Woodstock | Community Engagement Semester Summary
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Community Engagement Semester Summary

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02 Feb Community Engagement Semester Summary

We look back at the impact of Woodstock’s Community Engagement programme over the last semester, to see what a difference it’s made to the school’s local community.

A note from Mrs Sanjaya Mark, the Director of Community Engagement at Woodstock

It has been pleasing to see that students at Woodstock are now able to choose from a variety of community development projects to have a meaningful and engaging experience with people living in and around Mussoorie. Wherever possible, the Community Engagement office has tried to set up specific development projects to match the interests of students. While most of the following projects have come out of meetings with communities with whom Woodstock has had a long standing relationship, at least two are projects which were proposed by specific students.  Before a project is launched, we ensure that the project is a priority and that the community to which the project is related is willing to collaborate towards a sustainable solution. While the community benefits from the changes aimed to better the quality of life for the people, Woodstock students have opportunities to gain the understanding, knowledge, and skills which are required to become agents of change.

MGVS Kaplani School

What is this project?

This is a project to encourage students at the MGVS Kaplani High School to pass their final external examination with the best possible marks and to work towards definite careers. Last year we provided seventeen computers and a Wi-Fi connection to the school and fundraised to support the hiring of tutors for the children before their exams. The extra classes last year helped all eleven students who sat the Board Exam to pass. Two girls achieved first divisions!

What was achieved this semester?

Our main mission this semester was to once again help prepare the 10th Grade students for their exams in March. We identified three main areas of the school to target in order for the students to have the best chance possible to fulfill their potential. These were : fundraising for tutorials for the students during the winter months, training their teachers in ICT so that the computers can be used proficiently, and providing more equipment for their science lab so that every student has the chance to do hands on experiments.

We have raised sufficient funds to pay the salary for Kaplani teachers to give the students special rigorous tutorials in the months prior to the 10th Grade exams. Our student team organised stalls during Goal-A-Thon, Win Mumby and the Woodstock Drama Production, selling baked goods and Momos in order to cover this cost.

We have begun computer training for the teachers. One of our ICT teachers is leading sessions in which they learn the basics of how to use Microsoft Word and other useful tools.

In addition, every Thursday our students went to Kaplani. They built relationships with the students there while playing cricket, doing board games and other activities.

Student’s view

“It feels like we’ve climbed a mountain and achieved great things. It takes everyone’s ideas, input and hard work to reach a common goal, and by working together we could get things done as well as having a great time.”

– Vanalika Nagarwalla

 

Women’s Self-Help Groups

What is this project?

Micro-banking is where people from lower socio-economic backgrounds voluntarily come together to save whatever amount they conveniently can out of their earnings. They mutually agree to contribute to a common fund and over time, as interest builds, they will use these savings to take out loans and initiate start-ups of their own. During last year’s Activity Week a number of our Woodstock team were trained in how to initiate and run micro-banking groups under SEWA Bharat, the largest women’s self-help NGO in the world.

What was achieved this semester?

This semester our student team worked alongside 54 women who shared the desire to micro-bank. These women are relatives of Woodstock employees or are local hillside residents. The larger group was split into four smaller groups of roughly ten women, each with two or three Woodstock students leading them. The student leaders taught the women how to do the paperwork required for starting a bank account and once a month they take the collection of money for depositing. In addition to this our students propose ideas for educational sessions in our monthly meetings, covering topics such as female hygiene and general health.

Student’s view

“This project has given me the desire to continue this work and help the women of my own country.”

– Zohal Haidari

 

Samvedna

What is this project?

In the village of Dhana there is a small centre for children with mental and physical disabilities called Samvedna, which is part of Landour Community Hospital’s outreach programme. A group of Woodstock students visit the centre to play and work with the children on their basic literacy and numeracy skills. Through their engagement in this project, interested students from Woodstock’s Middle Years programme have an opportunity to understand the nature of different disabilities and suitable interventions.

What was achieved this semester?

This semester our students divided into two groups and went to the centre on alternate weeks. They did a range of different activities with the children including telling stories and playing ball games. Once week we accompanied the volunteers who work at the centre on a house visit. Our whole team went to two of the children’s homes and got the chance to find out more about how the children live, what challenges the parents face and what type of family support they receive. We also held a training morning so that our students could understand more from the centre’s volunteers about different disabilities, how they are caused and treated and what our students could do to make their interaction with each child more meaningful. We finished our time together this semester off with a Christmas party on Woodstock campus. Our students decorated the library and planned a range of activities including pass the parcel, a treasure hunt, story telling and dancing. The volunteers had told us that they have no heating during the cold winter months and clean water was unreliably provided once a month. Our students decided to do something about this. As a Christmas present to the centre, Woodstock donated an electric blow heater and water filter, which were given as gifts at the party.

