Volunteerism

YA

By Shuchi Sinha:

If there is a soul to our nation, Gandhi said it resides in our villages. In its mustard fields and dusty roads, in the serenity of a quiet existence and in the togetherness of community living. The many colours and the many faces that define India find their roots deep inside Indian villages. How deeply however do we, the ones residing in the cities and towns, the ones going to skyscrapers and universities, the ones who desire and promise changes, understand these roots?

The story of rural India even today remains unexplored and unabsorbed by today’s youths who take comfort in the many depictions of rural life in larger than life Indian Cinema and often lost pages of literature. The precision of these depictions can be contested only by those who have for themselves had the luxury of experiencing the rural life, its many highs and lows, its pleasures and miseries and its exact realities.

Application Live 1st deadline copy

Gramya Manthan, a Youth Alliance initiative which selects 40 most amazing hearts from the country and takes them on a nine days rural exploration trip, provides the rare opportunity to young adults of attaining a first-hand experience of life in Rural India. The idea is to give the youth a holistic exposure and deepen their interest and understanding about the pressing issues of the country and thus create leaders in the social space, passionate enough to work on those issues.

Through the nine days the participants adapt their life-styles to those of the villages often staying with local communities. Through a series of workshops, discussions and activities they are taught to identify the issues plaguing lives in villages and are encouraged to come up with solutions. The three main focus areas are those of education, health and livelihood. Participants are involved in organizing workshops for children, health camps and sanitation drives amongst other activities. There are also leadership forums by Anshu Gupta (Founder of Goonj), Ravi Gulati (Founder of Manzil) and R.Elango (Kuthambakkam), where they share their experiences of working in rural settings.

The founders of Youth Alliance, saw in today’s youth the fire to bring a change in and around them but a lack of understanding of the steps to reach there. It thus aims to provide these inspired and motivated youths with experiential exposure which will assist them in broadening their perspectives and concretizing their beliefs. In the past, Gramya Manthan has worked with many youngsters who have felt it provided them the mentoring platforms and support systems they were seeking for. A number of alumni members have gone on to founding social enterprises like learning centres, livelihood centres and health care centres in different parts of the country.

So for those, fascinated and puzzled at the same time by the life in rural India and for those who desire deeply to identify, understand and solve the many gaps which limit the capabilities of life in villages, Gramya Manthan might be just the exposure they are waiting for.

Apply here
First Deadline: 20 April, 2014
Final deadline: 20 May, 2014

devanik saha

By Anwesha Dhar:

In this month’s stories which I had been doing for the Volunteerism section, I noticed a pattern. They were mostly success stories of inspiring youngsters who took ‘the path less travelled’ with success, more or less. That is when my thoughts drifted to Devanik Saha, an ex-TFI Fellow, renowned for educational services who is grappling through quite a few obstacles in his way of bringing about change.

devanik sahaDevanik, soon after college, joined the acclaimed TFI Fellowship but unlike many others, decided to continue with his kids. The school that he taught in gave rise to such wishes, “We taught English to a section of kids there. However the other kids of that school were not exposed to such opportunities. The quality of education was rather poor, almost absent.” The children’s own siblings in other classes were on the other side of the table. That is when Devanik decided to kiss his plans of doing Masters in the UK, goodbye and launched a learning hub, ‘Unnayan’ for developing a sustainable system of education for the girl child. It has been almost a year since it started. “Classes take place throughout the week. During weekends, volunteers come and impart other life skills to these kids like dance, art and craft.” Unnayan thus aims at not only education but also at the overall development of these kids.

However, ventures, no matter how noble, bring their own set of challenges. And when that venture is one in the social sector, it can prove to be twice as terrible. “Funds are proving to be a big challenge. I have been doing many part-time jobs to make up for the finances.” On top of this is the operational challenge he has been facing. “The area is quite far and difficult to work in.” So far, the best help he has gotten is in form of laptops donated by a Xerox Research company. “People I have approached are a little hesitant about donating as we do not have the 80G tax exemption status yet. That itself takes a lot of time.” The situation is so unstable that he has not even told his parents yet about not going to the UK.

Unnayan had withheld its operations as of now, but has plans of starting with full rigour within the next few months. Devanik candidly confesses that a lot of help is required to make these dreams come true.

