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Festember: A Fest to Remember

 

By: Surender Singh Bhist

Bangalore, January 19th, 2017:

The 2004 Tsunami on the Indian Ocean took lives of over 230,000 people and affected over 500,000 people across 14 countries. It is hard to find anything positive from one of the worst natural disaster that hit the subcontinent. At the same time, there was a fourth-grade kid who saw all the sufferings and pledged to make a change. Mr. Srinivasan Balasundaram, now heads the team of Social Responsibility, Festember, a NIT- Tiruchirappalli, student-based initiative that supports many such causes and organizes various events.

“I was frightened by how helpless the people were left after disaster struck. Since then, I made it a point to donate some money for disaster relief every year for my birthday”, said Srinivasan.

It was just a start for him. He never looked back and now a key member of team Festember.

Festember: The annual cultural festival of NIT- Trichy, founded in 1975.
·         The formation of Social Responsibility team has led this four-day annual event to evolve significantly.
·         A few small scale events with schools and orphanages around Trichy, the team now conducts events on a much larger scale.

“When I entered college, I wanted to join a team which would help me be directly involved in such events and this team was perfect for me. While the event in my childhood didn’t affect me directly, I certainly believe it inspired me to take up these efforts a lot more seriously.”

Festember- Social Responsibility Team over the years
The team of students is very particulars about their fest to be socially responsible. Thus in order to involve the society, the team brought over 600 Festember organizers in initiatives like ‘No Shave November’ and ‘Paperback’.
As time goes by, insufficient resources didn’t help to better the range of events.
“Over the years, as a team, we realized that the scope of the events that we did could not be improved significantly as we were all just students and we lacked resources. So, we decided to work out partnerships with other organizations to ensure that the work that we did could impact a lot more,” Srinivasan added.

Major Event: ‘Pages’
It is an event that aimed to set up a library and provide books for the underprivileged children. Chettinad Vidyashram was selected as the host school to drive the book collection. The team then partnered with ‘Teach for India’ to ensure all the collected books reach the target children in Chennai.
Other Events includes ‘Gold Dustbin’ and ‘No Shave November’.
A fundraiser is held every year during April-May called ‘Gold Dustbin’. It involves the team to conduct a campus-wide massive collection of old newspapers, books clothes, and other useful materials.
“The newspapers are then sent for recycling, used books are sold at cheaper prices and the clothes are sent to orphanages and other institutes which require it. The amount generated from this event is used to conduct year-round activities,” said the head of Social Responsibility Team, Festember.
Meanwhile, other fundraising activities like ‘No Shave November’ are conducted based on issues the team wishes to target for a particular year.

How the teams take care of awareness campaign in remote areas?
Srinivasan: Two years back, we had an awareness session about the advantages of growing millets with the farmers of a nearby village and even held a health check up for the people there. Last year, we held a Swachch Bharat campaign in a village called Valavanthankottai. We conducted a cleanup drive, placed extra dustbins and put up signboards telling the importance of cleanliness. This year, we concentrated more on ‘Education’.
While enjoying his role, Srinivasan also wishes to imprint the practice of being a socially responsible citizen among all students.

“A rule was passed by the Central Government that all companies must spend 2% of their profits for CSR. While this is a great move, most people just end up doing this work because they are forced to. This yields temporary solutions and its successes are short-lived.”

“Through our work, we hope to inspire other students to take up more interest in doing this work through the years so that they will do it not because they have to, but because they want to”, concluded Srinivasan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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