Student’s view

“I love Samvedna because it is great to interact with the kids and learn more about the disabilities that they have. The best part, however, is helping them to learn and develop.”

– Joshua Francis

 

Waste Warriors

What is this project?

Students in the new Waste Warriors PASSAGE are attempting to tackle the waste problem in our community. The mission of Waste Warriors is to find solutions for keeping our community clean and green. The group works collaboratively with students from St. John’s School to tackle the problem of litter and waste disposal. They are also investigating sustainable solutions which promote the Swachh Bharat initiative by the current government.

What was achieved this semester?

Students investigated the issues surrounding waste here at Woodstock and in the wider Mussoorie community. They then decided to focus first on Woodstock in the following four areas:

  1. Outdoor littering on the Woodstock campus and along Tehri Road
  2. Food waste at Woodstock
  3. Electronic waste at Woodstock
  4. Reducing, reusing and recycling at Woodstock

Students broke into teams to tackle each of the focus areas and created a long term action plan that focuses on sustainable solutions. Such solutions include raising awareness by creating signs, slideshows and street plays and creating collections points and special containers for E-waste. Other proposed solutions include advocating for changes at Woodstock that will reduce the amount of waste we produce, particularly food waste, disposable water bottles, plastic bags, tetra pack containers for milk and juice, chip packs and take-out food and drink containers.

Student’s view

“It was a good experience going to Woodstock’s sorting shed. Many people do not know how our waste is managed and where our waste goes. I hope to use technology more to spread awareness about this issue.”

– Raunak Khanna

 

Sanathan Dharam School for Girls

What is this project?

A year ago, the Principal of Sanathan Dharam School requested Woodstock to help provide tutorials in spoken English for their senior students and to help facilitate the building of an auditorium which would serve as a multipurpose hall. Since a number of our employees’ daughters study at this high school, the request was considered with keen interest. We now have a group of interested students from Woodstock which is collaborating with Sanathan Dharam School to make sure that the auditorium becomes a reality for the students of the school. In addition, through funds raised by the Woodstock team, regular tutoring in spoken English is being provided. Most importantly, almost every Tuesday the girls from Sanathan Dharam School and the students team from Woodstock spend quality time with each other.

What was achieved this semester?

This semester our students took it in turns to organize an afternoon of activities which would be educational, fun and allow for strong inter-school relationships to be formed and developed. The Woodstock student responsible for that week would come up with a theme and appropriate activities to fully explore that word or idea. One week’s theme was ‘Dreams’. Within small groups each student from both schools had to write on their hobby on a poster paper and what they wanted to do in the future. Through discussing these we hoped that both groups would be encouraged to following a path that they would do well in and enjoy.

Another week, ‘Dance’ was the theme. Each group worked to choreograph a short dance routine and then perform it in front of everyone at the end of the session. It was truly special to see both schools collaborating despite, in some cases, language barrier and  music tastes, in order to create these performances.

We concluded this semester with a Christmas party on Woodstock campus. A huge testament to the work of our students was that the Sanathan Dharam girls had handmade each of them a Christmas card.

Student’s view

“Touring the school with the Sanathan Dharam girls gave me a lot of perspective about how privileged we are at Woodstock. Living here, we are often desensitized to the amazing campus, and the opportunities at our fingertips. It really pays off to sometimes take a step back, and appreciate what you have.”

– Saral Tayal

 

Professional Development for Farmers

What is this project?

Following our initial collaboration with Dunda village we realised that the villagers were relying almost entirely on agriculture which is unsustainable; so, we looked at the possible alternative sources of income that they could use. During last years Activity Week a group of Woodstock students visited the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) in Karnal where they learnt about fish, poultry and dairy farming. As a result of this research, our team decided that dairy farming would be the most beneficial to the people of the Thatyur region.

What was achieved this semester?

This Activity Week a group of Woodstock students and staff accompanied the selected thirteen farmers to NDRI. There they learned good practices in dairy farming that are specifically relevant to the mountainous terrain in which they live. We have since been planning an educational meeting for all the farmers of the Thatyur region. The trained thirteen farmers as well as two of the scientists from NDRI are going to lead sessions, to share all of the information that they acquired.