This conversation left me quite shaken and alert. In a country where we are desperately trying to promote education, ‘female education’, child rights and what not, it would be a shame if an initiative like this is forced to shut down. If education is indeed priceless, why are funds posing such a huge threat to the education of so many innocent little girls harbouring dreams to be better citizen of tomorrow, just like you and me? The thoughts remain unresolved; questions seem to grow every passing second.

dibya ranjan

By Anwesha Dhar: 

Dibya Ranjan Mishra’s story is like any other small-town-boy-hitting-it-big story, but with a rather significant twist. He is one of the few daring individuals in the country who forewent a central government job in order to do a fellowship. Dibya recounts, “I belong to a small town in Odisha and on completion of my studies, like most of the people I was looking forward to a stable job. I had almost ventured in that direction, which is when I heard about Gandhi Fellowship and took a life-changing decision.” Looking back, Dibya recalls that he was quite disinterested to attend it in the first place but once there, it invoked a small fire of inspiration in him. He had been involved in student politics back in his college days but took the hard decision of leaving his political ambitions behind once he noticed that it was assuming a violent nature.

dibya ranjan

Once into the fellowship, Dibya says that he found a solid footing. “I felt connected, how could I not? It was about youth leadership, it provided me with much needed exposure and confidence. I never really had the daredevil attitude of taking random risks but this was one such risk that changed the entire course of my life.”

Dibya joined the fellowship in 2011. A nationally renowned fellowship, it spans for over three years within which the fellows are made to tackle grass-root level issues and take full ownership of them. The first month of his fellowship involved him teaching at a government school just beside Gandhi Ashram. “The major hurdle was that I had to teach in Gujarati. It was a big challenge but it was hardly enough to ebb the tide of the strong emotions that I felt at this point. It only made me more aligned towards the achievement of my goals.” The next half of the year was spent with him living in the very slum his children lived in but he had to completely sustain himself. “I had to request them to let me stay with them. I lived under the very same conditions as they; sometimes I had to beg for food. It was a trigger for a change of self.” How difficult was it then, to adjust in these circumstances. Dibya admits that it was quite arduous but what was more difficult was to understand and fight the rather superstitious mindset of the people. “The school I used to teach in almost shut down for superstitious beliefs. I put up a fight to revive it. It was a struggle I don’t think I’ll be able to forget.”

If the first year was full of challenges, the second year was nothing short of a whirlwind. He was given the task of the development of five government schools where he had to interact and work directly with the headmasters of the school. “He benefitted from my perspective and I, from his experience. It was a very symbiotic relationship.”

Having spent three years in such conditions, Dibya feels that youth leadership is one of the greatest factors that can pummel a nation towards rapid development. “What is important however,” he says, “is to communicate and to communicate in the right way. In my college days, whenever I used to go to campaign to other colleges, the students used to run as soon as they heard the word ‘politics’. Later we modified our ways; we told them inspiring stories with which they could connect. The headmasters I worked with during my fellowship never listened to me at the beginning as I was too young to be there, according to them. Today, they call me up and ask for any kind of advice.”

Dibya also carefully states his thoughts about why the youth generally shies away from such work. “Today in the country we have many non-profits, out of which, only a handful do their work sincerely. The number of scams has gone up.” Not only that, but he says that the complete absence of the very concept of ‘social engineering’ in the country is a major impediment. “We must change the attitude within us. Don’t look at it like ‘charity’. If you are working here, it is your profession, much like any other engineering or medical job. In fact, it does not even matter which sector you ultimately choose; just take some time out and work. But do work.”

shashank

By Anwesha Dhar:

Hello, can we have the call today evening at 6 itself? I have a train later tonight.” This is the mail I got around 4:30 the day I was to do my interview with Shashank Kalra from ‘Youth Alliance.’ 90 minutes and some hurried work later I was finally on a call with Shashank, who joined Youth Alliance full time last year itself. He recounts his life before joining Youth Alliance, “I shifted to Delhi for higher education. Immediately, I joined a lot of societies in college, fuelled by the desire of doing something. What I realised immediately was that there were a lot of events happening but they all lacked soul. Everything was very competition driven. This is not to say that competition is bad, but doing something only for the heck of ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ and not to imbibe the whole process was disappointing to see. I felt a lack of contentment.”

youthalliance

It was this lack of ‘deeper engagement’ and focus on ‘individual development’ that pushed Shashank to apply for a programme conducted by Youth Alliance in March 2012 called ‘Lead the Change.’ Thrown immediately into a whirlpool of on-ground challenges, Shashank says that he immediately felt a ‘flare of inspiration.’ “I decided to stay on with Youth Alliance and debunked my plans of going abroad for higher studies. I did not want to do a corporate job anymore; I wanted to build the movement and the organisation as a whole.”

