Moulding socially committed citizens is a key element in the vision of Assam Don Bosco University. The thrust of the University towards social commitment has been ingrained in the activities of the University through the “Campus Ministry” department from the very inception of the University. It is this commitment towards social involvement which impelled the University to start the Masters Programmes in Social Work and in Psychological Counselling very soon after its inception. In this brief report we attempt to highlight some of the important flash points of the continuous efforts of the University to inculcate social commitment in its students.
Some students of Don Bosco College of Engineering and Technology, now termed the School of Technology of Assam Don Bosco University had started organising free tuition classes for students of classes VII to X of the neighbourhood, in Mathematics, Science and English in the college premises on Sundays. The tutors were volunteers from among the engineering students with guidance from the faculty members. The classes were much appreciated and we had over 100 students who came for these tuition classes.
With the arrival of the MSW students, they took this initiative to a higher level. They set in motion a project which was named “Swastyayan... a Commitment”. With this project operative in the Spring of 2013, the classes now became a daily feature. Initially they started with a few students of classes nine and ten. In the Autumn of 2013, the numbers had swollen to 130, with students of classes 7, 8, 9 and 10 benefitting from these classes. The MSW students visited the families of the students as part of their continuous field work and made a survey of the neighbouring villages and invited students from these villages too for these tuition classes. The tutor base too grew with these developments – students and faculty members from all departments of the University volunteered to tutor the Swastyayan students.
Currently, over 200 children from the neighbourhood of the University benefit from the activities of Swastyayan and over 150 students and faculty members of the University volunteer their services to tutor, inspire and motivate them. Apart from academic inputs, students are taken through a series of sessions on goal setting, time management, life-skill development, spoken English tutorials, recreation, games and sports that are intended to enthuse and enhance their overall personality and self-esteem. Various competitions on singing, dancing, drawing, etc. are conducted to identify the students’ talents so that their skills could be further honed in the coming days.
The annual “Swastyayan Day” conducted generally on 14 November (to synchronise with Children's Day) is a special day – a day on which both students and their parents come together to take part in various activities and both students and their tutors are felicitated for the activities conducted during the year.
Over the years Swastyayan has grown stronger and widen its reach. A Community Self Help Week- Fund Raising Programme, started in January 2015 with an objective to make Swastyayan a self-reliant and self-sustaining programme has become a regular feature of the programme. During Self-Help Week, different activities like challenging fun games, car washing, and share-a-pakoda, momo and food fest would be organized. Thanks to the enthusiastic participation from the students, faculty and the neighbouring villages, Swastyan has been a self-sustained and self-reliant programme.
Fr Stephen Mavely, Vice Chancellor & Dr. Bhattacherjee from Tezpur University inaugurated Self Help Week
Volunteers selling roses
In April 2014, “SWASTYAYAN... a commitment” project ventured into the noble task of offering a short-term “Computer Education Programme” for the Class X students of the community schools of the Azara locality. This five-week programme (21 April to 27 May 2014) was initiated to enhance the capability of the youth of these schools in basic computing skills - word processing, spreadsheet calculation and tabulation, presentation, and internet browsing. Besides this elementary knowledge, the students were given hands-on training for developing their basic communication skills using computers. The Computer Education Programme was initiated to cater to a felt need and requests coming from the neighborhood children themselves.
Students in the Lab
Fr. Joseph Nellanatt, Pro Vice Chancellor distributes Certificates
In line with this, on 28th April, 2016, the Department of Computer Science Engineering & Information Technology, School of Technology, Assam Don Bosco University conducted a Workshop cum Training Program on Computer Literacy for the students of Jalukbari Higher Secondary School, Guwahati.
A two day Training programme on Computer Skills was organized by the department of Computer Science Engineering & Information Technology on 24th and 25th November 2016. It was an initiative by the Women Empowerment Cell, "VanitAgrata" of the Department of Computer Science Engineering & Information Technology. VanitAgrata aims at empowering women with the knowledge and skills required to be competent in the work place.
The Don Bosco Institute of Management (the School of Commerce and Management of Assam Don Bosco University) has initiated a social commitment programme in the village of Joypur (Kharguli, Guwahati) where it is situated. The village of Joypur and the areas in its vicinity, have a pre-dominance of low-income groups which are deprived of some of their basic needs. In a survey conducted by the students, it was realised that most of the school-going children could not afford tutorial classes because of low family income. The Management students of the university formed a forum – PRAJJWAL – to cater to one of the basic needs of these school children, by organizing free education workshops during the weekends. The students highlighted the problem during a cultural programme hosted by Prajjwal. The audience, consisting of students, parents and curious onlookers were all enthralled by the idea and thus prajjwal was born.
