are true towards making a change in society. “I’ve personally been de-motivated by many but I’ve learned how to ignore that. I’ve grown stronger in making my voice be heard,” he says.

Working in a community is always a challenge, believes Swizelle Fernandes of Parvatibai Chowgule College of Arts and Science, Margao. “But the happiness it gives is truly something I will always cherish,” she says. Swizelle has been part of many community activities like that of visiting old age homes where she learned that all that the elderly need is compassion, love, understanding and just someone to talk and express
their feelings.

She has also taught illiterate kids from slums and for a week was with Palliative Care, Ponda, where she learned how to help the sick. “It is not just them but the families of such people who also need social and psychological support,” she says. Doing these activities, she says, got her closer to mankind and helped her be more compassionate towards these communities.