Community Engagement, one of the four pillars of the Woodstock’s 2020 vision foundation, emerged in 2014. Since 2020 is just around the corner, The Woodstocker deems it vital to address the role it has played as one of the cornerstones of the school community.
Mrs. Sanjaya Mark, previously the Head of Junior School, received the chance to lead Community Engagement and engraved it as one of the foundations — a part of the Woodstock education experience.
Mrs. Mark said, “Community Engagement is a way to give the students a chance to think beyond themselves and try to better the quality of life for others, and thereby build communities. It is also an opportunity for students to understand and gain skills that are required to bring out positive changes.”
Through the years, the department has tied up with “strong” organizations doing development work such as CEDAR, Sewa Bharat, GOONJ, NavDanya, Himmothan, Uttan, Arpana, and many more. Students and staff members have had opportunities to train and learn best practices from these reputed organizations. Mrs. Mark greatly values these enrichening collaborations.
She believes that the department has steadily improved in what it has to offer and acknowledges the “teamwork from the student body and the support from the Principal and Board that has facilitated its success.”
However, even the accomplishments haven’t come without its own challenges. One of the biggest challenges Mrs. Mark faces includes changing people’s mindsets about Community Engagement. She wants people to know that it is not about charity, but is about working collaboratively with different communities to bring about sustainable environmental and social changes.
There are occasions when some students sign up to be involved in the Community Engagement program so that they can “tick the right boxes,” for college applications, making it awkward for the department to encourage them to be genuinely compassionate towards those who are less privileged than them.
Initially, Community Engagement projects had involvement from students, but they were led by staff members. That situation is now changing as “students are being encouraged to take on more responsibility to plan, organize and lead projects.” There are now many student-initiated projects currently operating such as the health education program in local schools and the water conservation project.
For instance, there are various student-initiated projects currently operating. Two initiatives Mrs. Mark wants to highlight in particular are the new health education program in local schools and the water conservation project.
On being asked about the valuable lessons that the department has learned over the years, she said, “There was this one incident when a group of students involved in a particular project did not do a needs assessment. This resulted in the group giving a lesson on menstrual hygiene to a group of women who were well educated on the subject! It was a valuable learning experience for us all!”
Mrs. Mark wishes that “every student at Woodstock” would connect their passion with Community Engagement, because “everybody has something that they can help someone else out with.”
Aseem Agarwal, alumnus from the Class of 2016, a Book of Excellence awardee for doing exceptional work for Community Engagement, connects profoundly with that statement.
He said, “Today, as I study business and am ready to enter the real world, it is important for me to consider the implications of my actions in the world today and in the future. This was only possible through the effort I put in Community Engagement.” He added that Community Engagement not only helps the individuals or groups of individuals executing a project but it also has a profound positive impact on those who are supported through it.
At Woodstock, he initiated a project called Liter of Light. Through this project, he wanted to produce and install solar-powered lights, made from waste plastic bottles, in rural households that do not have access to electricity even today.
He said, “Although I could not in the past, today I see the importance and am confident that I can contribute to the world positively because of my previous experiences with Community Engagement at Woodstock.”
Shivaansh Garg is the Sports Editor for The Woodstocker
Edited by Nupur Agrawal