Highlights of the Programme
- Students of the same class are made to sit together at the same table so that it becomes easier for the tutors to concentrate their requirements. Each table is assigned to one teacher and he or she is given complete responsibility for both academic as well as the extracurricular activities of those students.
- The Prajjawal Team conducts different competitions such as Drawing & Art Competitions, Memory Tests, different Outdoor Games, etc. among the students and awards prizes with the purpose of increasing the level of competitiveness among the students and also to encourage their hidden talents.
- Students are regularly encouraged and given opportunities to perform on the stage to showcase their talents like Singing (both individual and group), Dancing (both individual and group), Role-play, Speech, Poetry-Recitation, etc.
In addition to the weekly tutorial classes, the regular activities of Prajjwal includes celebration of Rangali Bihu, Friendship Day, Independence Day, Teachers’ Day, Childrens’ Day, Prajjwal family Get-Together, etc.
Visits of renowned personalities from time to time also act as a morale booster for all the Prajjwal tutors and students.
Swabalamban is the initiative of Assam Don Bosco University to skill the youth of the areas surrounding the university campus as part of its commitment to building strong and resilient communities where social justice and dignity for all prevail. This programme, undertaken by the different Engineering Departments of the University along with the department of Social Work, aims to provide technical skills to youth to increase their employability as well as to make them self-employable.
It has been observed that several youth of the Azara Gaon Panchayat, where the Aazara Campus of the University is situated, are facing difficulty in securing suitable livelihood options. Traditionally dependent on fishing in the Deepor Beel for subsistence, the communities’ youth are unable to sustain on it due to lower returns and changing ecological conditions. In this context, the faculty members, staff and students of the University have set in motion the “Swabalamban” project to address this need of the unemployed youth of the area by training them in technical skills.
The first such training programme was conducted from 1 to 12 December 2014, in collaboration with Shailabala Biswas Education Foundation, Kolkata. The programme concentrated on Electrical house wiring, inverter making and installation. The Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering (ECE) along with the Departments of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE) and Social Work of Assam Don Bosco University were involved in conducting the training programme. The Azara Gaon Panchayat played a proactive role in disseminating information and selecting suitable candidates. The programme had overwhelming response from the youth. A Total of 113 local youth (both boys and girls) applied for the training programme, and 10 among them were chosen for the first training session.
Till date, under the aegis of Swabalamban, a number of training programmes of this nature have been organized as given below:
- The departments of Electronics & Communication Engineering (ECE) along with Electrical & Electronics Engineering (EEE) and Social Work Departments organized a two week training program “Swabalamban-2015” on house wiring, inverter making and installation from 23rd November to 3rd December, 2015.
- The Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering organised a week-long free training programme on house wiring for the educated unemployed youth of the locality from 28th November to 3rd December 2016.
- The Departments of Computer Science & Engineering and Information Technology, Electronics and Communications Engineering and Social Work of Assam Don Bosco University organized a 5-days’ free training programme on DTP and design of solar powered chargeable LED lamps from 7th December 2016 to 11th December 2016.
Crisis response is another very important aspect of the Social Commitment activities of Assam Don Bosco University. On several occasions the university has responded to crisis situations, some arising due to natural calamities, some communal and several personal. Here we report two occasions where the University responded as an institution to state level crises.
Lower Assam, July 2012
The Department of Social Work of the University responded to the crisis situation arising due to the conflict in the districts of Lower Assam during July 2012. Districts of Chirang, Kokrajhar, Bongaigoan and Dhubri were affected with nearly 4 lakh people displaced and many seeking refuge in relief camps as their lives were in constant threat. People who were languishing in nearly 270 relief camps had very little access to food, safe drinking water, medicine, and lived in constant fear.
The faculty and the students of the Social Work Department strategically planned out the relief operations with support from the University. They mobilized funds and other resources by making a public request from departments of the University. In collaboration with ‘Inter Church Peace Mission’ (ICPM), Bongaigaon, the needs and requirements of the women, children and men in the relief camps were assessed. The response from the staff and students of the university was overwhelming. An amount of Rs.46,183.00 and a large amount of items of clothing and other household items were gathered.
