They lend a helping hand where it is required. Meet the youngsters from Jain University who have made it their motto to be the change they want to see.
Indian author Palash Krishna Mehrotra called them the Butterfly Generation in his book. American sociologist Christian Smith raised a doubt on their willingness to help others in Lost in Transition. They have been called selfish, callous and have been accused of a blatant disregard for anything but their own requirements. The Millenials (born between 1982 and 1999) and the Generation Z (those born after the Millenials) have been called many things, the biggest lament being their individualistic attitude and, to a certain extent the empirical evidence goes in the favour of these schools of thought. However, looking just at one side of the coin is rather foolhardy and shows the inability to accept a generation that is shaping the present political, cultural, social and economic scene. While there are some who choose to exist in a bubble of luxury and plush comforts, refusing to step out into the world, there are others belonging to today’s generation who are not afraid of making their hands dirty. These youngsters are active stakeholders in building the community and do not shy away from taking on the issues head on. They are ready to ask uncomfortable questions and challenge the powers that be if it is required to make the community and its environs a better place.
The instances of socially aware youngsters can be found all over the world. In Argentina, the teens and 20 somethings are helping organizations to revamp education on HIV/AIDS while in New York young filmmakers are producing documentaries on tenant rights, racism and poverty which influence policy decisions. In India in Karnataka, 13000 working children have come together to form a union which is advocating their rights as working population. Some others in Bangalore, are trying to make the life of those in orphanages better, others are helping people in rehabilitation centres to get back on their feet. Many of these socially aware Millenials are a part of Jain University, who have made it their motto to push the circumference of their activities beyond attaining education and hanging out with friends. They are showing the world that the carefree, callous and self-indulging generation is after all not that selfish.
Rearing to go
Pursuing Undergraduate studies at Jain University, this group of young people are engaged in bringing happiness to the lives of the less privileged children.
They look like just another bunch of students with their backpacks, informal tone and carefree attitude as they lounge near the entrance of their classes located at the School of Graduate Studies at Jain University. A few minutes with them and a conversation revealed what brings them together apart from the fact they study on the same campus. The connecting thread which joins Deepti, Arpita, Priyanka, Apoorva and Kunal together is Toy for Joy. A concept mooted by their seniors and faculty members, went straight to the heart of these budding Humanities students and they have continued to nurture it. Under the concept, each year students collect toys and other equipments of necessity for children. “Every year we find an orphanage which requires aid. Last year we donated the collections to Anantha Shishu, an orphanage near Wilson Garden,” said Deepti, an active member of the initiative. Deepti shares that she always wanted to do something for the society and Toy for Joy gave her the platform. “I look at it as a first step towards my dream to serve.”
The toys are collected throughout the year. The process of collecting things goes on throughout the year beginning with the onset of the festive season. Usually this is during Dussehra or Christmas. This year these vibrant youngsters have got involved with So Care International, an orphanage near Wilson Garden. The orphanage houses children of the prison inmates. These children have been enrolled in schools and are trying to build a life much different from their parents. Deepti and her friends have made it their mission this year to help these kids. This year the group working on Toy for Joy has also decided to go further. On the radar of these young people this year is providing the kids with toys that help them with their physical growth, build their cognitive skills and give them the things they require to go to school. “It is not just about giving them the things but it is also about spending time with the children. More than anything they require unconditional love,” agrees Kunal, another active member of Toy for Joy. “Since they are the children of prisoners, people often tend to look down upon them and ignore their needs. But, the truth is that they are no different from any other kids. They welcome us with their open smiles whenever we go there.” Kunal recounts an incident where one person from the group had asked for a glass of water and each child who was standing there ran to get it for them. “Ultimately, they brought us six glasses of water.”
Being a part of the entire experience has been a very stimulating experience for Kunal who is not a very outgoing person. “I never celebrate anything. One day I came down the stairs on the campus and found the team which was working on Toy for Joy decorating the entire place to attract more donations. I joined them and found the entire experience exhilarating.” For Kunal it was the way of celebrating the festive season by making a difference to the life of someone else.” Many of the students involved with Toy for Joy have been active participants in volunteering and community engagement activities throughout their school days. Arpita is one of them. She has been actively participating in marathons which support a cause and has been volunteering for blood donation camps and other activities which are beneficial for the people. Being a socially aware youngster, becoming a part of Toy for Joy came naturally to her. “I have this will to serve and I hope I can do something useful to the society.” Arpita feels that working for Toy for Joy has helped her to a great extent to grow as a person. “We are blessed with so many good things in life and yet sometimes we sit and complaint. A single toy brings so much happiness on the face of these kids. It teaches us to value the things we have and not to take them for granted.” For Arpita knowing these children has been a bliss. She feels even though these kids have been dealt a heavy hand by the destiny, they are not shying away from taking their chance at happiness. “They are so keen to learn English and new things. All they want are a few opportunities that can propel them further in life.”
Platforms such as Toy for Joy are mostly sustained by the enthusiasm of students and faculty members. And that is something which is available in spades. Says Priyanka, “our lecturers, classmates and fellow students came up with a lot of help. They were eager to donate and help us with the collections.” Priyanka and her friends also made use of posters and social media to spread information about their initiative. Using these communication tools helped them to spread their endeavours outside the college campus. The classes, the extra-curricular activities and their willingness to help others, these young crusaders are combining it all and living it up in the true style of the Millenials.