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Exploring through the hills of Manipur

I joined the leadership development course in Jnana Prabodhini during my bachelors at H.V. Desai College, and thus was introduced to Gyan Setu. I completed my Bachelor's in Political Science and am currently doing a Master's course in Development Studies.

Manipur was a pilot visit for the group members and me. We were all set to take this adventure. We started our journey via train from Pune to Kolkata and then took a bus from Kolkata to Imphal. It was indeed a long journey, and it took us nearly five days to reach our destination. The difficult terrain of the region increases the travel time. This long train journey helped the group members bond with each other. Moreover, the more challenging it became, the more motivated we were to give our best.

I was not from a science background and always considered science a boring subject, but the hands-on activities of Gyan Setu made it interesting and fun. It connected science to our day-to-day lives and explained the logic (or scientific reason) behind it. We experience these small things around us every day but fail to notice them. Gyan Setu made me observe these things and also explained the logic behind them. This is what attracted me the most towards Gyan Setu.

The intense workshop for the volunteers proved to be very beneficial. Gyan Setu trained us not only to perform these experiments but also to interact with the kids, hold their attention, and get them involved in the experiments. It gave us some fun tips and ice-breakers to interact with kids and get them involved. In my opinion, the workshop is a must for all the enthusiastic Gyan Setu volunteers.

Upon reaching Tamenglong, we split into two groups. Over the course of five days, we visited nine schools. We started our day at the school at 6 am, interacted with the principal and fellow teachers, and then proceeded to conduct the workshops with the students till 2 pm. After that, we had our day to ourselves, where we undertook various activities planned by our local host, Veena Tai. It included visiting various other NGOs working in that region and places of tourist attraction. One such visit to the NGO Tamenglong Animal Home would remain with me forever. Founded by Daniel Marcus Macwan, this NGO is a shelter for many rescued animals. However, poaching and hunting still remain major problems there. We also had the incredible opportunity to meet Manipur's DM, Armstrong Pamei, also known as the Miracle Man, who built a 100-kilometer road with the help of Facebook crowdsourcing. His community-based approach to tending to the local people's needs was very inspiring.

Throughout our journey, we realized many cultural differences. On our first day, we heard a student say, "They came from India." This was really saddening as it showed the alienation and exclusion of these people from the so-called "mainland India". There is no such reason behind this. The history and literature of North East India were included in our state curriculum, and thus we failed to understand and adopt these differences.

In my opinion, social service should be considered as a career option and social work should be seen as a full-time job. There is so much to contribute to society.

This trip helped me become a more organized person. I became more sensitive to these issues.

If you are planning to hope for this adventure, I would suggest you be open minded, adopt the cultural differences, observe and explore, and make use of this opportunity to the fullest. And if it is not possible for you to travel so far, then work for the marginalized people in your area. We all know that charity begins at home.

Shubham Gurav

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