My Experience volunteering for Vegam 2016
It’s been two weeks, but the excitement and the spirit of volunteering for Vegam hasn’t faded. July 16th was a big day for all the 1180 differently abled students, who participated in a Sports Event or Athletic Meet held successfully at the grand Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
“Vegam” is an annual athletic Meet for differently-abled children organised by Chennai Social Service (CSS), a volunteering organization working for the socially backward people over the last 10 years. Apart from this event, Red Drops, Nalanda, Environmental Care, Aravanaippu and V-Scribe are some of the initiatives from CSS.
Vegam is unique in that it includes children with all types of disabilities in a single event. We have been organising this for the past five years and the response from the schools, children, volunteers and individuals have been growing steadily. Last year (2015) we had around 1300 children with disability, 300+ volunteers and 250+ parents who participated in various events. We were able to organize 140 events in a single day, for which we were recognized by the Tamil Nadu Book of Records and the Indian Book of Records.
This year, we completed 152 events with 1180 students and made a grand entry into the Asia Book of Records! The students were accompanied by their parents and school teachers. It was a hectic day, but we finished it in style.
I’ve played cricket with my college mates many a time. I am into running as well. Sports is a complete entertainment and stress-buster for me. But for all those 1180 Students – it was a different day. A dream come true to compete with each other in a professional stadium. The smiles on their faces said it all.
As a volunteer, I was part of the MC (Master of Ceremony) Desk Team and volunteered with a heart full of eagerness and happiness. I feel a word is due here in appreciation of the timely efforts of Team CSS. Vegam usually happens in February. But due to the Chennai Floods last year, the event had to be postponed. We didn’t want to hold Vegam at a time when the entire city was devastated. We waited for the schools to recover, but it was a long wait. Finally, the core team decided to postpone it to July, the month right after school re-opens post the summer holidays. This was smart thinking, as it prevents academic difficulties and challenges for both the students and the schools.
At Vegam, our goal is that every child wins in this arena through medals, cheering and above all the feeling that everyone is treated as a special guest. All these years, we have roped in distinguished personalities from among the armed forces, civil servants, accomplished social workers, film celebrities and philanthropists. These people bring with them a lot of goodwill for this event. This year was no different. Actors Arun Vijay, Robo Shankar and other important personalities felicitated the students.
One more thing that I feel deserves mention here, is the increasing thrust by CSS on good health and living. The team has been providing only organic food and refreshments at Vegam every year. I can still feel the delicious, lingering taste of the organic lemon juice (with jaggery instead of sugar) that was served as a refreshment throughout the day. Besides this, sambar rice, curd rice and vegetable rice (all made from millets such as thinai, varagu and kuthiraivaali) were served to all the students and volunteers.
What a wonderful experience! So much to learn from all the participants, volunteers and organisers! I am already looking forward to the next CSS event..