October 2019 | 887 words | 3-minute read
Tata Engage is a group-wide volunteering platform for Tata employees, their families and retired Tata colleagues. Since its inception in 2014, the programme has clocked over 1.7 million volunteering hours through event-based and skill-based volunteering projects.
Harnessing this group-wide volunteering platform, employees from Tata Communications and Tata Chemicals have been investing their time and effort to channelise and step up their individual and collective contributions in areas where they are most needed.
Repurposing plastic bottles
Summers in Pune are unbearable, especially for students in government schools that often have basic amenities. The frequent power cuts aggravate the plight of students and teachers. Many students play truant, leading to low attendance in schools.
120 volunteers from Tata Communications decided to address this issue, as part of the Tata Engage volunteering activity. The team repurposed old plastic bottles to build cost-effective air-cooling units, which could be easily fitted into the windows of classrooms.
To implement this innovative and novel air cooler, the Tata Communications team partnered with ‘Being Jigyasu’ (jigyasu is the Hindi word for curiosity), the brainchild of Prakhar Jain and Rajat Agarwal, alumni of the National Institute of Technology and BITS Pilani, respectively. The volunteers first cut out the bottom of the bottles, leaving the funnel shaped part intact; these bottles were then fitted into a cardboard that was cut to fit the size of the window on which the unit was mounted. The wider part of the bottles was made to face the exterior, to allow funnelling of air into the classrooms.
The team devoted more than 360 hours to make 56 plastic-bottle air coolers that were installed in a government school located on the city’s outskirts. The students and teachers got the much-needed respite from the searing heat.
Making robots real for kids
Today’s technology driven world demands innovative and out-of-the-box learning and teaching methods, and it is technology that can show the way. Robotics is one technique that can increase the ability and creativity of students and help them understand how STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) works in the real world.
As part of the School Enrichment Programme, another volunteering team from Tata Communications taught students of grades 6 and 7 from a municipal school in Mumbai to make workable robots from scratch. Through this exercise, they hoped to encourage the students to consider STEM as a career choice. A total of 36 volunteers and 15 students created 15 robots, spending 108 hours.
Earlier, the volunteers and the students were briefed on the different mechanical parts, such as nuts, bolts, etc and how to assemble the robot. The car-shaped bots, made by assembling the different parts, were decorated to give them a unique look.
The activity was conducted in association with Tata Communications’ CSR project partner CHIP, a Mumbai-based NGO working with disadvantaged groups.
Restoring marine ecology
As part of Tata Volunteering Week, employees at Tata Chemicals’ Mithapur facility in Gujarat decided to earmark April 1, celebrated as April Fools’ Day, as ‘April Cool Day’ by making a positive contribution to the marine ecology of the region.
Towards this, 38 volunteers, including Tata Chemicals employees, their families, retired employees, school teachers and nature lovers participated in the ‘April Cool’ mangrove plantation programme. The programme aimed at sensitising the local community on global warming and garnering support for climate action.
“All of us were enthusiastic about the programme, but it wasn’t an easy one,” says Satish Trivedi, deputy manager – community development, Tata Chemicals. “Mithapur is one of the most arid regions of India and faces acute water scarcity; besides, April signifies the onset of summer.”
Tree plantation was thus no mean feat. How would the volunteers bring water to the plants in a region where drinking water was hard to come by?
After a lot of deliberation, the team decided to plant mangroves — which grow in tidal mudflats and are irrigated by tidal waters — as part of its April Cool programme. The April Cool team procured 1001 mangrove seedlings at the company’s Arambda saltworks. The seedlings were first transported carefully to the plantation site, where volunteers dug deep pits to plant them.
Several of the volunteers had a firsthand experience on how physically strenuous the activity is, says Mr Trivedi. However, nobody shied away from standing in knee-deep mucky water. A human chain was formed to transport and plant the seedlings in the pits. The splendid teamwork ensured that the work was completed in a little over 2 hours, he adds.
The activity had its lighter moments too with volunteers slipping and falling into the muddy waters and getting their clothes soiled, but none of it could mar their upbeat mood.
“Over the next 12-18 months, volunteers will make follow-up visits to the plantation site. Both enteromorpha algae and plastic trash, brought in by the tidal waves, can stifle growth of the plantations; volunteers would need to weed them out regularly,” says Mr Trivedi.
The team has decided to make April Cool mangrove plantation programme an annual feature of its volunteering activities. One small step for Mithapur, but one giant step for the environment.
These volunteering projects have shown that each individual can make a valuable contribution to ensure a sustainable tomorrow for coming generations.