“We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded,” said Swami Vivekananda. Aditi Roy writes about a youth organisation that works towards this
What started as a library offering engineering and management books in 1991 has developed into an organisation devoted to services for the youth and the underprivileged. Located at Dombivli (a distant Mumbai suburb), the founding members of Vivekanand Seva Mandal started an academy to provide free educational assistance to engineering students. The Mandal gradually grew into its present-day avatar which undertakes a variety of social, educational and upliftment activities.
In 1996, the faculty of renowned engineering colleges like Veermata Jeejabai Technical Institute (VJTI), Mumbai, decided to set up an academy to provide training to underprivileged youth. “Engineering has always been a good career option for students in our area. The concept of technology has been very well accepted by people here, so they are drawn towards it,” says Krunal Mhatre, a karyakarta (volunteer) associated with the Mandal since two years.
Professionals or students residing around Dombivli volunteer as teachers. They monitor the progress of each student and conduct motivation classes. One such programme runs in Maanpada village near Dombivli. Sankalp Patkar, an engineer doing his MBA from a reputed business school, is one such volunteer. He learnt about the Mandal during his second year at the engineering college. “We have a two-hour weekly class to teach students subjects like Maths, English and Science through audio-visual presentations.”
Equipment is expensive so funding becomes an issue, but the alumni, who hold senior corporate positions, help raise funds. “We implement a holistic approach in assessing progress of the students through various activities that are part of the programme. Our main thrust is character building, becoming a better human being,” says Mr Patkar.
The library houses over 7,000 books and the Mandal has set up a study centre in Dombivli that can accommodate up to 100 students at a time. These facilities are managed and supervised by a team of student volunteers, who get hands-on training in management of new social projects launched by the Mandal.
These include the i2i project launched in 2011 to connect the students directly with industry. The project included placements for the fresh graduates, honing entrepreneurial initiatives and enhancing employability of the students. Project i2i got further impetus in 2012 with a Career Fest. Over 2,300 engineering students and 200 companies participated in the Fest and 100 jobs were on offer. An IT Centre and a Technology Development Centre are two other projects where volunteers work at streamlining processes or developing new techniques.
ZEP (the Marathi word for achieving one’s full potential) is the name of the Mandal’s educational assistance fund for needy tribal students who lack resources to continue their studies. ZEP aims to provide high-quality education to the children in the area and is available to students from eighth standard to graduation level and for those pursuing courses in IT and nursing.
The Mandal’s social work is not restricted to Dombivli; it extends to the nearby villages of Vihigaon, Khogade and Wada taluka in Thane district. The self-help groups (SHGs) set up by the Mandal provide support for establishing marketing channels, arrange finances, guide in logistics and product development. The Mandal is actively involved in providing assistance for agriculture and watershed management. It runs medical camps in collaboration with local NGOs and doctors. Under its Project Tejas, homes in Khogade are provided solar lamps to replace kerosene lamps, thus saving money and the environment. Project Agricultural Development helps farmers grow cash crops to improve their incomes. A village committee has been formed that includes women to facilitate communication between farmers and volunteers of the Mandal.
Donations to Vivekananda Seva Mandal are eligible for exemption under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act.
Vivekanand Seva Mandal
Dnyan Mandir Building, Nerurkar Road, Datta Nagar Chowk, Sangita Wadi,
Dombivli (E) Pin: 421 201
Tel No: +91-251-2800 303 Mob No. +91-9833930032 (Ketan Bondre)