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Reaching out to Sindagi: Learning rural life and more

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KAVERI

BIJAPUR: The outreach program also called as ‘Bembala’ (Support) conducted by St Joseph’s college every year saw the post graduate students of Mass communication and Botany participate in it from Dec 8- 14, 2016.

As part of the rural exposure camp, the students visited the villages in Sindagi Taluk, 60kms from Bijapur district. They interacted with the villagers to know more about their life and the difficulties they face. Following this, students organized cultural performances and skits and taught the kids in the government schools in the region.

“Jesuit institutions are known for its excellence in education. Outreach program is a 60-70 year old event which is held in every Jesuit institution across the country. It is different in different states. The first outreach program was held in the St Joseph’s college, Tiruchi where students visited the villages in Tamil Nadu. In Karnataka, the person who took the initiative to start this program was Fr. Brian Pereira, the Director of St. Joseph’s college in Bangalore. We have 8 associations which are North East Catholic Community (NECC), Jinsa, Ignitors, Janadhare, Taromitra, AICUF (All India Catholic UniversityFederation), Cairos and Magis. ‘Bembala’ is the 9th association which was established in 2015 by Fr Brian Pereira, Fr. Victor Lobo and few other priests with the support of the Provincial of Jesuit institution in Bangalore,” said C B Issac, youth coordinator of the outreach program.

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  Students of Morarji Desai School                                      CREDITS – EVELYN

He added, “In our outreach programs, we look into women empowerment, we visit government schools and provide free tuitions to the children. We teach kids various subjects which they find difficult. We conduct tuitions in slums as well. In Bangalore, the students visit famous places like Lalbagh and Cubbon park and conduct cleanliness drive campaign. Theyinteract with different people and spread awareness about keeping the environment and the city clean. Students also promote traffic awareness by carrying hoardings across various traHe also said that the intention behind outreach is to reach out to the unreached and help them. The outreach began with an orientation program where students were given a brief introduction about Sangama organization which helps the villages in and around Sindagi Taluk.

Fr Rohan Almedia, SJ, the Director of ‘Sangama’ and Sister Rita D’Souza, UFS, the coordinator of social programs and Fr Jerry Almedia, founder of the organization spoke about how ‘Sangama’ has provided monetary stability to the poor families in the district and how it helps in the overall integral development of Sindagi through various activities.

The activities of day one began as the students headed for field work where they cut the freshly grown crops and stacked it aside. On day two, students headed to Kannaguddihala village, visited the schools in the region and interacted with the kids. While speaking to them they discussed how lack of employment has made the residents of the village to migrate to other cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune.

“The only main problem here is employment issues because of which I have to often travel to other places leaving my family behind,” said one of the villagers. In the evening, the students put up cultural performances like dance and they sang songs to entertain the village audience and conducted a skit to spread awareness on issues like cleanliness, women empowerment and importance of education.

The students were taken on an excursion on day three of outreach. They visited the historical places in Bijapur like the Golgumbaz, Bara Kaman and Ibrahim Roza. Then they were taken to the St Joseph’s health and community center in Bijapur which is run by the Society of the Sisters of St Joseph Tarbes. St Joseph of Tarbes(SJT) was founded in 1843 and they have been serving in India for the past 130 years.

This center is home for 13 HIV infected orphan children and a few adults infected with HIV and Tuberculosis. Sister Reeta, the senior head of the community center, said, “The patients are given 9 tablets every day and we only charge them for these medicines and nothing else.” Three volunteers from Slovakia, Barbara Durcova Mo, Agata Caletkova and Caroline are working there to help the HIV patients. On day four of the outreach, students visited the Antaragangi village. “The difference between the education system in the city and villages is that in villages, there are irregular students,” said Vidyadhar Hiremath, one of the teachers in the government school. Other than lack of employment, sanitation and lack of toilets have also been an issue for the residents of Antaragangi. “Some people did not know anything about employment.

 Farmers here get paid only Rs 100 as their daily wage and on some days, they just get paid half the amount when there is not much work,” said Renuka, one of the resident of the village who has opened an organization for the handicapped. “The government has promised to give us Rs 15,000 to build toilets but all we get is Rs 10,000 as the politicians take away the Rs 5,000 for themselves. It is impossible for us to build a toilet in Rs 10,000,” added Renuka.

While speaking about her organization, Renuka said, “I started this organization in May 2014 with the help of Sr Rita D’Souza and Fr Jerry Almedia who came and helped me. There are 60 of us in this organization currently who work for their daily wages.”

Imam Ladaf, a farmer and a shepherd from Antaragangi had a different story to tell. He said, “The villagers here are not willing to build toilets inside their houses. They have a mentality that if a toilet is built within, then there is some dirt inside the house. The Gram Panchayat officers are willing to give them Rs 15,000 at any time but they do not want to get the toilets built.”

He also went on to request the students to spread awareness about sanitation and hygiene. Agreeing to his point, the Gram Panchayat officer in the village said, “People from the general category are given Rs 12,000 and the people from the SC/ST category are given Rs 15,000. This money will be debited in their accounts and to build toilets, they must give us the money which they are not willing to give.”

On the last day of the outreach program students visited the Devadasi women in the ‘Sangama’ organization. These Devadasi women shared their stories and the problems they faced throughout their life with the students.

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