Students of a pioneering academic institution, IIT Kharagpur, along with Child Rights and You (CRY), formed a CRY Volunteer Chapter in March 2010 with a keen desire to make a difference in the lives of people. Venturing out into uncharted waters, so to speak, this was something they had no experience in. With support from CRY Kolkata, they began to teach themselves concepts in the field of social service – something that went beyond the purview of their academic curriculum.
The Chapter channeled their efforts to ensure the rights of their fellow citizens – those of the students with disabilities in their own campus, and of the inhabitants of the villages of Ghagra, Balrampur. These efforts required extensive data collection, analysis, and cross-functional work with various departments of the government and the inhabitants of the villages themselves.
In order to be more effective at the grassroots level and to increase their understanding of the situation at hand, the students decided to undertake extensive surveys at the villages. The plight of the villagers made a deep impact on each of the chapter members. “During our interactions, we learnt about their daily routine, their struggles, their happiness and their ambitions. It was in that instant that we connected with them, and this strengthened our determination,” says a CRY volunteer.
The group began to hold talks with the Panchayats village, writing several letters to the concerned authorities. They decided to organize social awareness campaigns on issues like the Right to Education, the Mid-day Meal Scheme, etc.
Aided by their legal team, they gained insight and understanding of the various schemes run by the State and the Central government. This information and awareness was then passed on to the villagers themselves, who were astonished at the number of benefits they were entitled to, but had no idea about.
The persistent efforts began to yield results and a number of hand pumps for drinking water were built at several schools. After observing their success, the Head of Balrampur village asked the group to organize similar campaigns in nearby schools.
The results were inspiring. “We found that we could genuinely extend support to people,” says another CRY volunteer. “These little achievements push us to do more. It is an immense feeling of self satisfaction - not only is it a learning experience, but it also gives you the satisfaction of doing something beyond routine, beyond the usual,” he adds.
What was initially a small Chapter has grown to a group of 38 motivated and passionate students from different walks of life. Engineering students, Law students and MBA students between the ages of 19 and 25 come together to work towards empowerment and creating a change in the lives of many.
Another project that CRY Volunteers carried out, between May and August 2011, was to conduct an extensive survey of around 2,400 families in Bangalore and Hyderabad to identify school drop-out children.
Typically, CRY volunteers are professionals, teachers, home makers and students who work during the week and volunteer with CRY during the weekends.
Drop-out children were identified both as children who dropped out after a few years of schooling and those who never went to school. CRY volunteers collected the details and documented the reasons behind children dropping out and, on an average, spoke to each family over a period of four to five weekends, convincing them that their children need to go to school.
At the end of around 16 weekends, a total of 267 children from the two cities were put back in school thanks to around 45 CRY volunteers. Come rain or sunshine, the volunteers are focused on bringing about change in the lives of children. Sandesh, a CRY volunteer from Hyderabad, says “The sun was scorching and the temperature was very high, but none of us felt the heat as we were completely involved with the people here.”
Despite the fact that the majority of the volunteers did not know any of the local languages, they got together to script and learn the dialogues of a Street Play on Education for the children in the community. They then enacted 11 performances over 2 days.
In response to the media coverage about the volunteer enrollment drive in the Deccan chronicle in August 2011 in Bangalore (http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/cities/bengaluru/getting-drop-outs-drop-back-392), the Education department instructed the Block office in the Yeshwantpur area to conduct a survey and mainstream the 'out of school' children back into school. The Block office then conducted a survey and admitted 45 children into school, and opened up training centres.