Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Camps' Report 2012


"Every child is special and deserves to achieve and realize his/her growth and dreams in healthy surroundings.  U & I helped in making this a reality at Shishu Mandir.  Shishu Mandir is a school that caters to children from the underprivilaged background . When we first went got introduced to the kids, at first glance they seemed like regular school children prepared to hear lectures from us, but we had no idea how much talent each child was gifted with and were greeted with a bunch of nice big smiles. We spent two days at the school and there is no doubt that wehad a unbelievably life-changing time.  At the Shishu Mandir camp, we focused on getting to know the kids' dreams asand aspirations, what they wanted to pursue as their careers later on in life,and also tried  helping them in realising these dreams. 

On the first day, we conducted an important workshop on how to present oneself at interviews, which was followed by a comical skit depicting the same.The kids loved it and found the workshop very useful. When the first day got over, we were very exhausted but at the same time were very excited to come back to meet the kids the next day. On the second day, we had Career Counselling sessions for the kids. The kids were very responsive and most of them became very clear on what their ambitions in life now were. AtShishu Mandir, a lot of fun and games were the highlight of our days. We played a lot of games and activities with the kids. The one game which had all the kids on their toes was the water game that we played,which put their teamwork skills to the test. One of the major breakthroughs I have personally realized from this camp was that every single child had a unique talent, and this was proven at the main event at the end of the day at the Talent Show where everyone showcased all their talents to the cheering crowd.

Our response form the kids was excellent. "I really enjoyed with U&I. I just loved the way you all interacted with us. I learnt how to manage my time,and this camp also helped me realize my dreams and passions in life. I would also like to work with U&I,"said Preethi. This program was also beneficial for the older kids as well. Anand Babui says,  "This summer with U&I made a huge difference to me.I am a BCom student and the team taught us how to behave in an interview, which I didn't know about.  They also gave us good tips regarding interview assessing and mannerisms. The games conducted helped us work as a group and the discussions helped bring out new ideas. I want the team to come back. The seniors can help us with career planning, and can also conduct a session on how to overcome inferiority complexes.To conclude, our first U&I summer camp at Shishu Mandir was a grand success!"

-Jaison Padacheril, Intern



"When I was first told that we would be working at the State home for Mentally Challenged Boys, I was quite apprehensive because, firstly, I had never worked in an environment like that and, secondly, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to handle the boys there. What followed at the summer camp however, was an experience beyond verbal description and the complete opposite of what I had expected! U&I held the summer camp at the State home for Mentally Challenged Boys on the 7th, 8th and the 9th of May and I like to believe we made a HUGE difference, the right way, in the lives of these boys.

On the 7th , we took around 45 boys to Cubbon Park for a day filled with fun and games. The boys were super excited and enthusiastic about the entire outing and the happiness was contagious. I could see each intern smiling along with the boys they were allotted to, while the boys indulged in sliding, running, climbing and having an absolute ball of a time on their day out. The train ride kept each of the boys captivated as they held on tightly to the interns and laughed and clapped as the train made its journey around Cubbon Park. They waved at people who they passed by, and at the U&I interns who were standing around. Never before have I seen a bunch of kids as lively and infectiously happy as these boys.  By the end of it all, we were all drained out, but even on the bus journey back, the kids continued to smile and clap and kept the entire atmosphere charged with positive energy. It was a memorable day, both for the kids and for the interns alike. 
On the 8th and 9th ,things got a little more serious as we put aside the playfulness and decided to get down to business. The Home the kids were staying in, was in dire need of cleaning and with the help of a few volunteers,we started our cleaning spree spanning across the dorms, bathrooms, clothes and nurses’ rooms. A bunch of us kept the kids entertained while the others indulged in the dirty business of cleaning up (quite literally,might I add!)
The kids had a whole lot of fun coloring, playing, dancing and mesmerizing the interns with their hidden talents and their contagious happiness. There was never a dull moment in the two days we spent there.  The male interns cleaned the floors and walls of the dorms, bathrooms and nurses’ rooms till they were sparkling clean, while the girls segregated, washed, dried and folded the boys’ clothes, mats, winter wear and blankets. By the end of it, we had made a visible and evident change in the cleanliness quotient of the entire place. With the help of gloves, masks, mops and detergents, we sure had made a difference where it mattered the most for the well-being of the boys.
Thank you,U&I,for helping us be agents of the change we want to see around us!"
-Sheeba Rachel Ninan, Intern


"The Oasis summer camp was held for over 150 kids from the Doddegunta slum on the 16th and 17th of May. The children belonged to the age group of 8-16 years.  We had around forty interns and volunteers engaging them in various games and activities who were divided on the basis of their age groups. The two days which followed were fun, chaotic, memorable and absolute entertainment. 

