BIS #6156 Don Bosco Nerul E-Oratory to connect 1000 marginalised young across India

by Clerics Christopher Nadar & Rohan D'Souza

Don Bosco Nerul has initiated an online youth centre connecting marginalized children not only in its neighbourhood but also from Don Bosco institutions across India. Some 1,000 children across India [Mumbai, Pune, UP, MP, Bihar and Jharkhand] are enrolled and counting in the E-Oratory that started on 10 September.

“It is an opportunity to connect Oratory children from all over India, from your institution, with no extra cost, time or trouble,” says Father Barnabe D’Souza of Don Bosco Navi Mumbai. He adds, “Just send an email to Don Bosco Nerul Navi Mumbai to Father Blaise Fernandes or with the contact of your youth centre coordinator.”

Father Fernandes Salesian coordinator for the E-Oratory initiative says, “your local coordinator will need to only connect your oratory children to the Don Bosco E-Oratory group and your Oratory children will be once again in the learning and educational spaces of Don Bosco.” Don Bosco Nerul Oratory coordinator Assumption George says, "It all started with 4-5 children taking the mobile of one of their parents and congregating to listen to the 'Didi', her stories, her instructions and make some fun videos of dance and games, and send it back as their, ‘home work’."

Seeing the enthusiasm of these 4-5 children, other children started joining in, until a group of volunteers in Navi Mumbai, calling themselves, ‘Team Spreading Smiles’ began taking regular fun learning activities. Their classes included educational story telling, maths, drawing, craft and origami, lectures on life skills for kids [good touch-bad touch, etc.], language and various competitions and quizzes.

The model was so innovative that Don Bosco Borivali Rector Father Solomon Rapol asked to link his local Oratory children to these classes at no extra cost, trouble or time and has got them hooked onto the ‘Don Bosco E Oratory. Father Rapol says, “This Don Bosco E–Oratory is a big hit with the children as well as their parents. A few of them get together around a mobile phone in different lanes of the slums and either listen or do a collective or individual homework and re-post their videos in the group. The parents are happy that their children are ‘studying’ and not troubling them.”

The online schedule, as Father Fernandes points out, is as follows: on Sundays there is General Knowledge session, Mondays there is fitness session, Tuesdays there is spoken English class, Wednesdays there is basics of Biology, Thursdays there is fun learning with numbers, Fridays there is motivational talk, Saturdays there is a puppet show, besides the learning class. All these are conducted through WhatsApp videos and Zoom video-call sessions with the children joining in as scheduled. Additionally, there are sessions on mandala-letterings, paintings, mental health awareness, value education and art [origami, etc.]. Students who are found to be talented and exceptionally good at several skills are also given special advanced classes on Saturdays in the field of their choice.

A few college students have volunteered to help out in guiding the children with the online sessions and classes. Don Bosco Development social-outreach staff who reside in the poorer fragile environments are the key factors that helped begin the class and sustain it through their visits, with follow-up of homeworks, programmes for Teacher’s Day, Independence Day, Ganesh festival, GokulAshtami, singing competition, and the like.