Some techies in the city volunteer as teachers

Their working hours during weekdays are often mind-boggling. It’s a wonder then that, despite the busy schedules, there are some techies who find the time to volunteer for social causes, often above and beyond the call of de rigueur corporate social responsibility activities.

Interestingly after college students, techies apparently make up the biggest block of volunteers at various charitable organisations in the city. Most of these techies are involved in teaching activities.

One of the more dedicated of the lot is Sthanu Thambi, a manager with UST Global, who has been volunteering as a teacher for the past 12 years. “Since I’ve been doing it for so long, volunteering has become a part of routine,” says Sthanu, who unfailingly spends a few hours every free weekend volunteering at various schools and orphanages across the city. With the support of the company, he started off teaching basic computer skills to teachers in the government school at Kazhakoottam and then to those in schools in and around Technopark such as those in Attinkuzhy, Kanjikkal, Kanyakulanagara, Kattayikonam and Eenchakkal, to name a few, which did not then have access to computers. “These days the Government has an IT syllabus and have enough teachers qualified to teach computers. So we’ve shifted focus to helping set up well-equipped IT labs and moved onto teaching subjects such as vermiculture (we got a huge response for this), waste management, energy conservation, and so on,” says Sthanu.

His colleague Joseph Fernandez, meanwhile, takes classes on ‘media cornering’ at Kanthari, an NGO that offers a seven month leadership programme for people who have overcome adversity and who are keen on ‘ethical social change’. “I work as a communications manager at UST and since 2009 I have been using my expertise in the field to teach participants how to manage media and communicate in a crisis situation, with ethics and integrity. Basically, I put them and their individual projects in the spot and grill them mercilessly!” says Joseph, with a laugh.

That it takes a lot of dedication is a given. “I don’t think any of us volunteers think of it as a chore. It is only two to three hours of our time on weekends. That’s not a lot and it is quite manageable. However, one needs commitment to see it through. Our students depend on us,” says Rakesh Ramesan, who works at RMES at Technopark. He is one of the many youngsters who volunteer with Make A Difference (MAD) and is part of the team who teaches at Bal Bhavan and Mahila Mandiram.

Most of these volunteers say that they do not have previous experience in tutoring. Abhijith Unnikrishnan, who works at Oracle, and teaches at Sree Chitra under the aegis of MAD, says: “It’s not really necessary to know how to teach. My only connection to teaching is that my father, Unnikrishnan Nair, is a retired professor. At MAD, however, we have a systematic syllabus and lesson plan to teach English. The idea is to keep the children engaged and interested while learning.”

Most of the techies are full of pride when they talk about their ‘students.’ “At first I remember we had to go kid hunting! All they wanted to do is play. But nowadays my students are very eager to attend class,” says Abhijith. Rakesh adds: “The other day one of my students came up to me and another volunteer and started conversing in English! That was a landmark moment. It made all my efforts so far worthwhile.”

What is it that motivates the professionals to volunteer? Says Sthanu: “I believe that in each of us there is an element of humanity. We only need an opportunity and it will express itself.” Joseph echoes Sthanu’s thoughts when he says: “The motivation – that spirit of giving – is within each of us. Find the right platform and you will be surprised by how much you can achieve – and learn.”