Last year, students from 27 schools in Kerala contributed blankets worth Rs. 4 lakh under NDTV - Uday Foundation’s initiative ‘Save a Life. Donate a Blanket’ to cold wave-battered North India. Each student in these 27 schools gave Re. 1 every day for every working day and contributed to this amount. This is the result of a tiny programme called ishare, which these schools are part of.
ishare is derived from ‘I am sharing’. This idea of sharing germinated in the mind of advocate Mathew B. Kurian whose three children were students of Rajagiri Public School (RPS), Kalamaserry. He was the President of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at the time.
“Just giving an amount of money one day in a year for some cause will not stick to your mind. But if you make it a habit it will work – like how a mother tells a child to comb her hair and then a stage reaches when the child doesn’t have to be told to do so. The intention was to cultivate the habit of sharing what little there is with the less privileged,” he says. Once children are habituated then the giving will come naturally, Mathew hopes.
He shared the idea with Rev. Fr. Austin Mulerikal, CMI, the then Director of the school, who gave the project his wholehearted go-ahead. This was in 2009. Seven years hence the programme, which reminds one of the Malayalam adage pala thulli peruvellam (little drops of water make a mighty body of water), has been adopted by various city schools and others in the State. “This is an easy, small concept which can change society,” Mathew says.
City schools that are part of the project are Bhavan’s Vidya Mandir Elamakkara, Chinmaya Vidyalaya Vaduthala, Don Bosco Elamakkara, and Dawn Public School.
Nirmala Higher Secondary School, Muvattupuzha, was the second school to join the programme. Says Father George Vadakkel, Principal, “Programmes such as these make children aware about the less privileged. It inculcates in them a mentality for social service and a commitment to society.”
Jaya Jacob, Principal, Bhavan’s Vidya Mandir, Elamakkara, agrees. “We have been part of this programme for the last two years. We have, however, had a similar programme for the past 15 years – boxes are kept in each class where children can contribute as little as 50 paise and at the end of each month the amount is spent on a cause. A project like this creates sensitivity and concern for the environment.”
Since Bhavan’s has various outreach projects, the ishare contribution was added to the corpus for this programme. Part of the amount, last year, went towards the medical expenses of a child at Amrita Hospital, Onam kits for a couple of orphanages, and distribution of fruits, blankets and bed sheets for others.
“Rupee one per day is a very small amount compared to what we spend. An activity of this kind creates a sense of being blessed…it makes us feel good,” says 16-year-old Maria Susan, an ishare leader for Class XI, RPS.
Her compatriot Keerthi Jomy adds, “This way we understand the needs of others. The field visits open our eyes to the needs and plight of others, those less fortunate; we see people who are in actual need of money.” Like Maria and Keerthi, Elza Manoj, another ishare leader, says that having contributed to ishare since its inception “we have developed a habit of sharing and caring about others. I think it has helped us become better people and socially aware too.”
As part of the programme, a field visit took them to C. Babu of Thumpoly who, following an accident had been paralysed from waist down and is bedridden. They provided financial assistance for the repair of his house. “The programme is divided into four projects – humanitarian support, school infrastructure, public infrastructure and children’s health care…we, as students stand to gain from the exposure,” Keerthi says. In 2011, RPS handed over the keys to well-equipped laboratories and a library to the students to HMT School, Kalamassery, built from their ishare contributions of two years.
In faraway Switzerland, the South Indian community has introduced the programme in some schools where children contribute a Swiss Franc per week and plans to associate with schools back home for social projects. Similarly the Don Bosco fathers in Africa – Sudan, Tanzania and Kenya – have evinced an interest in starting the project there.
“The seed has to germinate and grow into a plant – we will only know when the children become adults. It is like education you don’t see the results immediately, we’ll have to wait and see if the habit develops,” Mathew says.