In order advocate this year’s motto “Giving Back in the Spirit of the Season” of Juniper Networks, Inc., Bangalore office provided an opportunity to the employees to volunteer for one of the non-government, non-profit organizations within the vicinity of Bangalore.
20 employees from various departments – IPG, EPBG, HR, and Finance – chose to travel to Kaliyuva Mane (“Home for learning” in the local language), an alternative school run by Divyadeepa Charitable Trust, Mysore to facilitate schooling for opportunity deprived children from villages nearby. Located in a village called Kenchala gudu, about 13 km from Mysore, the school has been “Home” for about 21 children and a learning place for another 20 children.
The 20 Juniperites met in “The Incredibles” on Dec 16th to discuss the agenda for Dec 18th, the day earmarked for the visit to Kaliyuva Mane. Enthused participants collated the ideas and activities to associate themselves with the children, not knowing what was in store for themselves, yet. Hygiene, art, talent, and long-term association were the main focus of the activities which showed the intent of responsibility by the team. Smaller teams owned up the task of procuring the required items, including pleasantries, gifts and prizes for the event-winners.
Come Dec 18th, enthused team, late-nighters and early-risers alike, shrugged off the December winter to gather at the office promises at 6.30am. Setting off at 7.10am, as against 7 am, was “on-time” by any Indian Standards. Picking up few on the way, the journey was pleasant with many regular activities in the bus. Caught a quick breakfast en-route and few habitual shoppers curbed their instincts in the wake of reaching the site at the earliest, however not less than 4 hours of travelling.
The school – children, teachers and the staff- greeted Juniper Team with fresh and wide smiles, leaving the Team so mesmerized that the articles were forgotten lying in the bus. A tour around the place was guided by none other than Mr. Ananth Kumar, the brain and hands behind the project. A bank, a store, pseudo-currencies, gift cheques, and other regular transactional models were implemented for the children to experience the real world of capitalism. Small portions (4ftx4ft) of lands are allocated to seniors among the children to maintain and cultivate crops/plants of their choice. Classrooms were open-air, under the shades of trees; every visitor’s exclamation was common “Wish we had such classrooms then!”.
In the due course, quite a few children befriended the dynamic ones from Juniper, sharing their experiences in Kaliyuva Mane and before. Few had learnt dance, singing, and other forms of fine-arts, from the volunteers who were regular to Kaliyuva Mane. There was glow in their eyes as a result of their achievements in Kaliyuva Mane.
Lunch was quick, providing a forum for further bonding. Drawing competition, soccer, and cricket started simultaneously. Children taught us few local games that many of us were not familiar with. Interaction was in English with those who couldn’t speak the local language, which left many in our team with pleasant surprise. The common question was “How are these children inferior to any other who got regular opportunities?”. After 2 hours, everyone gathered to witness the display of talents – group-dance, songs and extempore- by the children. Every Juniperite was now one with the group of children. Distribution of pleasantries followed the performances. Few senior children, appointed as leads, were enrolled for a class on hygiene and well-being. These senior children have pledged to guide their fellow-mates to follow the guidelines of hygiene. Handy checklists and pictorial depiction of everyday activities were handed over to them for reference. The session concluded with few Juniperites associating themselves with these children for an ongoing activity of progress review and feedback. While resident students stayed back, day-scholars started heading home.
Time to leave by 4.30pm, it was a mission accomplished for our team. There was a serious bonding. Minds started thinking of a new horizon for ideas to support these children. Bidding farewell to the resident students and Mr. Ananth Kumar, journey started back home, reaching Bangalore by 10pm. All the while, there was no dearth for thoughts of how fulfilling their day had been and how one can keep the momentum up. It was a day of not “Giving back”, but “Taking something” – a bonding and a fond memory, learning a new facet of the society.
Few quotes from the feedbacks from participants (my collegues from Juniper):
“I am really happy and pleased that I took part in this event. It was really a great experience. I have pledged to continue my support for this school.” – Anil K. Maruvada
"I had really great time with all. Talents of the kids really attracted me. Definitely my support will continue for this school" – Shivaleela
"It was a great learning experience in the true sense of the name ....I am sure everybody would agree that we learnt a lot from the kids!! We are thankful to Juniper for providing an opportunity to visit the children". – Shriranjani
"It felt really good to see those kids and their talents, keeping in mind the circumstances in which they are. My support will always be there for the institution. And I am in too for supporting to build up their library. :) - Neha
It was such amazing thing to notice about their thought process, how differently they think and react to some situations ...Totally a different and nice experience" – Krithi
"Kids are very talented and they have so much energy, enthusiasm and creativity. They need opportunity and support to develop the ability"
"It was a delight to be with the children. It also was an eye opener to the fact that they gave me hope and gave me joy and all they did was give. All of it with so much enthusiasm and energy fueled by hope, and I thought I was the one going there to give." – S Hemraj
Juniper and Kaliyuva Mane formed a new relation on Dec 18, 2008. Kaliyuva Mane’s dream of enrolling 250 children by 2015 is not unachievable with such a support. Activities have just begun.