Jessie Ranjitha Jebaselvi, Lady Doak College

The Need of the Hour

“COVID-19 has left an indelible mark on the mental, emotional, and spiritual states of most students,” Jessie Ranjitha Jebaselvi C., associate professor of English and chaplain of Lady Doak College, observed recently. “Confined to their homes, students feel marooned without simple joys like meeting friends and relatives,” Dr. Jessie pointed out. Many skills, combined with much innovation, are needed to help students navigate these changed circumstances. “Building a committed core team for campus ministry is the need of the hour,” she said.

As the campus transitioned to the virtual environment, Lady Doak College’s counseling unit – part of the Christian Activities Centre – drafted a detailed plan for online interaction with students. “We conducted tailored group sessions and one on one tele-counseling sessions, through which many students and parents were encouraged and strengthened,” Dr. Jessie said. As students often are hesitant to express their needs, the counseling unit initiated a peer help group.

COVID-19 also interrupted the busy schedule of campus events. These opportunities are important for the development of young women, Dr. Jessie believes: “Students can express themselves, showcase their talents, interact with their peers, and be a part of the vibrant social life on campus.” After a brief pause, the counseling unit bounced into planning mode. “With the new normal in force, we had to find valid technology-based alternatives to substitute for some of our rich traditions and healthy practices,” she said. For instance, a 24-hour prayer chain substituted for the usual Founder’s Day gathering. The choir continues to rehearse virtually, and the chapel service will go online in the near future.

The hard work of transitioning to the virtual world has brought some rewards. “It is interesting to note that students who usually hesitate to speak in open forums have started to actively participate in activities conducted via digital platforms,” Dr. Jessie said. And the sense of a caring campus community remains strong: “It is encouraging to see various student and staff prayer groups meeting periodically, online, during this period to spiritually support one another.”