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Youths’ Attempt to Nurture (YATN)

Science, Society, -

"They are building IISER Mohali campus…our campus should not be built at their cost"

Dr. Amit Kulsheshtra, (Mathematics faculty I.I.S.E.R. Mohali)

I did not know where to begin with, but the above statement the person responsible foundation of Youths Attempt to Nurture (Y.A.T.N.). The above statement captures the essence of what we are trying to do. Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (I.I.S.E.R.), Mohali is a new upcoming institute with the aim of creating aworld-class research’ environment. As with most new institutes, we function from a transit campus in Chandigarh. As undergraduate students in biology, we were mostly confined to the makeshift campus and had never seen our ‘real’ campus which was (and still is!) a construction site. In 2009, the administration decided to celebrate the Independence Day in the construction site as a positive exercise to ‘get a feel for growth of our institute’. In hindsight, it turned out to be the turning point for us, students. It lead to the establishment of Y.A.T.N and a new found motivation for all to bring about a change in the lives of many.

Idea and history: As mentioned, it all started on August 15th, 2009. During our ceremonial celebrations, much to our amusement, we found many children from the construction site, sneaking refreshments from underneath the tents and trying to get a glimpse at the performances. This was the first realization for many of us –that, ENTIRE families in large numbers were PHYSICALLY building I.I.S.E.R, Mohali-. This got some of us interested in knowing these kids and their families? Whether they went to school? Were they healthy? What was the general level of awareness within the community? Y.A.T.N was thus formed with the aim to better the families of these workers who were doing the hard labour of building this world class research institute. Simply put, Y.A.T.N is an endeavor by the IISER Mohali community to ensure that the construction laborers and their families living on and constructing our campus are not exploited and get their due.

Strategy: Not knowing enough about people and their families who were (and I stress again) physically constructing our campus disturbed us. Who were these people? Where were they from? Did the kids go to school? After a long discussion among an initial concerned group, we decided that the first thing we needed to do was - break the ice’. This was to ensure that we understood who these workers were, how they live and how we could contribute towards betterment of that community. After two years, we have come to realize that interacting with them is the most important aspect of the entire endeavor. The interaction enables them to relate to us as equals. It gives us an opportunity to enter and be accepted in their community, allowing us to educate them and empower them. Through trial and error, we figured that the easiest approach to pave our way into the community was – to play with children’

Getting to know the unheard and unknown IISER:

Majority of the construction workers are migrant laborers from Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar and remote areas of Punjab. Most of them were farmers, whose land was either not productive or taken away for the construction of big buildings. Either way they had to migrate in search of employment. In cities, however the only job they were unskilled enough’ to do was that of a construction worker. The reality about their existence now becomes migration. Even if they want their (many) kids to study, they only stay at one site for 1-2 years. Finding a new school each time they migrate takes time and documents. In essence children are forced to repeat classes or easier drop out.

Major areas of concern:

From the beginning one of our major concerns was - Education of the children. We soon realized that health and safety is a bigger concern and one of immediate relevance to the lives of the workers. As we interacted with the community, neglected cases of night blindness and child health also became clear to us. So Y.A.T.N decided to focus on three aspects of the migrant workers life – Education, health and Safety. Below are some of our success stories during the last few years of our existence.

Success stories:


EDUCATION - Success is a gradual process and immediate are results hardly visible. After three rounds of mass scale admissions to nearby schools, currently there are 4 students who go private school (Sikhya www.sikhya.org) on scholarship and 30 students go to the village school very close to IISER campus. Y.A.T.N volunteers also conduct an informal evening school where kids are coached in the school curriculum, enabling them to enjoy school as well as succeed.

MEDICAL CAMPS - Recently we roped in medical professionals from nearby hospitals to visit IIISER for regular medical camps. In the last two years, we have had a total of 8 medical camps so far, 1 in 2010 and 7 in 2011. The maximum turn out for any of these camps has reached nearly 140 (~120 kids and 20 adults). The most serious medical problem with the workers seems to be nutrient deficiencies. Y.A.T.N tries to supply nutritional supplements to the workers on a regular basis.

