An All 'Round (Square)' Experience!
 
As three students from Indian High School, Dubai, tread on an expedition to serve a small segment of the Indian Community, it left behind an enriching and educational experience.

As Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, "The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others." Round Square, a worldwide organization for schools, works on similar lines.

This, year, three students of the Indian High School, Bennet Sam Thomas, Manas George, and Mohammed Nassif, Grade 11, got a chance to serve the under-privileged. Spread over five days from the 27th of September to the 2nd of October, 2012 and hosted by the Scindia School, Gwalior. The students participated in the Round Square Regional Service Project – 2012, with a focus on the village of Katmai in Shivpuri district, Madhya Pradesh, India.

"We felt like fish out of water at first" said Bennet, "We were 27, 16 year olds from nine different schools who'd never met each other before, and yet, after five days of working together, we had become extremely attached to each other." Nassif echoed his sentiment, saying, "There's something about working together that's extremely bonding. Each group contained students and teachers from different schools, however, it turned out to be a good thing", he said, referring to Bennet and Manas.

Primarily Round Square was dedicated to an overall development of the underprivileged. The students served the society in different ways. When asked about the purpose of the project, Nassif said, "We were sent there to give the women of the village a measure of privacy, in their everyday life. The primary objective of the project was to build bathing cubicles for the women of the village, so that they would not have to take bath in the open. During the course, we also talked to the villagers about their day to day lives and tried to understand the conditions in which they lived. On the last day, our group worked with an NGO called Neev."

Neev, a small charitable society based in Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh. Aditi Diwan, one of the founders of the organization explains, "Neev was started by four idealistic friends with similar mindsets who met while at university in England and wanted to work with the poor and underprivileged." Diwan further elaborated "Neev is currently working with women and children from Thakarpura, Nohri, Katmai and Binega villages in Shivpuri. All our products are Craftmark certified by the All India Artisans and Craft workers Welfare Association. Currently twenty women are employed under this project."

Continuing a similar kind of work, Bennet said, "We also whitewashed their school building." He also added, "I was also able to take part in a blood donation rally to raise awareness about blood donation and to persuade more people to donate blood. It was a wonderful experience."

Surely the experience would have been enthralling, when asked about the most touching moment of the trip, Nassif replied, "I think it was during the village survey. The other groups were mostly involved in taking down details of the villagers, but our group got a chance to bathe some of the children. It was really touching to see the smiles of gratitude on their faces when we gave them chocolates afterwards." Indeed, Bennet too shared his thought on the most enjoyable moment, "I had the most fun whitewashing the school building", said Bennet. "I've always wanted to throw paint on a wall, though, so whitewashing was amazing. The rally was also great. We were screaming out slogans and carrying a huge banner, and it was a hot, dusty day as well. It was a lot of fun walking through the city like that."

Though initially reluctant to do actual work, given their comfortable living standards, the students quickly dismiss the thought and mentioned, "It was tiring, but it was fun! I still remember, on the very first day, we hadn't been assigned different jobs yet, and all we had were vague instructions such as to sieve sand and carry bags of cement to mix cement. Within minutes, we had a chain of people, carrying loads of sand over to the sieve, and a few of us taking turns carrying bags of cement over to the site. ." The young boys ensured that this tedious work was fun as well.

As the days went by, they began to discuss the philosophical implications of the project. Nassif was the first to voice his opinion, "It's easy to take so much of your life for granted; clean water, food every day, clothes to wear, a good education, your parents, and the list goes on and on. Seeing these people live in conditions that were, frankly, appalling, and made me rethink the way I looked at my life. It really made me count my blessings." "It was tiring, hot work", said Bennet, "but I enjoyed it a lot, and the fact that it all went towards serving those less fortunate than me made me extremely happy."

Certainly, Gandhi would have been proud.

 
-Written by Manas George, 11th grader and a participant at this year's Round Square