Project Pahunch: Students help fellow students stay connected for online classes

Classes have resumed in colleges and schools albeit in the virtual space. But what about those students who cannot afford smartphones or laptops? This was the same question Worli residents, Malaika Shivalkar, 20, a student at National Law University, Jodhpur and Ishaan Shivalkar, 16, a student at Jai Hind College, were confronted with. “Our domestic help confided in us that her daughter, who was in 12th standard, could not attend classes because she could not afford a smartphone for her,” says Malaika, The Shivalkar siblings could have ignored her condition, but they did not. And Project Pahunch was the result of their choice.

“We had no idea how to go about our vision. Neither of us had done something like this before,” recollects Ishaan. But the duo was determined to find a wayout. They began to reach out to local NGOs.

“When we were sure the devices we’d collect would reach the intended students, we started this,” he adds.

Project Pahunch started off on 6th August. “We have already distributed around 100 devices to the needy students,” Malaika says proudly. “When we started this initiative, we realised that for us to have a wider reach we required a proper social media campaign and hence asked Anoushka Jaipuria (20, student at NMIMS), who is experienced in that field, if she would be willing to join our team. We also needed someone to handle external communications. Therefore, Natalia Mistry (19, student at Jai Hind College) and Malini Dasgupta (20, student at UC Davis) were approached. Since all of us also have our respective college assignments, we decided to divide the work among us,” informs Ishaan.

When asked how the project goes about its operations, Malaika says, “We contact NGOs whose teaching staff identify students in need of such devices. We make appeals on social media and when contacted, collect the smartphone or laptop. The team then checks the devices for malfunctions, cleans them, erases all exiting data and the refurbished devices are distributed to students.”

Upragya Kashyap, a fellow at Teach For India, the NGO collaborating with Project Pahunch says, “‘The solidarity extended by Project Pahunch enabled us to access the students we were trying to reach out to for the last five months. The education gap has always been a grave issue for India and has worsened in the current times. We need to appreciate and encourage each and every person/community who is trying to reduce that gap using social, cultural and economic capital. After all, it took all three to create the gap in the first place.”

Trivika Jaiswal, 16, who studies in class 10, who was benefitted by this initiative says: “I used my father’s phone but he needed it for his work also. Project Pahunch gave me a Net Book and now I can begin my first steps on the road to becoming a CA.”

Chitra, who studies in the 8th standard, and was not being able to attend the classes after they went online, says, “My father is a peon in a gymkhana and he was about to take a loan to buy me a smartphone. But Project Pahunch arranged a smartphone for me and my brother, Mitt. ”

If you want to donate your old smartphone, laptop or tablet, you can contact them on Instagram and Facebook @projectpahunch

Name: Jakso James

College: St. Xavier's College

Course: Bachelor of Mass Media

Year: Second Year

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