Working toward providing greater opportunities and a chance of a better life for the disadvantaged citizens of our nation, we at Concern India Foundation support programmes in the areas of health, education and community development through both financial and non-financial assistance.
Through our blog, we hope to give you an insight into the way we work, our initiatives for the development of our partner organisations, and the effort we put into making both our programmes and its beneficiaries independent and self-reliant. We invite you to engage with us by sharing your views, thoughts and suggestions about our work and how together, we can work towards a better tomorrow.
People donate to make things happen. To put their values to worth. To make a difference. So I thought, why not provide a platform for people, as well as myself, to give back. In september 2019, I turned 16 years old and as a way to give back some of everything I have received, I decided to start a fundraiser. My first objective was to find a meaningful cause so that I could completely devote myself to it. Using Ketto as a platform, I decided to crowdfund money for local farmers around Maharashtra for Concern India Foundation. Farmers who work in rural and remote locations have to deal with hardships like unpredictable climate and market conditions, financial strain, social isolation, long working hours and reduced access to services. Having been brought up in Mumbai, I have never been fully exposed to the hardships most Indians go through, but I have always been told to count my blessings and be grateful for everything in my life. However, as much as I am grateful for everything, I would never truly be happy with myself if I didn’t find a means to give back to society. Being the second fundraiser I have started independently, I find that fundraising can be exhilarating when all the good it can do shows. The more I try to think of new creative and entrepreneurial ways to crowdfund for a meaningful cause, the more I fall in love with the thought that I am touching and helping multiple people’s lives. No matter how you choose to fundraise, how much you raise or whether you do it regularly, fundraising brings a sense of fulfillment like no other. On the other hand, according to me, meeting one fundraising goal does not mean I have accomplished great things and can now sit back and relax. For me, there are always more people to help and more you can do to support your cause, which means a constant stream of funding is always going to be needed. I am looking forward to pursuing my love for doing everything I can to give back to society.
Two years ago, and after attending a fun but exhausting UN session is when I was first introduced to Concern India Foundation, at an event called, “Splash”. At first, I felt like it was yet another one of those sessions that a 15- year old was being dragged to, but that changed, very quickly.
Splash, to me was more than just a regular art competition. Witnessing first hand, differently abled children, sketch and paint, demonstrating their talents on stage by dancing and singing moved me deeply, and made me realize how positive they were by not letting their physical faculties get in the way of the human spirit. As I participated alongsidethem and with time, I was more appreciative of them. It gave me pause to introspect and was just the first step I would take in my journey and in my own way, do whatever little I could possibly do for the greater good.
“Enriching Young Minds”, a program designed for both children and parents and for them to hear firsthand from professionals and experts, was another enlightening opportunity for me and my friends. We helped with organizing and executing the event, in small parts, which put our planning and organizational skills to test. It personally gave me an opportunity to overcome my stage fear, when I was tasked with the introductions of the panel members and also to showcase my skills at operating the audio -visual equipment.
“Women of Today” has a special place in my heart. It was a very real demonstration of how beautiful, caring, loving, balanced and powerful women are. It was made adequately clear to me at the event, that women could excel and become experts in their choice of pursuits and also balance that with family. This event made me see my mother in a different light. She wasn’t just a “mom”, but a hard-working, driven and talented woman, who achieved anything she put her mind to.
Just ahead of COVID, my friends and I volunteered for the special needs Children’s Sports Day, where we organized games, assisted the children and helped out with different tasks. I recognized quite a few of the participants from the earlier help Splash event in 2018, and it was really nice and heartening to see them, again and was a reinforcement of sorts that I was on the correct path.
While COVID, was the most disruptive event of 2020, impacting millions, claiming thousands of lives, pushingmillions below the poverty line, and causing the exodus of migrant labor, my friends and I set out to do what we could, on our part, to help alleviate the suffering of a few. We started afund-raising campaign on social media, proceeds of which would help with PPE kits, ventilators, food supplies and other essentials as required.