The younger children engaged in a lot of painting. The interns and volunteers helped the kids make cards and design the cards with hand prints, painted designs and absolutely anything which made the cards look more attractive. The kids had a ball of a time and at the end of it, you could see mutli-coloured hands and painted faces and a smile on every face. The older kids had English assessments to evaluate where their vocabulary and language skills stood at, and what they lacked in the same. After this,they played a series of games like Bang Bang, Bomb the city, Tallest tower and such. Towards the end of the day, we had kids come up on stage and perform, which was a confidence booster for most of them. The first day, despite being hectic, was very satisfactory and a whole lot of fun.

The second day was pretty similar with the kids being divided again,in order of their age. The younger kids had two sessions of Arts and crafts. During the first session we handed kids printed sheets of cartoons and they were asked to colour them. Though it was quite a task making the kids colour within the borders, everyone was involved and absorbed in the activity, and at the end of it, we had many sheets of vibrantly coloured cartoons and each kid was proud of his/her work of art,just as much as we were,of theirs. The second session was after lunch where the kids were given cut-outs of masquerade masks and added sparkles, paints and newspaper cut-outs to make the masks look fancy. The older kids had another session of assessments and they again had a series of games and a talent show to again bring out their talents. The talent show was the grand highlight of the two days,and served as a fitting finale.

At the end of two days,everyone went home with a smile, a memory and an assurance that they had made a difference in some kid’s life."

-Sheeba Rachel Ninan, Intern



"On the 21st and 22nd of May,all of us went to the Crisis Intervention Center which basically houses destitute women, or women who have been rescued from all sorts of atrocities and women who have nowhere to go. It was a life-changing experience for me to go and interact with these women,especially since I am a guy. I learnt how strong women can be in the face of adversities and the unfair way in which society treats them. It’s an unsafe,dangerous world for them,and women are constantly armed with strength and spirit and courage. I saw it in these women over the course of these two days.

We engaged in arts and crafts where we made baskets,shoe boxes and wall hangings with them. We also played several games and danced a lot to popular music.During the career-based sessions,I was amazed at their ability to dream big and have the will to rise above their limitations. While participating in individual counseling talks,I found that many were not only vocal,but actively working towards their dreams in some small way or the other. While taking assessments,I saw how the women were aware of their weakness,but chanelled it positively with their eagerness and enthusiasm to learn.
I have learnt SO much from them,and for me,these two days were absolutely unforgettable.
I know I’ve made a difference,and as they always say, U&I can really make a difference!"

-Samuel Gladson, Intern



"The summer camp at the Balakya Vidya Mandir held on the 23rd and 24th of May, was kickstarted with icebreakers and music and games. After pre-assessments were taken, the children were given a career-oriented session which focused on the various options they could avail of, given their circumstances. The response was extremely positive as each of the girls were given individual counseling following the session, following which,a potential career direction was given to all of them.
The fun part soon followed when they engaged in arts and crafts with bangle-making and colouring and making photo frames. The smiles on each of the girls faces was absolutely heart-warming!
Day 2 saw an even more energized bunch of children who were again assessed so that we could better evaluate their educational and grammatical strengths and weaknesses. After a fun-filled team activity,they  enthusiastically participated in a personalized KBC game of sorts.The nail pinting,tattoo-making and hair braiding that took place after lunch was imaginably the most well received by the girls, and marked the end of yet another life-changing and inspiring camp for them.

What I loved the most about this camp was the fact that each of these girls had a story of their own to tell,and needless to say,they were largely dark ones. In spite of their troubles,they were all smiles,always cheerful,and seemed to possess a never-say-die spirit. Just as they learnt from us,we learnt from them,and sometimes I daresay that we went home more grateful and awestruck than they did."

-Gleeda D’Silva, Intern


"30th May and 31st May were the two days when we went to Karunalaya where we were met by an enthusiastic bunch of kids who were also very well-behaved (yes,this was a pleasant surprise to us!)
With energy levels high and buzzing and with all sorts of games and activities to keep our-starry eyed leading ladies and gentlemen smiling,we went ALL OUT in our last and final camp!!
Our team building activity was currazy! We actually formed the largest live caterpillar I have ever seen,and boy did they love it!

