Monday, July 18, 2011

Children have no "altitude " problem in community service

New Delhi, Apr 6 : Breaking all conventional barriers, Indian school children have surpassed their elders in community service from cleaning a dirty village pond to climbing 17,000 ft to collect 32 kg of garbage!

Ninth class student Sarojini Sarada turned a disused pond in her village in Orissa to a fish breeding ground providing an excellent business opportunity for the local people. She conducted a "Pond restoration mission" to clean the pond and motivated her friends and neighbours towards the cause.

Such is a story of not one small girl but hundreds of other students nationwide who put extraordinary efforts to serve the community.

Arun Vajpai, a XII class student from Haryana, trekked at an altitude of 17,000 ft over a period of two and a half months and collected 32 kg of garbage. It was his effort to free the people living on mountains from various ecological problems they face.

"We generally think that it is more than enough for school children to complete their homework. However, these children are not only doing well in their studies but have excelled in helping others," said Ms Sujata Dutta, founder member of Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards, organised for the first time to felicitate such students in the country on Monday.

Altogether 42 students, belonging to classes VI to XII, were shortlisted from around 600 such young volunteers and awarded medals and certificates. Two students received gold medals, a cash prize and a return trip to the US while 18 got silver medals and 20 bronze medals. Two students were also presented with Jury Appreciation Awards.

Mother to a seven-year-old boy, Ms Dutta, however, stressed that community service in India is not easy, especially for girls "When we talked to these children, we realised that there are problems like community acceptance, insecurity, and lack of encouragement, except in some cases where teachers and parents were the morale builders," she said.

Citing an example, she informed UNI about a VII class boy, S R Poobesh Gowtham, in Hosur, Karnataka, who felt strongly for the girl students of his school who had to go to toilets with no roofs.

"For construction of the covered toilets he had to raise money. When he talked about it to his friends, they used to laugh at him. But he did not feel demoralised and collected Rs 10,000 for the construction activity," she said.

Gowtham even educated children about the importance of toilet hygiene through skits, presentations and life-skills classes in his own school premises. He received a silver medal and a certificate for the same.

Emphasising that encouragement from teachers and parents can lead these students achieve greater heights, Ms Dutta shared the story of VII class student Nikkita Chhiber of St Mary's school in New Delhi who initiated a greenery club at colony level.

"She started the club and was later joined by friends who all work regularly towards making the locality parks better. She was inspired by her grandmother who was a nature lover and was helped by her school teachers," she said.

The girl received a silver medal and a certificate.

The recipient of the awards, an extension of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in the United States, were selected by an eminent jury comprising retired d IPS officer Kiran Bedi, President of Pratham NGO Madhav Chavan, Founder of Shri Ram Schools Manju Bharatram, chief of Biocon Foundation Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Founding Dean of Indian School of Business Pramath Raj Sinha.

Numerous schools all over the country were approached personally by the host company from July 2010 to December 2010 to reach out to the students. Once applications were received, the students' contributions were judged on the basis of timeline of the service, how motivated the students were, the impact that the service created and the degree of challenges faced in accomplishing the goals.

Among the first 22 awardees, 11 were from Delhi and NCR while the rest were from states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Punjab.

Noted film actress and theatre personality Shabana Azmi gave away these awards in the national capital.

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