We set ourselves a target of INR 3 lakhs, but raised approximately 6 lakh INR, with the help of our friends. All of us had different emotions and experiences of camaraderie, bringing out our creative best to make and post videos, writing scripts which served as the voice over, making an excel spread sheet to track donations received and encouraging each other on. In a time when we were confined to our homes, and people were getting used to social distancing, and isolation, we were busy becoming more effective and efficient. It is an experience which is uplifting and unparalleled. Knowing that you have contributed in a small way, whatever little and that your actions could potentially help just one soul, is as if you saved the world.
Experiences as a volunteer, changes you, for the better. It helps you appreciate and be grateful for what you have and that there is more to life than just you as an individual. It transcends you beyond materialistic possessions and offersexperiences that no money can buy. You can literally see your actions having an immediate positive impact, no matter how small or large your contributions are, irrespective of whether it was monetary or your time. Most of all, and as the principle protagonist,Aragorn from the movie, “Lord of the Rings”, at the battle of Helm’s Deep very eloquently says, “There is always hope”.
In my last blog, I had written about how underprivileged children are dealing with education in the times of COVID-19 with limited access to technology. The aim of this blog is to explain how students who are fortunate enough to have access to technology, feel about online education and the ramifications of the pandemic on schooling and education today.
Probably one of the most significant impacts of the pandemic on education is the interruption of all the major exams in the country. Due to the pandemic the ICSE, ISC, CBSE and some state board exams were delayed in March. The IBDP and IGCSE exams scheduled for May were cancelled as well. This has resulted in high levels of stress in students over the past couple of months as they did not exactly know what was going to happen to these exams. All the Indian boards had not made their position clear during this trying time and there was confusion and panic spreading between anxious class 10 and 12 students. Finally, a decision has been taken to cancel the exams (thanks to legal intervention), however, the marking scheme is still ambiguous.
As for the rest of the students, I willbe writing about their views on online education and what they feel, are its advantages and disadvantages.
There are a plethora of reasons why students like online school at the moment. The primary reason is…. they don’t have to get up so early every morning. They feel a lot more comfortable at home doing classes being able to sit on a bed or on a sofa, maybe being able to eat if they felt like making the entire experience a lot more bearable. Additionally, students are not required to wear their school uniform, which is an added benefit for them. They also feelmore comfortable asking the teacher questions on WhatsApp- something which they do not usually do. Also, the actual school hours are reduced so they do have a little more time. Most students find it easier to focus due to the lack of any distraction provided by their classmates. Some children are also happier as they have found multiple ways to create mischief in this new system.
The most obvious reason why students do not like online schooling is the lack of physical interaction with their fellow peers. They are missing their friends dearly, which is understandable as it is in school where lifelong friendships are formed. This shift in paradigm has put the development of social skills to a halt. There is not a lot of provision for extracurricular activities either. Another disadvantage is that because the students have extra time, schools are burdening them with plenty of extra homework- concerning many parents as well. Some students also feel that their phones cause a distraction during class and that it’s very easy to lose focus and start daydreaming. They say that online school is very draining and mentally exhausting, staring at the screen for a long period of time. Poor internet connection has also created issues for many people.
After having spoken to a couple of teachers myself, I have also been able to understand their perspective on online schooling- it is really disadvantageous for them. For starters, they cannot gauge whether a student has understood a concept or not, they may only have a hunch. Due to the fact that the teaching hours are reduced, teachers are sending out worksheets for the children to do (primarily for the junior classes) and that is how they are assessing a student’s progress. Teachers also often feel that they are talking to themselves when they teach online classes and sometimes it can get highly demotivating. Students often keep their videos off so teachers cannot tell if they are even present or not or see if they are paying attention in class. They may be doing other things such as watching a movie or texting their friends while the teacher is explaining. These reasons make online school a nuisance for teachers.
In conclusion, the effect of online schooling differs from student to student. For a more studious and focused child, it may not be so bad; but for distracted children, it becomes extremely difficult to cope. The entire education system, all over the country has dramatically changed due to the pandemic. Everyone- students, parents and teachers are waiting to get back to their normal routine.