Then there was painting and coloring and letting imaginations and dreams soar wild beyond their horizons!
We even had a dream canvas,upon which our lil ones laid their handprints over. They then wrote their dreams over them and added lots of colour and glitter to it! It was absolutely mind-blowing!
Kudos to the interns and volunteers,and thank you U&I,for this opportunity!I loved every moment of it!

-Agrata Varma, Intern


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Summer Camps! =)

It’s 10:30 am at the U&I office, and the only company I have is an annoying Saahas Patil who describes himself as always, as “punctual, hot, masculine, hairy, seductive and sexy”. Yes he ACTUALLY asked me to write all of that!
Anyway, it’s quite eerily quiet out here.
No summer interns.
No over-achieving Simran to run the wheels of the summer camp, no Sadhana and Ektha and the hot and happening Jono to rise up the temperature by a few notches. And here’s the worst part, NO SUMMER CAMPS! L

I’ll miss ALL the awesomesauce interns,each of them adding a splash of colour and vibrance to the summer camps in their own unique manner. I’ll miss Vanilla and Sushmitha and Pappu and Karthik. I’ll miss Ajit,Satish,Sudeepta,Such,and maybe Saahas too. I’ll miss the lunches and the activities and the planning meetings and Urban Solace’s free food. More than anything else however,I’ll miss the friends I’ve made,the relationships I’ve grown to love,and the itsy bitsy teeny weeny difference that each and every one of us has made in the lives of those children. As Ajit always says – for us,it may have been just one amongst many summer camps,but for those kids out there,those were THE most fun,impact-driven,and life-changing moments ever. For those kids out there,it was a passport to dream their dreams,regardless of how currazy and wild and seemingly impossible as they were.
And guess what?
YOU made that happen.

It was just one summer,one month,seven camps,and around four hundred kids whose roads you’ve helped pave towards a brighter tomorrow. And it’s only just the beginning friends,Romans and dirtymen. It’s only just the beginning.

Oh and also, you’re welcome Saahas :P

Friday, May 11, 2012

Best way to beat the heat!

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single lit candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases on being shared”
– Buddha 

Have you ever seen a labourer and wondered if his children would ever be educated? Have you ever had the zeal to bring about a change in society but not given the necessary platform for it? If yes, then U&I gives you that platform where you can be, and make the change you desire!

This summer U&I, staying true to its tag-line of a making a difference, is doing its bit to bring about a change in the lives of more than 400 underprivileged children in Bangalore by conducting summer camps for them along the length and breadth of the city. The theme for the camps this year is DREAMS, and our main objective is to motivate and inspire the children to dream big and aim for the sky. As it’s rightly said, it’s kind of fun to do the impossible!

 The camps, needless to say, will involve a lot of fun, games, and creative activities coupled with focused assessments which will help in facilitating a better understanding of each child's needs. By doing so, we hope to help them realize their untapped potential and then make conscious efforts towards taking practical steps in realizing their dreams and eventually achieving them. To help and guide them through this journey, over 40 interns and volunteers will be the facilitators in the administration of intensive career planning and career counseling sessions in addition to individual mentorship and language assessment activities. These introductory sessions and assessments are only   a prologue to long-term projects with NGOs like Shishu Mandir,Bromeo Society,Oasis,Crisis Intervention Center,Karunalaya,Balakiya Bala Mandira, and the State Home for Mentally Challenged Boys."This project has the potential to inspire young children to dream beyond their immediate circumstances. This coupled with U&I's long-term investment into each child, is a potent formula for success," says Ajit Sivaram,co-founder of U&I.

 The first camp of 2012 was held in Shishu Mandir for about 70 students or more, where the camp was a huge success and the commitment of every volunteer was deeply appreciated by the people in-charge at Shishu Mandir.  “In this age, where youngsters spend their holidays in malls and watching movies, seeing youngsters like you volunteering to make a change is rather refreshing and this country needs youngsters like you” said the secretary of Shishu Mandir.

The second camp at the State Home for the Mentally Challenged was even more fun! Taking the boys out for an outing to Cubbon Park was met with a lot of delight by both the boys and volunteers alike. For the next two days, detailed mental and physical health assessment was taken, while everyone was also engaged in cleaning,washing and organising their rooms and clothes. All in all,it was quite a fulfilling and productive camp.

So,two camps down, five more to go and if you are wondering what to do, its time you and I(U&I) join hands and spread the language of joy, and let every child realize that every cloud has a silver lining!

