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Charity Begins at Home – Daan Utsav ’16: Part 1

Be it Christmas, Eid or Diwali, giving has always been the principal part of any religious festival. But for a country with over a billion souls to feed, giving on any particular day of the calendar solely by a section of the society would not suffice and with more than a quarter of the population still below the poverty line, it was high time the more capable sections of the society came together and took initiative to appraise that would go on for the entire year for the betterment of the society.

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Under this common sentiment of uniting people from all sections of the society otherwise divided by religious, communal and regional barriers, to celebrate the festival of giving, Daan Utsav took form in 2009. Originally called the Joy of Giving Week, Daan Utsav has taken strength expanding its horizons and touching the hearts of millions spread across the country.

The social upliftment umbrella of Manipal University, Volunteer Services Organization (VSO) has been hosting Daan Utsav for about four years now but this year seemed quite different. Synchronizing with the Director’s mission to unite campuses and students from all branches, streams and courses in Manipal University, the Daan Utsav Organizing Committee took forward to collaborate with all colleges and student bodies in Manipal, turning this year’s Daan Utsav into a university wide celebration.

With the week long festival being launched on October 1st at the Manipal University building along with the flagging off of Tour De Manipal, an initiative by the Human Powered Endeavors Club of MIT, by Dr. HS Ballal, the Pro-Chancellor of Manipal University and Dr. GK Prabhu, Director of MIT. The ceremony was followed by the members of Udupi and Manipal Cycling clubs take their bikes for a spin across the Manipal Campus.

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The first day of Daan Utsav saw a record eleven events in one day. That was a huge achievement in itself, as the number exceeded the total event number of the previous year. ECHO Manipal, a club at its infancy which concentrated on the ecological and conservational well-being of the campus had its inaugural tree plantation drive near the MIT cricket ground, kicking off Daan Utsav by giving something back to Mother Nature! Simultaneously, Red-X and the Rotaract Club of Manipal had organized a blood donation camp at the MIT Food Court in collaboration with KMC, Manipal. With more than two-hundred-and-fifty people donating blood, the drive was a huge success. Dr. Prabhu and Prof. Maddodi also participating in the two drives instilled new vigor in the students and encouraged them to conduct the events with that much more enthusiasm.

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With the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan in full swing across India, the cadets of the NCC in their crisp uniforms, went across the campus and beyond, where their presence was much needed and took to clearing out the streets.

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Then again, an evidently disturbing fact across all of India is how slums devoid of basic amenities and hygiene seem to be cropping up due to excessive poverty and lack of job opportunities. Aarogyarpan, a ration distribution drive initiated by the students of MCON, Manipal had the students visit the Indrali slums and distribute basic amenities like food, clothing and toiletries to the residents. A small quiz competition for the children was also held. The volunteers were extremely joyful throughout, diffusing this happiness into these homes where people reciprocated with equal enthusiasm.

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One of the signature events in Manipal every Daan Utsav is Splash and Dash. A carwash fundraiser in its core, this initiative had VSO Manipal volunteers wash cars and two wheelers of faculty and the general public in various setups across campus – MIT and KMC Faculty Quarters, the HP petrol pump and the University area to name a few. The amount raised was to be utilized in buying water bottles for underprivileged drivers of the area.

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The Meal for Smile was another event organized by the SOIS and ICAS students where lunch was distributed to more than 250 daily wage workers in KMC Greens. The students of a small group of volunteers shared joy and love with inmates of an old age home. A visit to the pediatric ward of Kasturba Hospital in Manipal had the kids go gaga over the sketching kits and smiley balls they were given. After a tiring morning of activities, the volunteers and the students participating in the Utsav retired to Dr. Anup Naha’s residence for lunch. Dr. Usha Rani had cooked a scrumptious meal for the participants with help from a few VSO Volunteers.

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The Tour De Manipal initiative kicked off with Phase 1 of the journey completing on Day 1 of Daan Utsav. A total of 11 cyclists cycled to the Manipal, Mangalore Campus and were received by the Heads of Institutes and VSO Mangalore volunteers. VSO Mangalore had its own set of events including the Rice Bucket Challenge, The GyaanDaan Saptaah and the Act of Kindness challenge to get people to start the act of giving and commit to the core sentiment of the festival.

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VSO Mangalore had its own set of events including the ‘Rice Bucket Challenge,’ ‘The GyaanDaan Saptaah,’  and the ‘Act of Kindness’ challenge to get people to start the act of giving and commit to the core sentiment of the festival.

Day 2 being a working day, the enthusiasm and vigor of the students had not yet died down. The students of FOA visited Aasare Hombelaku, a home for the mentally challenged and spent the day with them. A set of footwear was gifted to every inmate in Aasare and a small sports tournament was conducted as part of the festival. The SOAHS, Manipal visited the Parkala High School and conducted a Fitness test program Aarogyadaan where all students of the 8th, 9th, and 10th standards were screened. The results of the tests will be used to suggest better health practices to improve overall quality of health among the local students. Another highlight of the day was the 3D painting the Daan Utsav logo in many places across campus by VSO Volunteers as part of an awareness drive.

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The activities of the day came to a close with the inauguration of Rangat, a five-day cultural fest to promote and recognize the activities of the day and enjoy the evening. Inaugurated by Col. Prakash Chandra, Deputy Director General Services, Manipal University and Dr. Anup Naha, Chief Coordinator of VSO, the evening aptly titled Goonj ended with students entertaining the audience with enthralling musical performances.

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