On 11th August 2012, a team from the Department comprising the Director, 2 faculty members and 9 students of the Department, in coordination with ICPM started for the relief service at Gambaribil, 35kms from Kokrajhar. The relief camp comprised people from five different villages namely Kaseokhatha, Tulsibil, Lokhigaon, Aminkhatha and Gambaribil. The camp had a total of 2317 persons from 442 families, comprising 1089 males, 1228 females, 496 minors and 181 children below five years.
It was a fulfilling moment for the team to be part of this humanitarian gesture as they could mitigate to some extent the pain and agony in the lives of these innocent victims. With enthusiasm and eagerness they listened to their pain plastic mats, clothes and other household items were handed over to the families of the inhabitants of the relief camp. The joy and happiness in their eyes revealed their appreciation and gratitude.
Hahim, October 2014
Flash-floods and landslides due to incessant rains since the 20th of September 2014 in parts of Meghalaya and Assam had wreaked havoc in several districts of Assam and Meghalaya. The worst affected of them were the districts of Goalpara, Dhubri, Kamrup Metro in Assam and North Garo Hills, West Garo Hills and South West Garo Hills in Meghalaya.
The Department of Social Work along with the management of the University conducted pilot visits to assess the relief requirements of several affected areas and in an emergent meeting decided that the University would concentrate on relief efforts at Hahim under Boko Development Block, of Kamrup district of Assam and Mendal in East Garo Hills District of Meghalaya.
Relief work was undertaken in these areas with the following objectives:
- Assist in the relief and rehabilitation process of the affected people
- Provide psycho-social support to the people for their mental well-being in these times of trauma and grief
- Help in the reconstruction processes of the village and the lives of the people
- Initiate long term community strengthening programmes in areas of livelihood, training, educational needs, child and youth development; establish linkages with Government and Non-government organisations to sustain the work
- Document and share the information for enabling the people for better disaster preparedness in future, and
- Generate awareness on disaster preparedness in collaboration with Government and Non-government agencies.
Subsequently, areas of intervention for immediate and long term response were strategized. Some of the immediate areas of work were
- Conducting a Rapid Needs Assessment
- Helping the villagers to clear the slush and debris
- Mobilisation and supply of relief materials
- Mobilisation and supply of books for students
- Helping in the reconstruction work of the families who have been rendered homeless, and
- Conducting a study the impact of the flood and the coping mechanism of the affected communities
After a rapid needs assessment, on the recommendation of the Emergency Response Team that was set up for the purpose of relief work, the University decided to move forward the Rural Practicum component of the first year Social Work students to address the present disaster. Thus, fifty-five social work students, accompanied by three faculty members were stationed in Hahim from the 11th to 19th of October, 2014, to help in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process, and in order to provide psycho-social support to the communities there.
The faculty, staff and students of the University responded whole-heartedly to the crisis. Within a very short span of time, material support and money came pouring in from friends and well-wishers all around. The alumni of the University also played a very special role in supporting the cause.
As a result of lobbying and large-scale campaign by Assam Don Bosco University volunteers for supporting the flood affected people of Hahim, Ms. Aashaa Bora, President, Aashaa Bora Foundation, Guwahati, and her team arrived there on the 3rd of October, 2014. In a meeting organised for the purpose, the survivors recounted their harrowing experiences during the floods. They shared their difficulties in the process of reconstructing their dwelling places and lives.
The Aashaa Bora Foundation assured the people of its help. It would provide tin-sheets (roofing) for the six families that had lost their homes completely. A community well would also be constructed gradually. Ms. Bora also promised to address the requirements of students who had lost their books in the flood by providing them with books and study materials. In the meanwhile, efforts were continued to rope in other individuals and agencies to strengthen our intervention in the area.
The materials thus mobilised were distributed among the flood survivors of Hahim. Clothes, rice, pulses, biscuits and tea were distributed to the families that were still languishing in the relief camp. Kitchen utensils were also distributed to the families that had lost everything.
Jargaon, August 2016
The School of Technology organized a flood relief camp on 7th August 2016 for the flood victims of Jargaon village of Morigaon District, Assam- the North Eastern state of India, in association with Indian Students Organization (ISO).
Eight students and three staff members along with five volunteers from the ISO distributed the aids to the needy people under the guidance of Mr. Jesif Ahmed, Assistant Professor of EEE Department and Dr. Biju Mani Das, Coordinator of Commerce Department.
