Akshara V Prabhath is a budding engineer who finds joy and meaning in life when it is spent in bringing a smile to another's face. She is the chief coordinator and module designer of Insight for Innovation (NGO). She has been mentoring children to improve their academics and widen their horizons. As a part of Insight for Innovation, she organised a project for improving Basic Mathematic knowledge as well as leadership and other soft skills for underprivileged children. She is an active volunteer in the IEEE, GDSC and National Service Scheme units of her college and has been part of various projects to bring in equal opportunities for everyone in the society. She is the WIE Vice Chairperson of IEEE SB LBSITW and Outreach manager of GDSC LBSITW. Her passion is to create and be part of changes that ripple their way into eventually changing the Nation for the better.
VOLUNTEERING FOR ME
Volunteering means being truly alive to me. Among a life spent in walking with the herd and going through the motions of another's definition of living, volunteering is a space where I truly understand the meaning of existing, where I can truly comprehend the vastness of the opportunities and privileges I am blessed with and act so as to bring meaning into it. Volunteering means being a citizen of the earth in its truest sense.
I came into volunteering when I was at school. It started with Insight, an organisation conducting pedagogy research and transforming education as we know it. I have been volunteering in all of its activities and social transformation projects for over five years now. Volunteering has helped me discover myself, It has helped me not only touch the lives of others, but has always been a mirror to me in helping to acknowledge my limitations and really leading and inspiring myself to be a better person than yesterday.
Like many things in life, Volunteering started out as a chance journey for me.
I visited Insight, at the time just another neighbourhood organisation for me when I was 14 years old. I went along on one of their projects involving a local government school where we took personality development sessions for the students at the end of which various books and gifts were distributed to them. The smile on the children's faces was an unforgettable sight. It was a very special sort of pure joy to impact someone's life positively in however small a way possible. I started actively participating in more initiatives organised by Insight and became a mentor and coordinator in various sessions which granted us with both delightful and shocking experiences. I remember the pang on my chest when a child drew lines on the paper and counted them by hand because he couldn't do double digit addition at an age when his peers were supposed to be far ahead and another instance when we were handed back a plain sheet of paper - " Please teach me" after a mock evaluation session held in one of the underprivileged schools.
Every smile, every stroke of confidence a student expresses, every breath of relief at being better - they are all my inspirations to move forward. We have faced a lot of issues from struggling to find financial backing and social support for our projects and simply being taken seriously in a world which values competition and plowing ahead not caring for the ones crushed behind. It is my pride and my joy to have been able to contribute to helping up those children crushed under this bridge. I truly consider it a privilege that I got to experience every single one of these struggles and joys at an earlier age. They have helped me be mindful of my opportunities and skills and empowers me to strive to a better and socially repsonsible person in whatever career path I choose as well in day to day life choices.
PROJECT PROJECT GANITHAM
ORGANISATION Insight for Innovation
MISSION & VISION
Vision To widen the horizons of children from underprivileged communities studying in Government Schools by helping them with concepts of basic mathematics thereby giving them more options for their future studies as well as career choices.
Mission To teach basic Mathematical concepts( Integers, Fractions, Decimals, Algebra) to class 9 and 10 students from Government Schools by creating a wide volunteer base among College Students and training them for the same.
The idea of Project Ganitham started out from unpleasant experiences. During the various personality development as well as academic sessions taken for students from Insight, we found that many children as old as 15 were struggling to do basic addition or multiplication. They hated mathematics and were very averted to consider any career choice or future study path that required Mathematics as a subject even when they were passionate about becoming engineers or Scientists.
