Communicare, Bringing People Together
Iris C F Gomes
Communicare Trust is one of the rare Goan NGOs that is prolific in its endeavours and covers many spheres, driven towards social and cultural development. Nalini Elvino de Sousa is the founder of Communicare and has been its Managing Director since 2004. Her husband Dr Bossuet Alfonso, a surgeon, is a trustee of Communicare along with Aira Simone Mirchandani who is well known for her association with the Naree Artisans Movement and the Goa University Choir.
Nalini is from Portugal with Goan ancestry, and upon her arrival in Goa in 1998, she found there were institutions that taught just Portuguese or French but none that taught multiple languages. With her background of diverse cultures and a love of language, she decided to found Communicare Trust. She says, ‘Communicare Trust’s aim was to have an institution where we could teach many languages at the same time: Portuguese, French, German, Konkani, Hindi etc. Over time, the concept spread in Goa, and today there are institutions offering many languages. As such, we diverted our activities to another level but always having languages as its focus. Communicare means “communication” in Latin, and we are always trying to find a different way of communicating different issues in our society.’
Communicare Trust has a variety of programmes within its ambit besides language courses, such as theatre, a food bank, waste management, etc. Once classroom-based language courses began to burgeon in Goa, Communicare thought it fit to put aside the traditional mode of learning to embrace the use of the internet with online classes. At the moment there are students learning Portuguese with Communicare in Kerala, Delhi and even in UAE. Communicare also has a channel called Travel & Learn where free Portuguese and Konkani classes are available. The channel has exceeded 7000 subscribers and 33 thousand views. Nalini says, ‘We thought that theatre is another great way of teaching language to children. We have been working with different homes and have performed 5 plays so far. The last one being Raga Rock presented at Kala Academy and Ravindra Bhavan.’
The extensive work carried out in collaboration with various children’s homes in Goa led to the evolution of the trust’s food bank. It was mainly the need to do more for these children with whom close bonds have been formed. Twice a year, 14 homes in Goa are beneficiaries of the food bank. ‘The food bank was created because of our commitment to the homes with whom we work. We have watched them grow over the years. Some of the kids of these homes are already working and keep in touch with us,’ says Nalini.
The waste management programme was born out of Nalini’s own interest in the area. Since she grew up in Portugal and has witnessed the transformation that happened there, she decided to implement some of those ideas here in Goa. She says, ‘In school we used to be involved in environmental activities so I know that if we teach our children now, they will be responsible in the future.’ Through the medium of filmmaking and languages, short animation movies are produced with the children in different languages. The project is called the Magic Box and from it have sprung many other activities in the schools and homes with which Communicare works.
Ten years ago the trust started Kaleidoscope, a language quiz. The quiz is meant for students from different higher secondary schools where they participate in a language quiz in different languages, namely: Portuguese, French, Konkani, Marathi, and Hindi. ‘Kaleidoscope is also an activity which I love. Last year we ventured outside Goa and we held Kaleidoscope in Macau taking with us 2 students from Goa, from Don Bosco and Our Lady of the Rosary Higher Secondary School. We took Goan sweets with us and our student Brett Sequeira showed the students the different coins and notes of India. Naomi do Rozario wrote the Macau students’ names in Devnagri and they were so happy. This is an experience which we want to repeat – who knows – in other parts of the world,’ says Nalini.
An accomplished filmmaker producing media under the Lotus Films and TV Production banner, Nalini has directed, anchored, and produced over 100 episodes of the series Contacto Goa for the Portuguese international channel RTPi. Her film Enviado Especial has been shown at the History Film Festival in Croatia. This mother of two also heads a publishing company Lotus Libri. She says, of balancing her many ventures, ‘I have a very supportive family. My children, who are now 14 and 18, participate in many of these activities. Both of them, for example, are volunteers for the food bank. My husband who, like me, cannot stay still, keeps encouraging me to go always a small step forward. My job as a filmmaker ends up being very useful in Communicare Trust as well. Travel & Learn is done with the support of Lotus Film and TV Production and the small videos we do at our NGO are handled by my production company as well. As an independent filmmaker I can juggle time between all our projects.’
Communicare has been working closely with many NGOs but the one that makes it to the top of the list is Help India. Nalini says, ‘We love the people involved in this NGO, and we believe in their work.’
Among Communicare’s successes are counted Kaleidoscope and the project Stories from Here and Beyond, which involves books created with students from Goa and Portugal, because our culture and our language were taken beyond the borders of India.
Stories from Here and Beyond has become a significant part of Communicare’s work presently. It aims to involve students from Goa, Portugal, Mozambique, Macau, Brazil and Timor. The next book is ready for print but stalled for want of funds. The book, which will be published in Konkani, English and Portuguese, focuses on gender equality and has brought together 200 students each from Goa, Portugal and Mozambique.
Just like any other NGO, the paucity of funds remains an ever-present hurdle. There are more activities that are conducted without any financial support than with support. But the spirit of Communicare does not lose its focus of bringing people together through the medium of language. Nalini says, ‘Nelson Mandela once said: “Without language one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations; grasp their history, appreciate their poetry or savour their songs.” To communicate with the other and open our mind to different worlds is our main focus. We only have one life and we should make the most of it.’