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Giving What We Can—The National Conference on Youth in Social Change

The first session of the National Conference on Youth in Social Change 2018 commenced at 5:30 pm on Saturday, welcoming students, faculty, and volunteers of DaanUtsav to the Dr. TMA Pai Halls in KMC. After a short welcoming speech by the Convenor of the National Conference Vishal Kashyap, the Chief Guest Dr. H S Ballal, the Pro-Chancellor of MAHE with over four decades of contribution to the institution, was invited on stage to light the lamp and commemorate the event. Dr. Ballal then addressed the gathering with a short yet inspiring speech about an institution’s responsibilities to society, besides expressing pride that the conference attracted delegates from outside Manipal too. Following the Chief Guest’s speech, the Guest of Honor Dr. Vinod Bhat, the former HOD of Community Medicine at KMC and the 6th Vice-Chancellor of MAHE was called upon the stage to deliver the inaugural address. After sharing his wise words on the importance of creating social impact via the Academy, the inaugural session concluded with a vote of thanks by Tarangini S.

The panel discussion which began at 6 pm, was preceded by a short 5-minute news broadcast on social change presented by DaanUtsav. The moderator for the panel discussion, Mr. Venkat Krishnan, addressed the audience and briefly introduced the esteemed panellists of the session – namely Prof Madhu Veeraraghavan from TAPMI, Mr. Vivek Sharma, the Program Director at Gandhi Fellowship and Ms. Kanika Sinha, the Director of Outreach at ComMutiny. Mr. Venkat K asked the panellists various questions regarding their organisations and their experiences with social change, which the panelists responded to by sharing inspiring anecdotes, personal and public development goals and a united aim of ‘creating social change and transformation within oneself and society’.

Ms. Sinha shared a touching example of auto-drivers in Lucknow advocating for women safety as well as including the transgender community for employment, further urging the audience to take an initiative in social change. Mr. Vivek Sharma also talked about how the Gandhi Fellowship aims to achieve at least 5 to 6 of their designated 17 Social Development Goals. To quote Mr. Krishnan, “Failure is a fundamental right.” He pressed the youth to take initiative, irrespective of peer pressure and parental restrictions, instilling in them a motto of not fearing failure. All the panellists collectively put forth a central idea of shifting focus from oneself to the community. The panel then took questions from the audience, in which a multitude of delegates from MAHE took part but this was cut short due to time constraints due to which the panelists then urged more delegates for discussion outside the halls. The panel then dissolved after receiving mementos from the students of MAHE, and the conference shifted to the cultural programme for the night.

The second day of the National Conference on Youth in Social Change commenced with a light shower of rain, with volunteers and participants from various colleges enjoying steaming cups of coffee with breakfast. The TMA Pai Hall soon spurted into action as the teams began putting up their posters for display and inspection. The students had put their hearts and souls into making some of the most beautiful illustrations. The icing on the cake was that a detailed look at the poster would reveal multiple creative ideas aimed at social work for the society and the environment. The posters screamed out in a million voices, young and bold, addressing issues like hunger management, waste disposal, noise pollution and the present day scenario of nursing homes.

The day followed with the launch of Manipal Seva Mela – an exhibition of various NGOs. Representatives of various organisations like Teach for India, Gandhi Fellowship, Power and Bhumi, interacted extensively with the crowd explaining to them their plan of action and the kind of work they involve in. It was an excellent opportunity for people interested in volunteer work to build contacts with these NGOs and get inducted subsequently. Alongside such info-stalls were a bunch of NGOs like Nandu’s Art and Unique Creative Art selling vibrant trinkets and handicrafts. The vivid display of the wide range of products attracted a lot of people. The primary program organised in the morning was the NGO talk by Vivek Sharma, the Program Director at Gandhi Fellowship and Kanika Sinha, the Director – Outreach at ComMutiny. The speakers went on to share their experience of building up their foundations followed by presentations and videos about it. Mr Sharma shed light on social entrepreneurship- its growth in the coming years and a few handy tactics for its successful implementation. Next, in the speech delivered by Vinayak Lohani, the founder of Parivaar, the audience navigated the various philosophical and emotional concepts associated with the idea of social work. The audience was all ears to the golden words of wisdom of these panellists and felt heart-touched by their stories and beliefs.

