UWC Mahindra College monthly newsletter

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Project week

In November almost the entire population of the college will leave the campus to take part in various projects in different parts of India. The projects on offer this year are as follows:

Alice’s Project, Varanasi

Alice’s Project is an NGO that is involved in educating under-priviledged children but in a more holistic way. Located in Sarnath, a center for Buddhism near Varanasi, it is one of India’s oldest cities sitting on the banks of the Ganges river and one of the holiest places for Hindus.

The website states: “Body and intellect are combined with yoga and meditation, taught as part of the core curriculum to every child every day. In this same way, spirit and emotions are not separate as they are part of our every day talking and thinking.” Alice’s project also includes teacher training and, to a lesser extent, is involved in community development.

Students who make Alice’s Project their choice for project week will have an opportunity to interact with both teachers and students to understand the reality of life in Sarnath and the challenges the people there face. The participants will also prepare lessons, sharing cultural information from their region / country and develop a small project with the organizers. Students should be open to learning from the students, participating in yoga and meditation sessions and will also be expected to share some of their own creative talents during their interactions.  

Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA), Bangalore

The Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA) is a child-centered, rights-based, community development organization founded in 1981 and located in Bangalore. APSA works at two levels - at the grassroots level where the focus is on empowerment of the poor and at the macro level of the state and the country through advocacy and policy planning. This two-pronged approach is reflected in the planning and implementation of all of APSA's projects.

Last year's project week in APSA was planned collaboratively by MUWCI volunteers and APSA staff. After a day's orientation on APSA's projects, our volunteers spent the rest of the week with the Child Labour project, who at the time had a campaign in progress. This allowed our volunteers to take part actively in conducting surveys. They accompanied the Child Labour project team to government institutions, visited slums, attended women's group meetings - all of which helped them arrive at a holistic picture of child labour in the context of urban poverty. They also learned to deal realistically with issues of rehabilitation, processes of law, child rights versus family rights etc.

CHiRAG, Uttaranchal

Central Himalayan Rural Action Group (CHiRAG) is a non-profit grassroots development organisation working with rural communities in the Central Himalayan region of India. Their main office is located in the village of Sitla in the state of Uttaranchal. CHiRAG is also involved with issues of social empowerment and community mobilization, income generation and training and communication which it considers critical to its integrated development strategy. Areas of intervention include preparatory schools or balwaris, primary school support programmes, with a thrust on environmental education, village libraries, science laboratories, centres for adolescent girl empowerment, preventive and curative health programmes and a local self-governance programme.

During the project week students will be taken to the health centres, introduced to the adolescent girls programme and work in the horticulture farm. They will also visit the weaving and oil extraction unit and have an opportunity to attend a village meeting. Please check the following websites for further information:


Eklavya, Madhya Pradesh

This project week choice, based in the small town of Hoshangabad on the scenic Narmada River, questions will be raised concerning the purpose and reality of school education in India. In particular we will ask: What role can education play in social / political transformation? What difference does scientific literacy make? What is worth reading? In whose interest is education? Evidence and answers will be sought through activities with children and teachers. We will be guests of Eklavya, an NGO that has been developing innovative teaching programmes, writing and publishing children’s textbooks, storybooks, magazines and books on science and education, as well as training teachers, teaching students, making educational toys, science kits and assisting schools in planning and development. The goal will be for students to learn something about the people of India, their educational needs and the politics of poverty. Besides visiting a local government school, MUWCI students will have the opportunity to help plan and conduct a Bal Mela in which rural children will gather to do science experiments and art activities. Students will also be expected to either write or illustrate some material that will be considered for publication in one of the Eklavya magazines.

FabIndia School, Rajasthan

The FabIndia school is located in a rural district of Rajasthan and was set up in 1992 to promote literacy and further education opportunities through English as a medium of study.  This is a new project week choice this year, and will likely involve students preparing a global appreciation unit for the students in the FabIndia school. This project will focus on identifying national and cultural differences / similarities between India and some of the countries represented by the MUWCI group. The students will prepare different presentations about their own nations and cultures, focusing on particular themes like food, dress, marriage etc. They will also develop different activities to focus on cultural differences, cultural conflicts and respect for different cultures. One of the aims will also be to improve the proficiency of the FabIndia school’s children’s knowledge of English and this can also be integrated into the program. The entire class time of one or two grades (from grades 6-12) will be available for around five hours a day of class time for the duration of the project.  Participants will home stay with some of the local students.