The volunteer drive
It included Graduate students from over 20 colleges in Kerala.The word was spread about the project via NSS cells in colleges and Social Media
During the first phase held during June - September 2019 , we held classroom training for the Volunteers in various batches covering not only the materials and the concepts they were to teach, but also teaching methodologies on how to retain the attention of students and make learning effective. Volunteer training during the second phase involved online training sessions due to limitations of COVID, but we ensured quality of the mentors via evaluation of their teaching styles and giving appropriate feedback. We also segregated the volunteers into Mentors and coordinators to ensure that classes went smoothly and proper attention was given to every child
Project Ganitham starts with an initial examination conducted for each batch of school students to determine their knowledge level of basic mathematical problems
The classes were held for 4 topics - Integers, decimals, fractions and algebra. Each topic consisted of preset standardised teaching methodology and materials for all batches and included to questions to work out in class with the help of the mentors as well as homework questions which were promptly discussed and corrected too. At the end of all the sessions, we conducted a final examination to determine the improvement among students and found that they showed very significant improvement and confidence about mathematics for them. We had set up a championship system among the partner colleges so as to bring in more volunteers and reach out to more students which worked tremendously well. We were able to teach more than 800 students from 20 schools in the first phase and over 1500 students from 50 schools all over Kerala in the second phase of Project Ganitham. We trained and coordinated more than 3000 Volunteers from 20 Partner College. The volunteers were recognised on the basis of the feedback from students and the no of teaching hours put in by them and we felicitated the best volunteers in each phase as well.
LENGTH OF SERVICE
The first phase of Project Ganitham started on July 2019 and ended by September 2019.
The second was from November 2020 to January 2021.The third phase had started in October 2021 and it's going on well. I had spend nearly 4 hours per day for the entire Project Ganitham.
ROLE IN PROJECT
I was involved in the planning phase of project Ganitham from its nascent period I played a pivotal role in setting the syllabus and teaching modules for each session as well as standardising the materials used for explaining each concept.I was also one of the core coodinators and trained over 2000 volunteers for the project. Having taught students very early on from the time when I was myself in school, I had a very good idea of what were the specific areas that is difficult for a student to comprehend in Mathematics and the root concepts to be fixed that can change the confidence level of a child. My experiences with mentoring and teaching methodologies also helped tremendously during the Volunteering drive and Training phase of volunteers. Project Ganitham was a very transformative journey not just for the students at the receiving end, but also for the coordinators. I was a school student myself when Project Ganitham started and I got the opportunity to train and organise mentoring sessions for Graduate students much older in age and experience than me. That was a huge confidence boost in facing a crowd and being vocal about an idea in a way that resonates with everyone. I am much more confident at public speaking now becauss of the experience. I also had to coordinate with many teams in planning the project and it really helped in improving my leadership skills and enabled me to have experience on working efficiently with a Team of different ages and experiences and staying true to the Goal.
IMPACT OF PROJECT
This project is way more meaningful than what the name showcases. It is about not just teaching a few questions of algebra to a child, but about breaking the gaps in our education system. It is about providing support systems to children and encouraging them to dare and dream beyond confines of social and economic backgrounds. The end goal of this project is to ensure that our children have choices on their futures irrespective any notions of privilege that exist in society. We are already expanding the scope of Project Ganitham in its current phase to include more personality development, leadership and fun sessions aimed at bringing out the creativity in students and driving them to find out their passions while also inculcating a sense of social commitment in them. We have been tailoring our teaching modules to enable new and effective learning techniques and promote initiative, teamwork and leadership among the students.
We like to believe that the future of our communities should be in the hands of aware, compassionate and responsible children who are ready to take charge of their futures and that of their communities. Good education that enriches not just academic knowledge, but also personalities is the way to arming our youth for the same. That is what Project Ganitham is working to contribute towards with every new improvement
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
GOAL 4: Quality Education
I was awarded with the 'Drona' award for mentoring over 2000 volunteers as part of Project Ganitham
I was chosen as the Vice secretary of WIE affinity group of IEEE student branch of LBSITW.
I was selected to be the outreach manager of Google developer students club of my college
I intend to tailor my current education and future career plans to enable me to have more opportunities and a wider scope towards my volunteering aspirations. As part of Insight I have been planning a new project - Disha, aimed at adopting children from underprivileged and economically backward communities from their primary education until the end of their schooling and transforming their academic education by enabling personality development and leadership sessions tailored at bringing out the best in them. We plan to include College students from Economically backward households as mentors so as to provide them with a means of income and empowering entire families to make better choices for their future. I believe that the Institute of Social Volunteering and the Gulmohar foundation can be a platform to help us gain more visibility and thereby widen the scope of this project to reach more deserving individuals as well as bring in more support from people to pitch in and help in sponsoring our project.
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