In a question-answer round with Mr Vinayak Lohani, The MIT Post was privileged to gather a few insightful takes on his organisation – Parivaar. Apart from being one of the largest free residential institutes for underprivileged kids in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, Parivaar also conducts multifarious welfare programs for all age groups.

Q: At what point of time did it strike you to drop a lucrative career opportunity, being an alumnus of IIT and IIM, to instead open a shelter home for the underprivileged kids?

A: For many years in life, I have blindly followed the whims and fancies of the society around me. I got inducted into IIT, was placed at Infosys and after that pursued my MBA at IIM. I was victimised by the herd mentality. One needs to look inwards and figure out their calling.

It was in IIM that I first worked as a social helper on a huge platform. I founded a club for social work volunteering. It was the first of its kind. The club functioned on a clause that no volunteer would ever mention any social work in his resume through this club. I wanted it to be a selfless act and was surprised to still see a huge influx. This laid the cornerstone of not sitting for placements this time and opening a shelter home.

Q: Parivaar only inducts children from underprivileged backgrounds who are mostly seen to be in the age group of 5-10. It must be emotionally challenging for such a young child to leave his/her home and trust a complete stranger. How are the first few days of the child at the new home? Are there any special familiarisation techniques?

A: The kids inducted into our home don’t have any family support. They are orphans or belong to single parents living on streets and railway platforms. Some children were stuck in child labour or were victims of trafficking before joining Parivaar.

A lot of girls are rescued from red light districts and mass prostitution areas. The generation to generation involvement in prostitution makes them a high probability area of kids tied to the shadiest perils of life. They are in an unprotected environment without families. Once in the institution, we provide a holistic environment for mental peace and growth throughout the years of his/her stay. Otherwise, at the level of families, or the local environment solutions in the forms of various welfare programs are provided that would be best not only emotionally for the child but also financially for the organisation.

Q: Parivaar now houses more than ten thousand kids as permanent residents. Is it difficult to find an equally massive staff for various domains, who hold a deep conviction in the organisation?

Of course in this sector, one of the most determining constraints for many organisations, particularly at grass root levels, is low resources. There is a dearth of competent and dedicated individuals who are willing to work at such organisations. Hence, hiring volunteers can be a challenging task at hand. In fact, that to a very large extent determines the rate at which we scale.

One must be on a lookout for people in similar fields. This increases your reach and spreads the word that you are open to volunteers. We find individuals interested or engaged in social work and wish to expand their reach and environment. Some of our kids who passed out of Parivaar are working full time with us now.

The afternoon session of the second day of the Conference saw a panel discussion on Daan Utsav, the nationwide Festival of Giving held annually. The panel consisted of Dr. Prahalathan Karunakaran of Bhumi,  Aarti Madhusudan of Governance Counts and Navaneeth U, MAHE with Venkat Krishnan of Daan Utsav.

The panel introduced the basic concept of Daan Utsav and discussed various ways people all over the country can give a helping hand to anybody in need.  Aarti Madhusudan talked about some of her experiences in Chennai spreading the word about the power of giving and inculcating the culture of Daan Utsav, like children taking the place of their mothers in long queues to fetch water. Navaneeth U, who leads the MAHE Volunteer Services Organisation as its Student Ambassador, talked about the organisation’s deeds, which have ranged from collecting funds for causes through car washes to sessions with children in slums and orphanages. Dr. Prahalathan, who has chosen to give up his medical career to build his own foundation, Bhumi, to volunteer and help, talked about the need for parents to inculcate the idea of giving. He said, “More than the teachings in school, it is the parents who need to inculcate the idea of giving”. He mentions that college students should volunteer to teach elementary students to bridge the gap, if not to eradicate illiteracy completely.

With the end of the panel discussion and the end of the afternoon session, the audience took away not only the warm emotion that the conference radiated but also their knowledge about what counts the most, “The act of giving without having second thoughts.”

Image Credits: The Photography Club, Manipal




KAIROS––A Celebration of the Blend of Cultures

Kairos, an event organised jointly by IAESTE, AIESEC, IPSF, and CAM, on International Day, celebrated the spirit of co-operation among countries from all over the world. It was held at the Dr. T.M.A Pai Hall on the 10th of August 2018. Showcasing the beauty of friendship and diversity, Kairos brought students together by the very thing that sets them apart, culture.

