Ignitors, a Jesuit initiative, was held for three consecutive days, from 19th to 21st June, 2014. As part of the programme, there were a number of activities which not only encouraged innovation and creativity among the students, but also gave them ideas on building a better and happier life. The programme was organized by volunteers and life skill trainers, many of whom were former Josephites. The volunteers spoke about their personal and professional passions. The main objective of the program was to ‘ignite’ the audience on a subject which would create awareness and drive them towards thought and action.
Most of the sessions focused on self-esteem, team building, peer pressure, and conflict management. A special session, ‘Project Vision’, was organised in order to create awareness on the importance of eye donation. The Roman Catholic students attended a holy retreat which brought out their inner spirituality. Videos were show, songs were sung and group activities were conducted as part of the retreat.
All sessions proved to be enriching for the students, and ‘Ignitors’ has helped the students gain enough confidence to deal with a life that is both happy and sad.
‘Ignitors’ is a youth group, based in Bangalore. As the name suggests, the group helps ignite “visions, passions and missions”, visions for creative and critical thinking, passions for committed and constructive actions and missions to dream of a better world. Fr Brian Pereira, a Jesuit priest, who has done his Masters in Pastoral Care and Counseling from Loyola College, Maryland, USA, is the animator of this group and the force behind its success. The group was started by him in the year 2010. Since its formation, it has caught the imagination of young minds. Every year, the group reaches out to over 10,000 college students in Karnataka.
Interviewer: Father, how long have you been a part of the Ignitors programme?
Fr. Brian: I have been a part of the programme since its inception. I started it in 2010, four years ago. So far, we have addressed fifty thousand students from different colleges. This year, we have addressed around seven to eight thousand students, and will be addressing another fifteen thousand students. By the end of this year, we would have addressed about fifty thousand students in four years.
Interviewer: How many colleges are reached out to as part of this programme?
Fr. Brian: This is the fourth year of the programme, and every year we reach out to about twenty colleges in Karnataka, which include Jesuit institutions as well as non-Jesuit institutions.
Interviewer: What is the main aim of this programme for students?
Fr. Brian: In simple words, the programme aims to promote integral formation of students. It is said that education has three H’s; head, heart and hand. The present education system focuses mostly on the ‘head’ aspect, and at the end of college education, students become monsters with swollen heads but people with shrunken hearts; intellectual geniuses with no feeling. Therefore, Ignitors aims at providing integral formation of head, heart and hand. Hence we have various programmes; activity-based programmes where people reach out to others, cleanliness drives which include spreading awareness of the environment at traffic signals, and various other programmes pertaining to relevant issues.
Interviewer: How have students responded to the programme?
Fr. Brian: The overall response in various colleges has been very positive and encouraging. Almost 99% of the students from various colleges have recommended this programme for the future generations. At St. Josephs College of Commerce, the response has been positive. There are a few students who probably don’t enjoy these programmes as much as the others, but I can confidently say that 95% of the students are happy with the programme, based on the feedback that I have received. The students have given an average rating of 9 (out of 10) for content, presentation, and the concept itself, which is very encouraging for us.
Interviewer: The ‘Ignitors’ group is comprised of volunteers from all spheres of life, talking about different issues. How hard was it to get them together initially?
Fr. Brian: Initially, it was quite difficult as they are all free-lance life skills trainers. Getting them together was a major challenge for us. Apart from this, the programme had to be conceptualized and then planned accordingly, to include three different modules. The first is leadership skills and maturity, the second is social awareness and analysis, and the third is life skill training. It was challenging to get experts from these three areas, and we are happy that they responded well, and are doing a wonderful job with so much passion.
Interviewer: On a concluding note, Father, any message for the students of our college?
Fr. Brian: I think youth is power, we need to realize that. 58.8% of our country’s population is below twenty-five years of age. Unfortunately, this massive power has not realized its potential. In other countries, youth has brought about a revolution, whereas in India, the youth has remained mediocre. The biggest problem in our country is not the lack of potential, but the fact that the youth have accepted mediocrity. We need to plan big and nurture youth. There is a saying: if you plan for a year, sow paddy, as it grows within a year. If you plan for a decade, plant trees. But if you want to plan for a future, nurture youth, as youth are the future of the country. If the students of St. Josephs College of Commerce realize their potential, they can work miracles and we will have a better India.