Irula Tribe and Crocodile Bank, Tamil Nadu

The Irula project, located in rural and coastal Tamil Nadu, has two aspects to it. In the first phase students will go to a village in the interior and work with the Irula Tribal Women's Welfare Society (ITWWS). The Irulas, one of the sixth oldest forest dwelling people of the world, are famous as snake catchers. The ITWWS is one of the initiatives to economically and socially rehabilitate the Irula tribe and among other activities they are now licensed to capture venomous snakes in order to assist in anti-venom production for vaccines. Students will learn about their lifestyle as well as participating in re-forestation work

The second aspect of the project involves working at the Madras Crocodile Bank. This will familiarize students on the background of the crocodile bank and teach them how  to look after the crocodile population by helping to feed them and clean the pits.

Kalpavriksh, Sirsi, Karnataka

This topic will involve active participation with an NGO in their efforts to get communities involved with biodiversity conservation. The effort facilitated by Kalpavriksh, near the town of Sirsi in northern Karnataka, is an innovative experiment in getting ordinary people involved in protecting biodiversity. This community programme is located in the forests of the Western Ghats in Karnataka where students will be staying in village homes, participating in seed collections and other activities, getting to know the local community and how they live (including the rich local cuisine!), interacting with environmentalists and ecologists and participating in several hikes into the heart of the forest. 

Sangama, Bangalore                          

Sangama is a sexual minorities human rights organization for individuals oppressed due to their sexual preference. Sexual minorities include, but are not limited to, hijras, kothis, jogappas, lesbians, bisexuals, homosexuals, female-to-male / male-to-female transsexuals. Sangama aims to help these people live with self acceptance, self respect and dignity. They especially emphasize the concerns of sexual minorities from poor and / or non-English speaking backgrounds and sex workers, who otherwise have little or no access to information and resources. Sangama aims to bring sexuality, sexual preference and gender identity into the realm of public discourse and link it to gender, human rights development and other social movements. Sangama campaigns for the changes in the existing laws, which discriminate against sexual minorities, including sex workers and people living with HIV / AIDS (PLHA). They work with family members, friends, co-workers and partners of sexual minorities.

While at Sangama, students will have interactive field visits, watch documentaries, hear personal experiences from the community, take part in sessions on lesbian issues, workshops on human rights and sexuality and an activity session / group discussion with a college in Bangalore where Sangama conducts their awareness program. They will also participate in any campaigns that may take place during our time with them.

Shanti Nir (Nest of peace), Calcutta

There are two parts of the Shanti Nir project. Shanti Nir, a Jesuit NGO run by Father Saju George, offers extra help to students of labourers in the evening. Many students are taught free of charge and some others pay for the classes depending on their means. The project aims to reinforce what students learn at school. The students interact with children from grades 6 through grades 10 and share games and other global cultures with them.

The second part, at the Mother Theresa Mission, deals with the ailing and dying. At one facility there are mentally challenged patients who are very ill and have been picked up from the streets of Kolkatta. The work involves taking care of their daily needs, such as washing their clothes, vessels after breakfast and sweeping and washing the open spaces, as well as shaving the men. It also requires students to help care for the women by spending time talking with them.

Centre for Environment Education

CEE's work in Gujarat was initiated prior to 1984 as has its headquarters at Ahmedabad. At the time it began its activities, CEE was perhaps the only organization actively engaged in environmental education in the country. The focus of CEE's work in the state has been promoting environment education leading to environmental action.

Some of the ongoing and important projects in the state are: Education for Children, EE in Higher Education, Education for Youth, Communicating through Media, EE through Interpretation, Sustainable Rural Development, Sustainable Urban Development, Training, Networking and Capacity Building.

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