October 31, 2011

Discover Dharavi

Dharavi is the last of the places a person will like to discover when he comes to the glamour city of Mumbai. Although, in the recent times thanks to movies like Slumdog Millionaire, it has become an indigenous element of the travel plan of any firang visiting Mumbai, assuming to see what real India is. However, this extends beyond...

Social Service League of St.Xaviers College, Mumbai discovered this potential which Dharavi has. The aim was to involving well to do students in discovering for themselves what lies beyond Asia's largest slums. With visionaries like Tanvi Shah and Lizann Fernandez, there were tie-ups done with URBZ ( and Sneha ( .

This picture is taken just outside the URBZ shelter. There were initial obstacles as to what type of program, college going youth can bring in. Will those used to a comfortable lifestyles and latest gizmos, be able to interact and in fact make a difference in the lives of small children. So, they decided to name the program 'Discover Dharavi'. The objective being discovering for oneself, how one with the passion to make a change can mould himself in a completely new environment and start with small steps.

This picture shows how Amitav Ghosh has extended beyond boundaries and language barriers following the SSL motto says "Leave the place better than it was." This should be an inspiration to Indians as should we wait for people from outside the country start transforming it?

Moving on with the story, posters were put up on the St.Xaviers and social media (Facebook) was used to appeal to the youth. Similarly, classroom announcements were made. So began the process of attracting youngsters to Discover Dharavi. The response were good, with many excited to visit Dharavi in the first place. But the question still remained, 'Can this be made sustainable?'

Thus, the journey began. From exploring the bylanes of Dharavi which are confusing, to exploring the underground flourishing industry which lies within, it was an eye-opening experience.

Finally, they made their way through and the work began. The door opened and now they had tasks to accomplish and challenges to face, quite different from the ones at college. They found this process interesting. More than a discovery of Dharavi it turned out to be a journey a self-discovery.

Another, task undertaken was to invite the slum kids and paint the Dharavi Shelter. As seen in the picture, you can see children engaged in creativity and happy to build something of their own.
Colours that define childhood. A child feeling happy at her very on Mickey Mouse.

This picture shows how a cute dog made a rather broken wall more beautiful.
Blue-the colour of hope. Children having fun at mixing colours.
Such, adventures thus became a routine. With students visiting the shelters, twice a week after college and when they got time. And this time, the 'time' they spent with the children mattered the most. With making them dance of boogie woogie, to teaching them nursery rhymes, narrating stories in English and asking them to introduce themselves in English, it boosted their confidence.

Shown in the picture, Xavierites finding transport back to home. But somethings brought them back to this place. Some emotional incidents being pulled by children to see their colony ganpati or just being asked by them ' Will you come next week again?'

The objective of writing this blog is to draw light on how this model can be prototype by other colleges. Rather than just doing social work to get media attention and acknowledgement, how can youth be involved in impacting the grassroots.

Picture courtesy:
Lizann Fernandez and Gisho Gajbhiye.

Article courtesy:
Saahil Narang,
SSL Secretariat.

September 29, 2011

Can you handle the heat?

Forms available at the SSL and Fr. Terry's office. Last date to register is 5th October.

August 3, 2011

The SSL Report 2010 - 2011 (College Magazine)

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.

Aadi Rungta

General Secretary 2010 - 11

July 18, 2011

Cheshire Home: A whole new year.

Last Sunday, the Social Service League had its first visit first visit of the year to Cheshire Home. This was the first visit for many of us new SSL members, including me. As soon as we got there, we were greeted by Sister Melba, the administration in-charge. She further told us about the basic needs of the home and instructed us to do specific jobs. Some of us had to clean the terrace, which had clogged due to the monsoon, while some helped dig a compost pit for bio-degradable waste. Some volunteers even helped in the workshop by painting articles that are made by the men staying at Chesh. A couple of the volunteers even helped a few residents with his studies.
Every volunteer contributed wonderfully in their own way. We had a lot of fun as did the residents. They were really happy to see us. At the end of it all, it still felt as if we have done only so little… But I plan to visit Chesh every Sunday and every visit better than the last one.
Sohail Gupta

March 2, 2011

Applications open!

Dear friends,
It's been a great year for the Social Service League. We've had over 700 blood donors, close to 900 members, revived the Cheshire Home project, instituted a new one in the form of G. I. Joe, conducted a sustainable Project Care, an incredible Exhibition and publicity campaign, an insane Rural Camp (if you know what I mean) and a Workshops department with fantastic ideas. Also, even if I do say so myself, the Executive Committee of 2010 - 2011 has been rather killer. Fr. Terry, as always, has been, well, himself.

All of the above, and so much else besides, was possible due to the dedication of the Secretariat, a core group of about 20 to 25 people that run the various projects of the SSL and contribute to its functioning throughout the year. It is our pleasure to inform you that applications to be a part of this close knit and elite group are now open. The format is:

Necessary details
Past experience (SSL and otherwise)
Why are you applying to the SSL Secretariat?
What new things do you think the SSL should do/take up, if any?
Elaborately explain, especially in case of a new project, what exactly you would like to do as a part of the Secretariat and how you would manage and implement these ideas.
Mention three of your skills/talents?
Describe the SSL in three words or less.

Anything else you want to add.

Word association, quick!
1. Project –
2. Terry –
3. Aadi –
4. Ambition –
5. Exec –

If you feel worried, confused or are otherwise caused discomfort by any of the above questions, by all means omit them. You may email your applications to or drop them off at the SSL office or at Fr. Terry's.

The projects we're retaining from last year are:
Blood Drive
Cheshire Home
Creatives (Publicity reinvented)
G. I. Joe (modified)
Project Care
Rural Camp

Thus your options comprise, but are not limited to, the above projects.
We look forward to welcoming you to our family. Last date to apply is the 15th of June.

The SSL.

P.S. - For any queries or doubts feel free to contact us at or:

Elton - 9867952811
Herold - 9920304714
Neil - 9821827726
Vaishali - 9833800132
Nihar Nair - 9820819844