Safety Measures

A committee of Faculty and Senior IISER staff has been formed to ensure that all safety measures are taken care of within the construction site. The committee does regular inspections and ensures safety standards are maintained. Most importantly, since the formation of the committee and regular inspections, the number of accidents occurring in the construction site has vastly decreased.

How do we function?

On record we have ~ 55 volunteers (students and faculty). Getting volunteers has not been a major problem as the IISER Mohali community has been sensitive about this issue ever since we raised it.

FUNDS - We began with a strategy of organizing drawing competitions for the kids and then printing cards and postcards to be available for sale at IISER Mohali. As far as the other organizational activities are concerned, I’d say we are largely unorganized. It is good in the sense that there is never one person who is responsible for activities and gives a scope to all members to participate and creatively contribute. No one person is responsible for activities and this gives a scope to all members to participate and creatively contribute. It is now 2 years of our effort and we have been able to keep the momentum going. The people volunteering and who are very active keep changing but mostly we get volunteers for our work.

Future: I do not know whether we have been able to make a difference. But one thing is for sure - there exists no gap between us and the children. They play where we play during evenings and are mostly seen around the campus doing some or the other mischief. Also, some of them performed very confidently at our Independence Day function. As a near future goal, we have a draft ready and are planning to register Y.A.T.N as a society.

I would say, the wheel has begun to turn and they now know we are friends and not really rich people who live across the street. This is where it becomes easier to make a difference.

Abhilasha Joshi, 4thyear biology major student at I.I.S. E.R. Mohali




Blog: http://yatniiserm.blogspot.com



Good job pals... Its great to hear that you, YATN, took

Good job pals... Its great to hear that you, YATN, took initiative in doing something to the worker force bulding your campus. These things do bother many, but not everyone does something about these. Good work. Keep it up. If you can, do try to distribute the children there some books used by your campus mates in their childhood - story books, drawing books - anything would do. And if possible, just putup a poster at your hostels (for collegiates) and campus gate (for outsiders) asking to donate any used/unused clothes which can later be donated to workers there... Place a drum at those places so ones who wanna donate can just drop their clothes. These are somethings that can be done too and can further help in building trust. I hope you will keep us posted of future developments at YATN.

Thanks. Yatn kids are interested in drawing and they do have

Thanks. Yatn kids are interested in drawing and they do have colour and sheets to do that. We had begun with the idea of distributing books but they all ended up torn and used to make "gobar ke thepla" by the kids parents. So we have decided against that.

Also, about the donation of clothes. As a group YATN volunteers have now decided that accepting donation is not what we would want to instill in the labor community as that would make us "higher" in our relationship.Other ways like gifting clothes as participation gifts after organising drawing competitions is something which we have done. [even though even that did not turn out well!] So we still have to come to a consensus about clothes issue.

Thanks again

Inspiring work Abhilasha. The sensitivity to give back to

Inspiring work Abhilasha. The sensitivity to give back to the community is something we should all develop. I appreciate the hurdles in getting the kids to take education seriously.  How long to the families stay in one location? Do you discuss what will happen when they move to the next construction site. Every student community should take inspiration from this and begin to give back in some way.

Thanks. The duration of the stay depends - in most cases we

Thanks. The duration of the stay depends - in most cases we have from around 1 -3 years with a kid. As their movement is concerned, it is mostly an erratic decision taken by the contractor (Remember, this is an unorganised community and this fact helps the contractors get thier work done!). 


Thanks. I would like to add our latest endeavour here. As

Thanks. I would like to add our latest endeavour here. As you know we had sent the kids off to a private school funded by some bussiness man. Our kids didnt really settle so many dropped out. Now we are trying to associate with  a Punjabi medium school which is practically on our campus. Some of our students visit thre as a general practice and contribute in the education of both our IISER YATN kids as well as nearby vilage kids. 

as of whether they'll join IISER...we hope...but in most children's perspective we think education is still a 'USELESS' thing. 


Moving article and great work, Abhilasha. YATN shows how an

Moving article and great work, Abhilasha. YATN shows how an organic organization of dedicated individuals can achieve real impact.

Wonderful job!!  One day I hope one of these kids will

Wonderful job!!  One day I hope one of these kids will become an IISER student! Congratulations to the sensitive and effective YATN...

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