The day started off with an event called ‘Quizzing with Kahoot’. The event attracted quite a crowd that almost filled the room. The next event was called the ‘World Café’. People of different nationalities were seated together and were asked to discuss world events. The event saw a lot of important questions being raised such as, “Why are the youth so desperately trying to fit in and experience a sense that they belong somewhere?”, “Why is this becoming a trend nowadays?”, “Why are depression and anxiety so common among young people?”, were a few.

The participants shuffled tables continuously, re-discussing the same questions. This event had a personal touch to it, which made it more gripping. Discussions led to shedding light over topics that are often brushed off, that reflected upon generic problems faced all over the world which are often thought of as endemic. ‘World Café’ was followed by an event called Turncoat. The event created quite a bit of a hustle amongst the hosts as nobody turned up for the event.

The second half of the day started off with a one-on-one conversation between the head of the organisations and the Vice-Chancellor of Manipal, Dr. H. Vinod Bhat. The Vice-Chancellor spoke about the awareness of opportunities and how the narrowing of international boundaries has broadened overall education. The IPSF Head asked an interesting question— “Does internationalisation drive research or vice versa?”, to which the Vice Chancellor answered rather diplomatically saying, ” When likeminded individuals get together, it is natural that it will drive research, and research on a topic brings forth further involvement. It goes both ways.”

NIGERIAN DANCE AND SONG FORM

The last segment of the event was all about vibrant and jolly dance and music performances by a few of the countries. The Nigerian dance group took the entire auditorium by storm with their colourful attire and an extremely energetic dance and song number. The Tibetans showed off their unique dance form that radiated elegance and a sprightly vibe.

In the fashion show, exchange students dressed in traditional attire from different parts of India, portrayed a perfect blend of cultural ethnicity. Chords and Co showcased the artistic soul of Manipal with their enchanting performance. The program ended with a dance performance coined the ’Tadka of Bollywood’, where students of all nations wore beautiful Ghagras and danced to popular dance numbers, setting both fashion and dance standards for the whole of India.

BOLLYWOOD DANCE PERFORMANCE




A-lien Sleeps Tonight

Spectating alien life from afar, millions yearn for a life that is right out of an episode of The X Files. However, scientists and theorists have failed to come up with tangible evidence of extraterrestrial existence. Several questions have risen while debating life beyond Earth, some even discussing the possibility of extraterrestrial life ever being visible to humans and the sheer probability of its existence.

The Fermi Paradox is the first tangible lead into this expedition for proof of alien life. It explains how our vision is restricted to just 1% of the entire Milky Way Galaxy. With that in mind, what lies in the hundred billion galaxies of the observable Universe remains a tricky riddle that is yet to be solved. Indisputably, humans are likely not alone in the Universe.

Deriving influence from the Fermi Paradox, researchers at the University of Cádiz think that the lack of evidence is because of something called the Cosmic Gorilla Effect. Based largely on the human tendency of inattentional blindness, this theory states that while witnessing a particularly enrapturing game of basketball, observers might fail to notice a large, conspicuous gorilla casually strolling by. This phenomenon could be deceiving humans while we try to detect non-earthly signals, with them camouflaging into dimensions that we fail to perceive.

Neuro-psychologists have questioned the direction in which scientists have been looking—human minds are built in ways that limit their vision. We often cannot fathom to think beyond the obvious.

Eventually, another question came into being—what if life on other planets ended before leaving behind a detectable trace? Microbial life may very well have existed on several planets in the past. But if the atmosphere would not have been habitable, life forms would stop evolving and would eventually disappear without a trace. This is the Gaian Bottleneck Model.

“Feedback between life and environment may play a dominant role in maintaining the habitability of the few rocky planets where life has been able to evolve,” Dr. Aditya Chopra from the Australian National University Research School of Earth Sciences writes in his paper published in the journal Astrobiology. “When we do start to visit other planets, it’s possible we may find fossil evidence of extinct microbial life,” Chopra continues, “not from multicellular species such as dinosaurs or humanoids that take billions of years to evolve.”

