Auleep Ganguly from India became actively involved in giving back to the community on a regular basis since he joined IMU five years ago. For his efforts in these, Auleep who is an IMU dentistry student, was awarded the Aflame Student Award at IMU’s University Day celebrations on 11 March 2016 at the University’s campus in Bukit Jalil. Open to graduating students from all programmes, the Aflame Student Award recipient is nominated by the graduating class – peers whom they feel have represented humane values throughout the course of study at IMU. We met Auleep before the celebrations and he tells us more in this interview. How did you feel when you know you will be receiving the Aflame Award? To a certain extent, I feel that the process of volunteering for a good cause and helping others is sufficient reward. However, it’s always nice to have your efforts recognised so I was pleased and quite excited when I got the call. More importantly though, I was delighted that the organisation I nominated for the cash award would be getting the money as they were in severe need of it. What was the charitable organisation that you have nominated? It is one of the many refugee tutoring centres in and around Kuala Lumpur. These places are often located in very dingy neighbourhoods and lack funding as many of them are not recognised by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is the refugee agency of the UN. This particular place, called Sekolah Al Akhlas, is located near Batu Caves. I initially came in touch with them through one of my friends and we visited once or twice for a project we carried out with the children there. Why did you nominate that organisation? The children who study there are not allowed to have a formal education in the government schools in Malaysia. They do not have the finances to attend private schools and thus, these learning centres provide one of the only ways to educate these kids and try to provide them a brighter future. A cause like this deserves recognition and funding in my eyes. With an education, these children could go on to get a proper job and make a good life for themselves. I also felt that the premises could do with some refurbishment. With the money, renovations could be carried out on the walls, floor and bathrooms to make the area a safer and more comfortable place for the children to learn in and this could benefit the students who attend that school for many years to come. How does it feel to be the first dentistry student to win this award? It is a great feeling to be the first winner from dentistry. And I do hope that more of my juniors win it. I think a lot of my professors and lecturers are especially very happy too. However, in the end, it doesn’t matter that much which course the winner is from as long as the less fortunate are being helped. I always maintain that healthcare professionals, whether from medicine, dentistry, psychology etc should work together for a good cause. How long have you been involved in working with the community? Honestly, it is not something that I was heavily involved in until I joined IMU. Growing up, I used to see my parents always donating their used clothes or items to orphanages or other such institutions. That was one of my first experiences of giving back to the community. I slowly began getting more involved in community work as I grew older and my passion for it grew. How did you start getting involved in community work? I only became actively involved on a regular basis once I joined IMU. IMU often organised community projects for us to get involved in. Once I began joining and volunteering for these projects, I found the experience so rewarding that I was hooked! I didn’t even mind sacrificing my sleep on weekends to help out! Those who know me will tell you that I highly value my sleep extremely. The rewards of helping others trumped even that for me! I first started off by joining projects organised by other people, and then I slowly began leading projects organised by others.
Now, I’m happy to say that I’ve begun organising volunteer projects. Of course, I have a lot of help from my friends and family.
Were you involved in any of IMU’s community projects while studying for your degree? I tried to sign up for as many as I could. I made a decision to always say “Yes” to any project which involves helping the community. I definitely don’t regret that decision as it has helped me meet new people and gain new experiences which have made me grow as an individual. Describe your experiences If I had to describe it in one word, I would say “enlightening”. Every project teaches you something different. Whether it’s logistical management during planning or dealing with unexpected difficulties during the project itself, you always learn from the experiences. Of course, I have an added advantage where my field of study can be very useful in terms of helping those in need. A lot of the work we did involved performing free dental screenings in low income areas for the residents there. Often, we used to have hundreds of people queuing up to be screened. Therefore, I gained a lot of diagnostic skills and my speed of screening patients picked up as well. It also helped me to sharpen my Bahasa Malaysia along with my communication skills as you tend to meet all sorts of characters throughout the day. Patience is a must as well! What are you doing now? As I’m done with my degree, I’m currently waiting for my first job! I have a UK fellowship examination I’m sitting for in a couple of weeks too. So I’m still studying! I’m also trying to enjoy my free time as well. I know that once I start working, I’ll never be able to get a break as long as the one I’m currently having. What community projects are you currently involved in? My friends and I have been hard at work trying to plan a trip to Petrosains with some refugee children. I’m really excited about it as I do love Petrosains. I remember my first trip there being one of the things that awakened my interest in science as a child. I’m hoping a couple of the kids whom we take along with us on 12 March 2016 will feel the same way I did. I also just got back from a weekend volunteering trip with a project called “Liter of Light”. On Saturday, we spent the day building solar powered, sustainable lights. On Sunday, we took a bus up to Cameron Highlands and then switched to a 4 Wheel Drive vehicle from there. We drove into a “kampung” nearby and spent the day installing the lights for the villagers who live there. The memory of seeing the entire village light up at night is something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life! Could you describe any future plans that you have? Hopefully, I’ll be able to get my first job soon! I also eventually want to enter a postgraduate dental programme and become a specialist. One day, I hope to be able to be involved in starting a charitable institution or NGO of some kind as well. Watch the video of Auleep’s speech when he received the award.