Sara (Class of 2016) with a Sadhana friend, Niravati
Photo Courtesy: Nanako Sano
It seems that all UWCMC students have one thing in common: they like to ask questions. Am I utilising my time wisely? Should I focus more on the IB? Should I be doing more Trivenis? Am I prioritising the ‘right’ things? Should I eat in the cafeteria or make packet noodles? For many of us, who are nearing the end of our time on the hill, the time for reflection and self questioning is at its peak. The question on my mind is: ‘What has been the most valuable UWCMC experience?’ What has made my UWCMC experience unique is the opportunity to be involved with the wider community that lies beyond the gates and the comfort of our hill, through the Triveni programme and as a coordinator of Sadhana Friends. The student-led project works with Sadhana Residential Home, located in the Kolvan Valley, Pune. Sadhana Residential home works to better the treatment for those with mental health and physical disabilities and aims to break down the barriers, stigmas and stereotypes created through the culture and belief systems of rural Indian society.
Our project ‘Sadhana Friends’ particularly aims to create long lasting, individual, friendships with people who would otherwise be shunned from their communities.
A typical session, involves an array of activities ranging from dancing to drumming, storytelling to singing, chatting to chai drinking and group hugs to global insight presentations. To an outsider, with the vast amount of activities happening in one moment, our sessions most probably look like a hub of chaos. For me, this ‘chaos’ is the key to making our sessions successful.
Chaos is usually given a bad name, but there are skills that come with chaos: the ability to adapt and be flexible is vital, especially considering our friends who have a broad spectrum of abilities. The allowance for students to start activities, alongside our main session, such as teaching yoga, playing tic-tac-toe or holding individual conversations, depending on what the particular friend has requested in the spur of the moment. Such an interaction allows us to cater to varying needs and create organic, strong and individual bonds. For me the results, being the close friendships we create, are clear. Ujwalla, a friend who struggles with memory issues, now remembers my name and declares weekly “You are Indira!!” Another friend, Omkar (after five minutes of careful consideration), responds “Yes!” when I ask him if he is my friend.
As a person who prefers to ‘stick to the plan’, the chaos was hard, but a necessary concept to grasp, because it taught me that my contribution to ‘social service’, now and in the future, should be based on a local, community-orientated approach.
The ‘service’ (as the IB calls it) that we provide is not particularly special, outstanding or revolutionary; but Sadhana Friends, with its successes, failures and challenges, has heightened my awareness of the need for increased social service, and more importantly good social service. And that is the answer to my question: my most valuable UWCMC experience has been what I’ve learnt from the community that surrounds UWC Mahindra College, outside of the classroom.
-Indira Patel (UK)
Class of 2015