More than 200 food packets along with clothes were distributed among the families of submerged Belimara-Bherbheri, Jargaon with a population of approximately 1000 people. Each food packet weighed approximately 6.7 kilograms and consisted of 9 items – Rice (2 kg), Daal (500 gram), Potato (1 kg), Sugar (400 gram), Milk (500 ml), Nutrition-rich Biscuits (200 gram), Mineral water (2 ltr), 2 candles and one matchbox. The effort was an initiative by the third semester students of SoT, ADBU and all the members of ADBU family contributed generously for the noble cause. Student volunteers from ADBU and ISO worked tirelessly for 2 days to accomplish this assignment on time.
The exchange programme enlists participants/volunteers from ADBU and UCDVO and organises a one month programme in different villages around the campuses of Assam Don Bosco University. The first such exchange programme was conducted between 14 June and 12 July 2014 in the villages around the Azara Campus of the University. The second programme was conducted between 13 June and 12 July 2015 in the Ural and Kachari Bastis (villages) of Borghat Panchayath under Sonapur area around the Tapesia Campus of the University, and the third such programme was conducted at Borghat Panchayat (Ural and Kachari Basti) and Kamarkuchi (Tepesia) between 8th June to 9th July 2016.
During such exchange programmes interventions similar to the following are implemented:
- Awareness campaign on alcoholism, domestic violence and its effects on social and economic life
- Programmes and workshops which will enhance the community life of the people
- Organising weavers of the locality and setting up groups or a cooperative of weavers
- Intervention to enhance the functioning of the anganwadis - infrastructure and learning environment
- Adult literacy classes
- Language (English) enhancement classes to the students and youth
- Work with children, youth and women (clubs and groups formations)
- Health awareness programmes and campaigns
- Help in opening of Bank Accounts and facilitate in getting subsidized LPG connection.
- Training on Art and Craft for enhancement of livelihoods.
- 10. Organise health/medical awareness and camps
Members of 2016 Exchange Programme
Before and After intervention photo of Anganwadi
The Department of Psychology and Counselling of the University has always been devoted to the practice of psychological counselling with a view to promoting community mental health and psychosocial competence in order to foster cohesion in society. In keeping with this practice, they have continued to provide free counselling services to the inmates of Shantidaan, the centre of the Missionaries of Charity at Lankeswar, Guwahati, as part of their regular field work. They have also facilitated the conduct of HIV/AIDS screening and VDRL testing by Assam State Aids Control Society (ASACS) for all the inmates there.
Going beyond field work, in collaboration with the Department of Social Work, the Department of Psychology and Counselling has initiated a Community Counselling Centre for the communities which surround the campus of the University.
The objectives of this activity are the following:
- To identify the psychological and mental health problem areas existing among the communities in the vicinity of Azara
- To identify the cause of such problems through the administration of appropriate psychological tools
- To spread the knowledge about the relevance of counselling and its benefits to solve such problems
- To spread the knowledge about the existence of a counselling services provided by the university for the people of the community
- To provide counselling on a weekly basis and maintain a proper and up-to date documentation of the same
Through this service, the Department hopes to provide free counseling services to the youth and adults in the vicinity of the campus and to aid them in handling their personal or professional problems, which otherwise would be unmanageable for them. Services provided include individual and group counseling, marriage and family counseling, psychological, personality, and intellectual evaluations and medication management. The service will help them to cope with stress, depression, substance abuse and violence; assist couples having marital problems, parents having trouble dealing with their children and children and adolescents faced with family difficulties and peer pressure.
The University, in its effort to carry forward its vision of being a catalytic agent to bring about progress and development to its neighbouring villages, launched its ‘Centre for Developmental Studies and Initiatives’ at an interactive meeting held with the leaders of local communities on 23 February, 2017 at Crystal Hall, Tapesia Campus.
Addressing the gathering of 78 people, including Panchayat Presidents, Village Headmen, School Teachers, Anganwadi Workers, Self Help Group members, students and staff volunteers, the Vice Chancellor Fr. (Dr) Stephen Mavely explained why the University took such a step, “Opening this Centre is to formalize what we have been doing in bits and pieces during the last five years or so. This is a seminal gathering to bring about a participatory approach in our interactions and interventions with our neighbours. The university alone cannot work for the development of the communities but we would like to work together with you to see developments in the community in education, health and standard of living. The ‘Centre for Developmental Studies and Initiatives’ will become a hub for study, research and developmental activities as a regular feature of our university. My hope is that every graduate in our university will spend some quality time in volunteering for developmental work in the villages of North-East India as a compulsory part of their studies with us. This Centre will start organizing that as we go along.”