Social Awareness Programs during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Covid-19 Safety Protocols
RDF staff has been educating rural people about the importance and urgency of social distancing and demonstrating hygiene practices such as handwashing and wearing masks. Our staff prepared a natural sanitizer using local ingredients and with training, most families are making this at home!
Senior staff member, Mr. Asoka Chary distributed medicated soaps to 864 families. Other essential items were also distributed free of cost to needy families. A Matendla family, urged by an RDF student, made 5000 masks with their own humble income! They collected cotton cloths from the villagers, handwashed them thoroughly with Dettol, then machine stitched them.The masks were distributed in surrounding villages, including to local police, medical, revenue and electricity department personnel and sanitation workers.
Mental Health Awareness
RDF institutions have been focusing on students’ mental wellbeing during the pandemic, recognizing the effects of social isolation. A mental health awareness programme was organized with psychologist, Ms. Swarna Gollapudi, the founder of ‘Antar – Look Within’, an online counseling service that concentrates on mental health awareness, counseling, therapy and stress management.
She counseled students on all forms of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma or a lack of motivation. Students reported that such methods are beneficial not just during a pandemic, but in life too, in order to lead a meaningful life.
Keeping Students in School
It was identified that children in ‘thandas’ (tribal villages) were not attending online classes when schools remained closed due to the pandemic, including disinterest from parents. Students and staff created an awareness and outreach programme, along with the school management. They met each family individually and in groups to understand their challenges and provide solutions for continued education.This has made a positive change in their minds, with many children returning to classes.
Field trips were restricted in the last academic year due to the pandemic. However, once restrictions eased, the students met with farmers to understand their problems and help them.
Students visited farms in and around their villages, along with their lecturers and had interactive discussions with the farmers. They discussed modern agricultural methods to reduce labour and improve efficiency. They also spoke about improving the quality and type of fodder for cows and oxen.
Given RDF’s focus on sustainability and organic food, organic farming methods were discussed in detail with its emphasis on soil health, human health, sustainability and how to meet market demands. The meetings were very educational for both sides, creating more impactful community engagement practices.
RDF School regularly engage in the following programs –
Muchata — an open house where students debate issues like inter-faith marriage and why various local traditions and folklore are important. After learning about the harmful effects of tobacco, students enlisted their fathers to stop using beedis (local cigarettes) and paan with great success.
The Right to Vote – Students and staff demonstrate the power of democracy and empowerment, by speaking to villagers about the right to vote and the need to vote to elect the right representative in the Gram Panchayat elections. One year, the efforts resulted in a 97.5% poll rate in Matendla village for the first time ever in 2014!
Green Drives – Schools organize ‘green drives’ on campus and in the community by planting trees. The ‘Haritha Haram’ project initiated by the Telangana government to enhance the green cover in the state has been embraced and implement enthusiastically by the schools. As a part of this programme, RDF children and staff in each school has planted a variety of plants in their respective campus. This not only increases the greenery in the school, but also involves community participation, leading to a diversity of plants and ecological awareness thriving in the local communities.
No to Plastic! Students have spread awareness on the ills of using plastic bags on the environment, creating toxic waste and encouraging villagers to use paper bags. They even make several paper bags from recycled paper and distribute them around shops in neighbouring villages!
Such real-life campaigns highlight RDF’s values: education and engagement leading to empowerment.
Health and Sanitation Programs
The variety and beauty of India’s many seasons also brings with it many diseases. The Indian Monsoons typically cause health concerns, with people falling sick due to malaria, typhoid and other viral diseases. The National Service Scheme (NSS) students enrolled in the Junior College, went on a door to door awareness campaign to educate the locals on the perils of monsoon induced diseases. Each student volunteer adopted 2 streets to comprehensively cover Kalleda and some surrounding villages, to educate people about such diseases, their prevention, sanitation and remedies. Their efforts were lauded by the village Secretary and the Sarpanch and will be continued on an annual basis.
Such programs instills a sense of responsibility in students, who see themselves as part of the larger community and committing to its welfare and well being.
Ganesh Chavithi: September brings Ganesha festivities. RDF children happily get to work making clay Ganesha idols and organising rallies to advocate and raise awareness to make our festivals earth friendly – an act of honour towards our planet and her longevity. The RDF community has inspired their local villages to go eco friendly, not only distributing clay idols, but also encouraging locals to ditch making POP idols. The decorations and puja materials are all natural and environment friendly – taken from the local resources available.
Matendla School also organised a beautiful event of ‘Vinayaka Bhajanas’, where the talented children and teachers sang melodious songs in praise of Ganesha, adding to the air of festivity.
Video links of the ‘bhajanas’ –
Health Camps: The health of our children is of prime importance. The local RDF teams coordinate with health professionals in their area to organise health camps. Medicines for common ailments are also distributed for free at these camps.
Kantivelugu: A government initiated program for the citizens of Telangana for quality eye care. As a part of this programme, medical officers visited RDF schools and conducted an eye test for all students and staff. They also distributed spectacles for the students who needed, free of cost.