Hello Web: A Lesson through Community Service

Go look up ‘youth’ on Google Images. Google never disappoints. I found a gallery of pictures of thin silhouettes jumping high up in the air in perfect sync with each other with their hands spread out to the sky. Not surprisingly, when I asked some of my friends what it means to be young, I received various replies ranging from living your dreams to clubbing to drinking till the lights fade out to juggling boyfriends, brands and ambitions. With an entire population of youngsters to who ‘dreams’ means not a bachelors’ trip to Los Angeles, but a decent job that assures two square meals a day, clubbing is a luxury and the future looks too bleak for the present to be wasted away in drinking,the image of youth that we are made to believe undoubtedly is strangulated in the walls of middle-class consciousness. I recently had the fortune to come across a group of undergraduates who have a broader definition of ‘youth’. This is a Mozilla Club led by Arkodyuti Saha, student of Computer Science Engineering at SRM University, Chennai and mentor, Codein 2015-16 and other Mozilla Clubs in South India.

Mozilla Club initially was as unfamiliar to me as you are finding it now. Now that I know what it is, I might as well thrill you with an idea of the same. Mozilla Clubs are associations affiliated to Mozilla and working on Open Source programming, where students and working professionals read, write and participate to teach how to use the web. They ensure that technical education is rightly provided to children. Since the job market today is crippled without technology, this initiative ensures that children are made more employable for their future. It guarantees to them benefits in the long-term basis insofar as they are being guided by Mozilla representatives to through a proper channel to experience things that they have never come across earlier. Internet connectivity facilitates an engaging way of learning not just the curriculum, but also beyond it. It will benefit children to customise for themselves their academics and extra-curricular interests, thereby helping them ride an ever-rising learning curve.

Funded by Kolkata Bloggers and supported by Mozilla India, HOPE Foundation, Mio Amore and SourceKart, the ‘Hello Web’ initiative by Mozilla Clubs is a web literacy campaign across the 18th, 20th and the 22nd of June that aimed to introduce fundamentals of computer and internet to the attendees. The attendees chosen by the team I am talking about were the residents of some orphanages in Kolkata. This is what has made the campaign stand out. This is not the first time that they organised this. ‘Hello Web’ was conducted across Kolkata, Mumbai, Jaipur, Rewa and Surat in December, 2015 with the participation of over 2,000 students. This success fuelled them to spread to Valsad, Ahmedabad, Surat and Delhi this year. In Kolkata, was conducted at Ashar Alo Girls’ Home (near Ruby), Kasba Girls’ Home (Kasba), Girls’ 2B Home (Tollygunge), Ashirvad Boys’ Home(Tollygunge), Punorjibon Rehabilitation Home for Boys (Tollygunge) and Bekind Boys’ Home (Kasba) on the 18th, HOPE Computer Training Centre (Panditiya) on the 20th and Nabadisha homes in Gariahat, New Market, Tollygunge and Topsia on the 22nd. I volunteered to participate in the ones at Girls’ 2B Home and HOPE Computer Training Centre to take home an unforgettable and enriching experience of the same. I am grateful to Arkodyuti for this opportunity.

Girls’ 2B Home saw me explaining the basic features of Google search, YouTube, and so on, to girls ranging from 12 to 18 years of age. We rewound to the days of Barbie and learning about prehistoric human beings in history textbooks. Nostalgia is a strange animal, I feel. It pops up during the most unexpected occasions.On the second day, Rushati and I went back to basics while teaching the use of Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Slideshows, Google Drive et al at HOPE Computer Training Centre. My favourite part about the entire exercise was demonstrating how to start a blog. It was a fulfilling feeling, to say the least, to spread the secret of having a niche for oneself to confide in at the end of the day. I hope blogging helps them as much as it has helped me.

We, rather than using the traditional blackboard method, deployed interactive games and web learning kits to make the process of learning more engaging. This led us to a juncture where I was demonstrating how blog helps one to be found through a search engine. The most convenient example that struck me at the moment was to type the title of my latest blogpost- ‘Parents’ Guide to Bringing Up a Decent Girl’. Literally put, the post has an image of a woman clad in sanitary napkins. No sooner did I open my blogpost than a ripple of half-suppressed giggles went around. My experience was awkward for the next few minutes. I realised what has been going wrong about my feminism- it is elitist.It does not reach out to the population that does not frequent Inox on weekends, and definitely does not have to juggle between shoe brands and the demands of a private college; this is not out of choice, but out of compulsion. This realisation has been an eye-opener. It will haunt my conscience to give back more to the community instead of practising armchair feminism. I have pledged to do justice to the political struggle thus far in the feminist movement.

If you would like to join this noble enterprise, you can contact Arkodyuti Saha at arkodyutisaha10@gmail.com, www.facebook.com/arkodyuti or www.twitter.com/arkodyutisaha . The campaign will continue till 30th June, 2016. I do not regret spending exhausting days while doing this honorary work. My heart goes out to all those who have supported this initiative of spreading web literacy. The smiling faces of the girls and “thank you, didi” will motivate me to participate in similar service in future.

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