Student’s view

“Working in the Professional Development for Farmers project is something that I can never forget after all the smiles I have seen when I went to Karnal for Activity Week. Helping them has taught me more than character; it showed what it means to be a part of a community.”

– Nihal Sriramaneni

 

Liter of Light

What is this project?

A twelfth grade student of Woodstock discovered the value in teaming up with the NGO ‘Liter of Light Bangalore’ in order to light the streets of Dunda and the homes of Sippancoat slum. His plan is to use old plastic bottles found on Woodstock campus to create solar powered street and house lights, in the process ridding the school grounds of this waste. The plan for street lights came out of DOST’s discovery at Dunda that the villagers often walk in total darkness to their toilets which are situated at a distance from their main house. The elders and children in particular expressed their fear for snakes and leopards and also spoke about injuries from tripping in the dark.  This project aims to give these residents a sustainable source of guidance and safety.

What was achieved this semester?

Student leader, Aseem Aggarwal, contacted ‘Liter of Light Bangalore’ and arranged for one of the Co-Founders of the organisation to come to Dunda to carry out a needs assessment. He agreed that the village would benefit from the installation of street lights however suggested that house lights would be of better use in a slum area. Our students then suggested Sippancoat – the slum in Mussoorie. The other Co-Founder of ‘Liter of Light’ then visited us and went to Sippancoat, she found that a project there would indeed be feasible. Our team then wrote a memorandum of understanding and we are now looking forward to the installations getting underway next semester.

Student’s view

“I believe that the best part about this initiative is that I was able to take my classroom learning and apply it to real life. While doing so, I was helping solve a worldwide problem at a micro scale and benefiting the underprivileged. This project is very close to my heart and I hope to benefit several people by providing them with light which in today’s world is essential for safety. I aim to serve as an example to others to use their talents and time to solve problems and help alleviate poverty, so that everyone can feel equal.”

– Aseem Aggarwal

 

FIRS

What is this project?

The relationship between Woodstock School and Firs, a home for underprivileged boys in upper Landour area of Mussoorie, is built based on the school’s principles of social justice and global citizenship. For the past few years a team of Woodstock students has visited the home once a week to lead activities for the boys there.

What was achieved this semester?

This semester students from Woodstock mentored the boys from Firs in the areas of music, arts, crafts, drama and speech. The activities were, including but not limited to, musical note reading, music theory, and performance, drawing and creating small paper based handicrafts, communicative English, and current topics. In return, the boys from Firs shared their backgrounds, challenges and future dreams with Woodstock students.  In the process, the Woodstock students hopefully have gained a deeper insight into the needs and aspirations of those, who are less privileged.

Student’s view

“Interacting with the boys at FIRS was fun and was a meaningful experience for me. Building relationships with local students made me feel like I became a part of them. It also made me proud that I was able to help someone else with my abilities.”

– Hamin Yoon

 

Vishwa Vidhya

What is this project?

This Community Engagement project aims to spread educational opportunities in the communities surrounding Woodstock. This is being achieved by Woodstock students designing and implementing a rural education scholarship program for children in Mussoorie and the surrounding villages. This will allow students with high potential, but constrained by poverty, to pursue their right for an education.

What was achieved this semester?

Students in the Vishwa Vidya PASSAGE spent majority of the term discussing ideas and planning out what a rural education scholarship program would look like. What communities would we target? How would we identify needy students with high potential? Where would the funding come from?

In the end, students decided that it would be best to connect potential donors to individual students and have donors choose which students they would want to sponsor. Woodstock students then visited and began identifying high-potential students in five surrounding schools. They conducted interviews of students and wrote up a student profile that can be shared with potential donors. Our next steps are to create a web page where these student profiles can be seen and where donations can be made, as well as work on the financial logistics and ongoing evaluation of the students’ progress.

Overall, Vishwa Vidya students learned both the benefits and challenges of community development work and realised that it sometimes can be a slow and arduous process where the rewards may not be seen for years to come.

Student’s view

“My desire to work towards spreading educational opportunities arose after working at the MGVS Kaplani school.  Seeing them makes me feel privileged to be studying in a school like Woodstock. My aim at Vishwa Vidhya is purely to see other students like me study and achieve their ambitions successfully in life through Vishwa Vidhya’s scholarship program.”

Fiza Bakshi

 

For more information about Community Engagement at Woodstock, visit:

Community Engagement

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