Twenty three young men and women, who call themselves G18, pledge their time to social service and turn around the lives of those who are less privileged.
About 17 years ago, siblings Varadharajan, Geetha and Parthipan, came to Coimbatore from their village of Thottampatti in search of a better life. They barely had any money, so in order to support their studies, they decided to take tuitions for kids in the neighbourhood. Says Parthipan, “We started off in a small way. Those who couldn’t afford the fee paid whatever they could.” Today, their humble tuition centre has grown into the ‘G18 Learning Centre’ in Peelamedu. Hundreds of students have passed out from the centre with good marks in their board exams. But what makes G18 special is that, many of these students are involved in some form of social service.
Even as a student, Parthipan says that he was constantly thinking of ways to be of use to society. He spends time at the Shanthi Ashram and this influences him too. Along with a few students from his study centre, he formed the G18 Trust. The G18 team is made up of engineers, software professionals, and youngsters from other fields. This is how it works: Parthipan’s team has divided its activities into ‘projects’, with a person in-charge who has volunteers working under him/her.
Paying it forward
T. Sathya Narayanan, for instance, takes care of the ‘Kal’ project. He came to G18 when he was in class 12. Sathya and his team visit schools and colleges in the city to identify less-privileged students for scholarships. G18 provides for their studies and also supports their extra-curricular activity. There is just one condition. “The student must help others in need. They must be willing to work with us. We discuss this with their parents as well,” says Sathya.
College student B. Kaviya works with girls at the corporation-run orphanage in Gandhimanagar. She heads the ‘Kadhambam’ project. Kaviya visits the girls during weekends, helps with their studies, and organises nutritional supplements, health camps, tailoring and embroidery workshops. “We have a person who teaches yoga on Sundays,” she says. Her team also brings resource persons to talk to the girls. “Recently, a teacher from a Montessori school in Chennai spoke about the Montessori system,” adds Kaviya.
The soft-spoken D. Manikandan, a system-analyst, is fond of trees. As part of the ‘Viruksham’ project, he is responsible for G18’s contribution to the city’s green cover. His team has set up vegetable gardens for several households in Peelamedu, free of cost. They also plant trees and look after them. Under the ‘Governance’ project, G18 works with 14-year-olds from six private schools in the city.
Soft-skills trainer K. Prince and his team pick 25 students and train them to become leaders and responsible citizens. “We teach them to keep their schools clean; discuss high-risk behaviour such as smoking; talk about the physical and mental changes they experience during adolescence; give them ideas on how they can be of use to their fellow students…” explains Prince.
Student Hadeerbee wants to create awareness about the effects of drugs and alcoholism. After research and discussions with experts, she has come up with ideas for antidrug campaigns. Called ‘Paadhai’, her team works with college students who put up informal plays and discuss alcoholism and its effects.
V. Sabari Nathan has adopted three streets in Peelamedu under the ‘Mudhal Padi’ project. He ensures that they are clean. He also goes door-to-door asking people if he can be of help to them.
Constantly on the look-out for new things to do, G18 is presently planning to involve senior citizens in their activities. “We are working on a team that will be on call to offer assistance to senior citizens, anytime of the day,” explains Parthipan.
Firing their imagination
Manikandan, Kaviya, Parthipan…all of them also double as teachers at the centre. K. Krishna Kumar, an assistant-professor in a college, spends most of his time teaching here after work, not to mention extra hours in the mornings. He too joined G18 as a student.
“Education shouldn’t be just about teaching you a subject,” says Parthipan. It should inspire, create a spark in you. “After taking an interesting Tamil class, if Manikandan enters the garden with a manvetti, his students will definitely follow suit.”
After years of working together, the G18 team is like family now. There is a kitchen at the centre, where those interested can practise cooking! Many of them, including Parthipan and Manikandan, are experienced dancers. Apart from all the serious business, the centre is also a place for the members to unwind. “If I read a good story, I talk about it here. And if I come across some nice dance move, I show it to them. They have no choice but to appreciate it,” laughs Manikandan.