Full name: Vihaan Desai
School: Hill Spring International
While the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to spare a thought for the underprivileged children who have been unable to attend school for the last three months. These children have limited access to modern technology and therefore they have found it extremely challenging to make the transition to online education, unlike the rest of the world. The aim of this blog is just to give you an insight into how students and teachers in rural areas are dealing with the pandemic situation and how the absence of school is affecting children.
Let’s begin with exactly how students are receiving their education at the moment. Some schools have been shut since March and their students have been sitting at home doing nothing during this time. Most of these schools are funded by the Government and have received no instructions from the administration on how to conduct online classes or find an alternate solution. This lack of initiative on the government’s behalf is the reason many children are missing out on their education.
On the other hand, there are NGO funded schools who are making attempts to teach their students online. Although the kids are fascinated with this whole new system of education, this system does have its own set of problems. The medium of teaching until now was on mobile phones via WhatsApp and very recently, they have shifted to zoom. None of these children have laptops and most don’t have phones of their own. Owing to this, students are dependent on their parents’ phones. The issue with this is that even though the entire country is under lockdown, the parents still have daily wage jobs and therefore are not at home during the normal school hours, but only at night.” The teachers have had to adjust to the timings that are convenient to the students and parents”, said Rose, from the Karunya foundation. With this shift in paradigm, she said “teachers are also unable to gauge whether a child has understood a concept or not and cannot track homework assignments either”. Having said that, the children were over the moon to see their friends’ and teachers’ faces after so long.
The primary issue with this system is that many children receive proper shelter and food in school. The provision of midday meals was an integral part of the day. Now, with the lockdown in place many children and their families yearn for the basic essentials. This is what the children miss most about school. For them, school is like a safe haven filled with happiness to escape the problems at home. This is the main reason why children are so eager to come back to school.
Full name: Vihaan Desai
School: Hill Spring International
We recently got some employees from a corporate to join us on a Nature Walk at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali. These didis & bhaiyas (employee volunteers) who volunteered were more than excited to spend a day walking through the woods with some of the young minds from one of our programmes. The volunteers began with a little briefing and by serving breakfast to the children. The combination of the cool breeze and the chirping birds made for a very pleasant experience.
We took the Shilonda trail, lined with bamboo groves, termite mounds, Pongam Trees and a multitude of beautiful foliage. The trail even had a stream flowing through it, adding to its charm.The children seemed to think the stream was the best part of the trail! We had two nature guides accompanying the group, they shared facts about nature that intrigued the children & the employees. Every child was paired with an employee. The groups took advantage of multiple photo opportunities along the trail. The children enjoyed collecting stones and leaves as little memento on our way back.
This isn’t where the day ended though… To enhance the impact of this educational experience, we had arranged another activity for the kids. Post the nature walk, we took everyone to the auditorium at NIC where they made paper bags & painted diyas. We had even organized two caricature artists to create sketches for each child. The children were delighted to witness the cartoon versions of themselves. The day came to an end after a hearty and well deserved meal. The employees beamed with happiness, much like the children.
Sports Day for the Differently Abled, an annual initiative of Concern India Foundation was presented by Inner Wheel Club Nigdi Pride on Friday, September 2nd, 2016 at Sanas Ground, near Saras Baug, Pune. It was also supported by Credit Suisse, AshtaVinayak Developers Govardhan, Dilasa Kendra, Club Delhi and Hyatt, Hinjewadi. Ms. Charu Chinchankar lit the torch and flagged off the event. Inner Wheel District Chairman, Ms. Dinaz Tarapore along with other IWC members were present throughout the day, encouraging and motivating the kids. Special Child Artiste, Gauri Gadgil from the movie ‘Yellow’ was present for the Prize Distribution. She was felicitated by the IWC for her outstanding achievements. She also offered kind words of encouragement to the children present.
This edition of the sports day saw a convergence of 200 special children from different NGOs across Pune between the age group of 8 – 18 years. Sports officials from Special Olympics Bharat conducted the athletic events specially designed for these individuals. Some of them were, wheel chair races, relay and soft ball throw etc.