 -Shruthi Kesavan

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Making a Difference

I’ve always believed that each one of, us no matter how affluent or broke, how busy or jobless we are, have it in us to make this happen. Before you begin to wonder about what I’d say to make a difference to the society, please note that there are many out there who could do mighty great with just a little help from our part.

Honestly, I wanted to do something worthwhile during my semester break. An internship with an NGO was definitely on my mind, but I never thought I would land up as an intern this quickly, but I sure am glad it did, and I’m grateful to U&I for the same. “U&I” is much more than just an NGO where it’s all work and work up to a point where everything just gets plain monotonous. I realized this on the very first day of my internship, (though I haven’t been turning up at office quite regularly).

Children, as most of us are aware, are lively, crazy and perhaps one of the most beautiful creatures on Planet Earth ( or at least I’d like to believe it to be that way) . They have this unique aura around them which is truly inexplicable until you get close to them, that is. I’m not necessarily a great child lover. In fact, the noisy, hyper active ones could be horribly difficult to be around with, I agree.I mean it. So kudos to all those volunteers who actually go through the regular process of teaching English and computer classes to this group of wonderful kids - I honestly think you're brilliant! "U&I” taught me, and has made me realize that I must thank God for the normalcy I have in my life. Yes, not everyone around is as lucky as we are, and somewhere down the line we all know it although we don’t acknowledge it on a daily basis. If we all did, we all would have surely made a difference and the world would have been a much better place for everyone. But wait, I’m not getting into that for that is not the aim of the blog. I just want to make you see what I see,is all.

Volunteering is a great thing - Interning ,even better. I mean, wouldn’t you want to get an insight into how people who are perhaps just half our age struggle with their day-to-day living? And isn't it amazing how just a little active participation from each one of us (even you, since you’re reading this) could indeed make a difference to all these wonderful beings that deserve a life as convenient and full of opportunities like ours?

It’s not difficult. I realized it.

So if you're ready for a memorable experience,you certainly know where to head!=)

Think ahead. Think different ; for you too could make a difference!

On this note,here's wishing you a abso-flippin'-utely Happy New Year!

-Pooja Prabhan


While I was walking down this street all by myself,
I met this kid, who came running towards me,
Initially I thought he was scared by the dog that was chasing him
But there was more to it,
On further questioning this kid told me that he was running away from his master’s place,
A place where he was forced to work.
A place where they’d beat him up and burn him when he asked for food.
This poor little kid was 7 years old,
His mother died long ago,
His father was a drunkard, a man who no kid would want to call his own.
He was scared, thirsty and hungry as hell.
Just then I took him to this place where he could eat and quench his thrist ,
He never let my hand go free.
He held it with force, he was scared, that poor soul.
He cried and insisted me to take him to a place where he’ll feel safe,
A place where his master could never find him
He was horrified, how can a man be so rude to a 7 year old?
This kid made me cry.

Studies & various reports quote:

Child labour is a concrete manifestation of violations of a range of rights of children and is recognised as a serious and enormously complex social problem in India. Working children are denied their right to survival and development, education, leisure and play, and adequate standard of living, opportunity for developing personality, talents, mental and physical abilities, and protection from abuse and neglect. Notwithstanding the increase in the enrolment of children in elementary schools and increase in literacy rates since 1980s, child labour continues to be a significant phenomenon in India.
Concerned about the future of its children India has implemented a country- wide ban recently, on children below fourteen working in the hospitality sector and as domestics. It is intended that those who are found to violate the law will be fined with 430 dollars and sent into rigorous imprisonment for two years. Children in India are not allowed to work in mines, factories and other hazardous jobs already. Two more professions have been added in a list of fifty seven occupations which were considered hazardous for a child’s development needs in the ‘child labour act’ passed in 1986.Childs rights activists are waxing eloquent in high pitched voices about the absolute importance of stopping child labour. But legislation in this regard is just like an intention. It is more important to take development measures to ensure its practical application by eliminating the reasons of child labour from our society. The reasons giving birth to child labour are poverty, illiteracy, scarcity of schools, ignorance, socially regressive practices, blind customs and traditions, migration and last but not the least corruption amongst employees and government labour organizations. People should not be able to get away with employing and exploiting children.

