We started the year with a vision: to make the Social Service League bigger than it has been and align all projects so as to bring about greater social impact.
We also noticed that of the 3000 students in college 2000 didn’t know what the SSL was and there were only 200 registered members. A huge number of talented and driven Xavierites were not contributing; therefore our first goal was to make the SSL more visible. After weeks of brainstorming over the summer we came up with a new plan, new ideas, a new work culture and a new logo.
We introduced new projects and restructured the old ones to make sure that our focus remained on social service.
The first step we took was to work with Malhar in order to reach out to more students. We tied up with the Malhar Social Cause Campaign and a two day blood drive was conducted in early August. The second blood drive which was conducted in January benefited from the tie-up as we learned how to organise a larger scale blood drive more effectively. Over the two blood drives we had 689 donors donating a total of more than 700 units of blood: the highest numbers we have achieved. One of many proud moments to come.
Every Sunday, a small group of enthusiastic SSLites went to a Cheshire Home in a quiet corner of Andheri. The residents are paraplegic men who have amazing stories to share. Cheshire visits changed from just interactions to helping the nuns who run the place with basic administration work. The Cheshire team spent time with the inmates during Diwali when we celebrated the festival of lights: singing, dancing, playing, eating.
A new concept of the SSL was G. I. Joe. This project was started with a long term vision to make an impact on the environment from inside Xavier’s. Differently coloured bins were given to Anna in the canteen for segregation of kitchen garbage into dry and wet waste. We then started with an experimental vermicompost pit behind the hostel building, generating a couple of bags of compost. The Joe team also made progress with another sub-project called The Bicycle Project. Cycles were collected from around the city,repaired and cleaned up, and then given to schoolchildren in a village at Palghar, Maharashtra. Thirteen bicycles were donated and the students were chosen on the basis of their academic profile, financial needs and the distance they travelled between home and school every day.
One project that everyone would directly associate the SSL with is Project Care. Pre-visits , Project Care and post-visits. Aligning the objective of Project Care to the larger vision of the SSL, it was decided that the project should impact children in a more sustainable way. Project Care visits started in July and not in November. We identified Navjeevan Centre and Our Lady of Dolours School as two NGOs. Every week 20-35 volunteers went out to these centres and taught the children Maths and English, followed by creative sessions that stimulated the children’s thinking. This culminated in a two day event in December where the kids came to Xavier’s and spent the weekend with their didi/bhaiya, taking part in all the activities and workshops planned.
The Exhibition and SSaLe that was handled by the Publicity team was a major success. The Exhibition was not focused on just one theme; all members of the SSL were given a free hand to make a poster on any issue they felt for. At the Exhibition we had around 200 visuals spread across over 30 socially relevant issues. The SSaLe section had stalls from the SSL and other NGOs. The SSL stall had souvenirs made from old calendars, invitation cards and other recyclable products. The Publicity team did an awesome job this year: a testament to their hard work was the membership numbers increasing by 400%. The numbers jumped from 220 in the previous year to 850 this year.
50 SSLites. 10 days. 1 aim: rural impact. Rural Camp, the popular SSL project, is a ten day camp where fifty SSLites go to a village for ten days of manual work which will directly impact the community in some way. To go to last year’s campsite and see the completed fish-pond was a morale booster. This year our task was to level a patch of land for cultivation. Working seven hours each day for ten days, we have to admit that we are only halfway there, but . it’s not just the village that we impact: all campers who come back feel that their lives have been transformed when they realise how much they have pushed themselves in those few days.
Workshops is an open-ended project which tackles current socially relevant issues by organising talks and, well, workshops. This year, SSL General Body Meetings were organised where everyone was invited to be a part of a discussion. First, everyone was updated about the current progress of the SSL and then we opened up the floor for anyone who wanted to give new suggestions about projects and any issues that we could work on. We worked with Smoke Free Mumbai , creating awareness about the hazards of smoking and the laws surrounding smoking. We also ran a petition signing campaign on the days of Malhar where were collected more than 2000 signatures from college students against the lenient laws around smoking in public and low taxes on smoking. SFM is now working with more organisations to collect enough signatures to appeal to court. There were workshops supplementing Project Care and Rural Camp and a talk by an executive from Childline. The Workshops team ended with a bang by putting together the NGO Mela where NGOs are invited to come sell their products and use the revenue generated for their activities.
The year came to an end; satisfied by moving a step closer to the vision, we handed over the baton to the next year’s Exec-Comm, who are now working full swing to try and maximise the impact the SSL has.
General Secretary 2010 - 11
When I came back from camp, one of my French friends asked me how it was. I told him that we woke up at 5 a.m., dug for hours, slept on the ground and ate spicy food. Horrified, he said, “You enjoyed that?” “Of course, I did,” I replied. It was a great experience and I met amazing people. I learn a lot - how to throw gammys, how to participate in a ‘cock fight’, how to be a goalkeeper in a water polo match and how to try to sing a song in Hindi without understanding what I was saying, how to eat with my hands and even how to catch mud with my eye (which is not so easy, I was particularly good at this last activity).
What was funny in camp was that everybody kept on asking me, “What’s up Léa ?” Most of the time, I didn’t know what to reply with, except when I was passing gammys. After spending ten days with them, I can say that the friendliest people I met in India are part of the SSL, for sure.
Conclusion: Camp was a lot of mud…sorry, I meant to say fun, if you know what I mean."
- Léa Clouteau
Exec Comm note: Some jokes just can’t be explained. You’ll just have to make it for Rural Camp 2011!
Just as every saint has a past, every sinner has a future. Here are my adventures on the matter. I considered the SSL weirdos, attic dwellers on the ground floor (blasphemy strictly in violation of the code) and overall morcha kind of people. I was no better being a science dude, fourth floor dweller (it would be an attic if it had a roof, that distinction left for the biology guys and gals). I spent most of my time huffing and panting, walking up the enchanted stairs to class and down, cursing the mornings, the 4th floor and Statistics.
My association with the SSL started in my second year because I was told that the Rural Camp was a quick and simple way to get a social service credit. So before deciding to apply for the easy way out I walked around to the office to confront the creatures that inhabited the room under the stairs. Man was I wrong about those people! There was a magic about the place. I walked out of that office after applying to be a sub-secretary at Project Care, a post I later got.
Rural Camp became my first proper interaction with the SSL, since PC would only come at the end of the year. It is an experience I will not forget. The QQ’s, the entertainment sessions, the jokes and the fatigue weren’t the memories I retained. It’s a feeling, this sublime feeling that one can’t describe, a feeling that is felt differently by different people but it’s a feeling that is just absolute bliss. You learn things without being taught, you see things without looking, you come back with empathy and compassion you never possessed before. These lessons in humanity were reinforced during PC.
- Nikita Saxena (SYBMM).
Project Secretary, Workshops.