Walking the talk: How UPES is building a better world through its CSR initiatives

  • Ekta Kashyap
  • Published 22/02/2022
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UPES volunteers creating a Learnshala at a government school in Uttarakhand

Building learning centres at government schools, beating period poverty by distributing menstrual cups, and nurturing support staff through a skill development program, are some of the university’s upcoming CSR initiatives

The world is interconnected through globalisation. Yet, the benefits and burdens of this phenomenon are not equally distributed among people. The result? Inequality in education, health, and access to resources. The pandemic has further aggravated these deep-seated disparities among the most vulnerable sections of society.

Therefore, it becomes the duty of institutions to work towards building a more equitable and sustainable world as envisioned in the internationally-accepted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

UPES, the ‘University of Tomorrow’, has always stood at the forefront of giving back to society, especially to the state of Uttarakhand. Continuing to fulfil its responsibility, the university, with a renewed focus, has added a series of initiatives to its extensive list of Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR). The CSR work will encompass issues such as education, health, safety and women empowerment.

Nurturing future leaders through learning centres at schools

Government primary schools around UPES have poor infrastructure, which has implications on children’s education. It often leads to abysmal learning outcomes.

To make education fun and meaningful for children, UPES is building learning centres known as LearnShalas in four government primary schools: Kandoli, Misraspatti, Donga and Phulsani. These LearnShalas are lively learning spaces made with vibrant colours and engaging learning material. Through these centres, UPES hopes to nurture curious, creative, and critical thinking citizens of the future.

UPES student volunteers will engage children in a variety of learning activities through LearnShalas. They will make the classroom experience interesting and exciting using relevant content and storytelling methods while encouraging a culture of asking questions. The goal is to make learning a joyful experience for the school community, particularly in a language they understand.

Further, UPES will conduct learning camps, especially in Math and Science, through these learning centres. One learning centre at Upper Kandoli village is ready, while others are in the pipeline.

Beating period poverty together

UPES has funded an organisation called DivIn Pro, an impact and strategy-driven BPO managed by women and other marginalised sector professionals, to fill the critical gap of availability of sustainable material to manage menstruation. This project aims to eliminate period poverty, while contributing to sustainable development. The present proposal focuses on benefitting about 1200 women from UPES ground staff and UPES CSR supported and identified villages. The objective is to empower women with menstrual cups and fulfil the basic need for hygienic and safe protection during menstruation.

The direct beneficiaries will include:

  • Ground staff of UPES and women from identified villages, including Bakarna, Kharakhet, Pulsani, Dhaulas and other menstruators (trans men/non-binary individuals), belonging to underprivileged and vulnerable sections of the society.
  • Frontline peripheral health workers such as ASHA workers and Auxiliary Nursing & Midwifery/Anganwadi workers will volunteer for the project in their respective areas.
  • Cup dominant communities produce less menstrual waste and therefore, the environment of these communities is benefited indirectly.
  • Families of beneficiaries will benefit as they would be saving money spent on pads each month.
    Through this project, UPES will create awareness among the beneficiaries to change their behaviour for safe, healthy, and sustainable, hygienic menstrual practices and solutions. Around 1200 menstrual cups (each cup can be reused for ten years) will be distributed to the target population. Training sessions on the usage of menstrual cups will be conducted. It will be succeeded by on-field and telephonic follow-up and beneficiary support through BPO for 90 days (starting from the day of cup distribution).

Supporting staff through UPES Skills Academy

This is a Skill Development Program, which aims to uplift support staff such as security guards and housekeeping staff on campus. As per a survey conducted by the university, the primary requirement of the support staff was Computer skills and English speaking and writing skills. The sessions under the training framework will, therefore, focus on:

  • Need for effective communication
  • Understanding non-verbal communication
  • Learning the etiquettes to greet staff and visitors
  • Enhancing endurance during a conflict and resolving the same amicably
  • Conveying difficult messages to the audience

The initial batch will comprise 20 trainees. Eventually, the program will be extended to community members from the nearby villages as well. The training will help the support staff to develop a better understanding of their roles and responsibilities, improve their communications skills and personality, understand the importance of teamwork, and learn to write answer applications, emails, messages, and other written communication.

UPES firmly believes that every member of the organisation should have pathways to do better in life. The Skills Academy is focused on working with the support staff to build their capacities and help them for better roles at UPES and elsewhere.

Improving digital literacy through DigitalDhaam

This program is intended for all teachers, middle school students, homemakers or anyone from nearby villages to learn how to use computers and the internet for various day-to-day functions like accessing information.

Spreading the joy of giving with DaanUtsav

A book can turn someone’s life around; a garment can bring happiness to someone’s life. UPES celebrated a first-of-its-kind festival called DaanUtsav where the university’s staff and students donated vast amount of clothes, books, stationary, toys, and electronic items, which were distributed to the underprivileged in a nearby slum. UPES will also kickstart a student and staff volunteering program soon.

The CSR initiatives by UPES are an attempt to achieve greater economic, social, and gender equality and tackle the disproportionate barriers that hold the disadvantaged further behind. Ultimately, building a better world will require systemic changes. These initiatives are a step in that direction.

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Ekta Kashyap

The writer is a part of the UPES editorial team

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