-Purvasha Mansharamani

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Story - Divya David

In retrospect,the reasons behind my joining as an intern in U&I were based solely on practical grounds,which don't even figure in my head anymore.
I wanted to intern;  I wanted to intern in an NGO; I wanted to intern in an NGO that was within an accessible and communicable geographical
space ; I wanted super-fun crowd ; I wanted an NGO who's policy was honesty ;I wanted flexi timings, yadayadayada...the list was never ending. 
Needless to say, U&I fit my bill perfectly. 

Question was,and still is:did I fit U&I's bill? 

Well,I still don't know! I have never in my life seen an organisation and it's people so dynamically evolve. I have never in my life come across so much passion,
so much love,and so much energy in one place. When I joined U&I,what drove me to it may have been reasons I could list out in bullet points in my personal diary, but the change it has made in my life, and the change I know I have made in the lives of others, is far too pregnant with weight for words to contain. I first started out with teaching slum-dwelling boys from Doddigunta at the U&I office. They were noisy,were more interested in my love life than anything else,and drove me mad. They also made me see the mind - boggling amounts of potential each and every one of them was brimming with,and that drove me to want to make something out of them. Today,I work with slum-dwelling girls from Doddigunta. Predictably enough, for obvious socio-economical reasons,they are far lesser in number. It also means that they do not receive as much encouragement to study,and have far lesser incentives to intellectually and academically further their horizons,making it more of a challenge for me to teach. But you know what I see in each and every one of these girls? I see possibilities. Given where they come from,and given their little academic escapades from their squalid reality, the possibilities in their future are endless. They could either become somebodies/exceptions from what is predicted of their future,or they could be washed away to become victims of their own fate,and not conversely, its victors. Yes I am teaching them Spoken English today,and that is a sure-shot tool to uplift them,albeit a little higher,from their current state, but my main aim is to make real women out of them. Strong, independent, and empowered women. Women who will be change-makers and history makers.
Whenever I meet people working with U&I,I see the same dreams and hopes in their eyes for whichever section of people they may be working with. I sense not just their aspirations and energy, but above all else,their Hope. I also know that this isn't the passive sort of hope,but the one that strives, strives, and never yields. The one that fights the good fight. This same hope is the one that drives me,and I see that regardless of the numerous constraints all of us may have,there is always room to make a difference. There's always need for a helping hand. There's always some work that needs to get done. There's always somebody who needs to be cared for. There's always,always,room for some love,and all of us,no matter how bitter our pasts,and no matter how wounded our hearts,can give our hearts and souls to engage in some good ol' loving. The fun way of course,in true U&I style ;).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

VOTE to VOlunTEer story - Sudarshan T

"When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream."

- Early 2011, my core was shaken & my heart was broken... Everything about me was in disarray & I was lost in an abyss where loneliness, depression, fear were my companions (to name a few)... I smiled to hide my inner reality but my SELF & its worth was at stake... By nature I was unto others as others were unto me, but deep within I wanted to be a volunteer... For many months I had searched the net, googling all the time, many calls were made to many phone numbers but then I was unable to connect the energy of the voice on the other end to the Cause they represented. I was disappointed and as days went by, my desire to be what I sought grew stronger...
- One day at work, in my random searches, I landed on a page in ngopost.org... that post, my 1st till then that drew me towards reading it again... Something within made me pick up my mobile, walk out of the office and call the only number that was there on the post... I guess that was the turning point when "I Voted myself to Be - Volunteer"...
The voice on the other side of the call was warm, unassuming and full of energy to the Cause which he represented... He introduced himself as Ajit and told me that the NGO wasU&I... The warm, friendly & welcoming conversation we had was the beginning of what I believe is a long, unending journey on the path of social change & the spirit of being a Volunteer...
- The moments I am associated with the cause, each & every Sunday I was at the Govt. home I have felt more Alive than before... The unassuming smile, hug given by the boys of the govt. home, the time spent with them and to see that what little contribution I was able to make brought in joy on their faces are priceless... Just that was enough to dissolve my past and I fondly consider all the boys as my Own... My own blood & brethren. I rediscovered my own Smile :)
- In my association with U&I I have even made some good friends... Ajit, SatishAbhishikth JohnEsther Priyanka,Kaustubh KauJohn PavanSuresh Babu G ... to name a few (others still not in my fb list)...
- ("Volunteer" - I believe for me is a way of life, a way of being, a way to truly smile from the heart seeing & feeling the sustained Smile in an Other - everyone deserves to Smile & feel the miracle of the power of unconditional Love).
- To those who are on the fence of "To Be or Not To Be"... I AM A VOLUNTEER... ARE YOU???