He believes that species evolution is fragile in its first stages, which means it may not be compatible with drastic climatic changes on a planet. Mars and Venus may have been habitable 4 billion years ago, however, because they subsequently became too hot or too cold, they can no longer sustain life.

Image Courtesy: marketbusinessnews.com

Other scientists speculate that while extraterrestrial life may exist, we cannot detect their messages since they encrypt their data. Aliens may very well be trying to talk to us, it might just be that we can’t break the code. NASA has even released a book on how we could possibly have a heart-to-heart with E.T.. Instead of focusing on hard data or theoretical science, the book explores anthropological and archaeological perspectives into how we should approach interaction with foreign beings and their cultures

Extraterrestrial life may very well be around the corner, perhaps waiting for the perfect opportunity to pop over and borrow some sugar. Whether the absence of communication can be attributed to their lack of etiquette, or us trying to read all the wrong signs, is something only time will tell.

Featured Image Courtesy: Youtube/ Kurzgesagt




Painting with happy hearts: AIESEC’S Balakalakar

‘Balakalakar’ is a well-renowned event held by AIESEC all over India. It revolves around showing children and a group of volunteers a glimpse of how the folks in AIESEC spread feelings of happiness and unity. AIESEC‘s Local Committee in Manipal finally revived the tradition, paving the way for orphans, and students in MAHE alike, to have fun. Igniting the spirit of togetherness and love, the VGT ground in MIT saw a remarkable wave of enthusiasm and excitement which can’t simply be put into words.

There were around 80 enthusiastic orphans from three different orphanages situated in Manipal and Udupi. From transportation to food, everything was looked after by the organisation itself. The event started at 4 pm and ended at 9:30 pm. A group of volunteers from MAHE were selected to look after the children and also, to see to it that the event proceeds smoothly. Judging by the smiles on everyone’s faces, it certainly had! The volunteers were each given a certificate for their humble gesture.

The meaning behind the name ‘Balakalakar’ is creativity and the latent treasures in every child. They started off by a competition of art and craft, followed by snacks.

A lot of budding artists were seen among the little souls. In between, there were jive sessions with popular English and Hindi songs resounding from the mammoth speakers.

Volunteers connected beautifully with each and every child,  and made the event worthwhile. The day ended with a wholesome dinner and another jive session just because nobody could watch those kids leave without a final dance! AIESEC had indeed coined together every little reason of joy they could, carving a lane in the memory the little ones could always stroll down for the rest of their lives.

 

Photo Credits : The Photography Club, MIT Manipal




Get Psyched!- The Psych Club of MIT

Interactive. Informative. Innovative. Imaginative. The Psych Club has taken the road to information about how the mind perceives, to the penultimate level, making the workshop a lot more fun. Colours was the topic of discussion, to lure the participants into their magical trap and it was genuinely impressive.

The president of the club, Aditi Bhat, demonstrated how the mind works when subjected to a particular colour. The descriptions made us look at colours and their usage in our daily lives in a rather mesmerizing perspective. “Red” she says,” is the colour of blood, which is pumped in our hearts more fluently, and increases our heart rates, thereby giving a jump-start to our appetite, mainly why red is used in abundance in almost every food company!” It is said you bet more if you see red poker chips. No surprise, then, that we keep losing all our money! Green is not only nature, it is freshness that it signifies. That is why the android is green. You will definitely feel refreshed hearing all these fun facts.

Participant, Kritika Batra, a first year student said, “I want to go for the recruitment not just because I like Psychology as a subject but because of the way they learn it at the club, through talks and discussion. To be true, I was drawn to it by Aditi’s hoola hoop representation.” Mesmerizing indeed. She drew the audience with her explanation of white’s inclusion of all colours through a rainbow lit loop!

You may have heard about the psych pages, over social media that show one-word association with things like colour, emotion and what not, what Ms. Aditi did was, study in depth about the subject and understood that there is more to psychology than we could have ever imagined and surprisingly enough these associations made sense. She thereby worked to build a foundation that would educate everyone in a  fun and exciting way. Overall, the event was a spectacle of The Psych Club’s penchant for simplifying the complexity that is Psychology.