Armed with a fresh perspective, he says that what works with the youth is the proper use of tools like social media to highlight your cause. Being quite young himself, Shashank enjoys working with the youth as he believes they have so much to give. “I remember the closing of Gramanthan 2013. It was a nine day engagement and we concluded it on the bank of Ganges, near Kanpur. The entire group was sitting together and what we had been doing for the last nine days was finally sinking in. It was an overwhelming feeling.

One of the greatest things about Youth Alliance programmes, he says, is an understanding of the on ground challenges, which equip the volunteers with a valuable insight. “We set up our base in a village and just try to understand the situation to have a deeper clarity. The volunteers then run very small projects like sanitary awareness, summer camps, and health camps. At the end of it what happens is that a deep emotional bond is fostered between the volunteers and the villagers. It is a wonderful experience.”

So, what is it according to him that makes the experience of volunteerism so fruitful? “Over the years, volunteerism has been seen as something like, if you are privileged, you are giving something to people. What I have come to realise is that volunteerism is a reflection of learning. You learn the most when you challenge yourself the most. It is much deeper than just a give-and-take relationship. It is a projection of your own learning.” Shashank believes that volunteerism has the potential to make great strides in India. “We need to project it in a more attractive fashion. We need to utilise our resources, use tools like technology which the youth connect with to bring them into the system. A lot of good experience and inspiration awaits them after that.”

bappaditya

By Anwesha Dhar:

When I was very young, my mother often used to tell me that you don’t need to do something great to usher in change. It can be a small step, but no matter how trivial it may appear to be at the moment, there will come a time when it will show its significance. The story of Prantakatha and Bappaditya Mukherjee somehow reminds me of this anecdote. Reminiscing about his first step to lead change, Bappaditya goes back six-seven years. “I was working at a TV channel,” he says, “when I found out that my sister was facing domestic violence. In spite of being involved in media, I could do little to ameliorate her condition. It was then that I resolved to do something and thus, the journey of ‘Prantakatha’ started.

bappaditya

The word ‘Prantakatha’ is itself quite interesting. In Bengali, as in some other Indian languages, it roughly translates to ‘the voice of the margin.’ “I was quite appalled by the dearth of avenues available to voice grievance or opinions. Especially when it came to youth, I noticed that there was no platform available to them. That is when I decided to name this initiative Prantakatha.”

Bappaditya believes that the youth has its own vision in place, “It is developed…futuristic. However, this vision which can prove to be so useful for the society is ignored, marginalised. Prantakatha is a collection of narratives of changes from such marginalised voices.”

Started around 2006-2007, Prantakatha has spread its network to rural places of West Bengal and seeks to connect and inspire youth. “We wish to make them understand that societal work is done for oneself, more than the society. You work towards a better society so that you yourself, along with others, can lead a better life, can dream towards a better future.

Prantakatha has grown since then, from a young man’s vision of awakening the unutilised potential of young people to a formal organisation that runs programmes to develop leadership skills, help youngsters to find strong economic footing, sensitising people about gender issues etc. Bappaditya recalls many such success stories where he felt he was able to take a step forward towards achieving his vision. “We recently helped this boy from Laalbati area to complete his studies surrounding the food industry and later, open his own shop. I feel we were able to give him a proper direction in life.”

One of the recent campaigns that Prantakatha has launched called ‘Love Stories’ has created quite a buzz among people. “Love Story campaign is an attempt on our part to break barriers that exist in the society. We are collecting love stories of all kinds in form of letters-from inter-caste to queer communities and plan to publish it in an anthology on 14th February 2015, exactly a year from when we launched it.”

Bappaditya admits the challenges one faces on taking a career path not considered ‘safe’,People in general exhibit a lack of faith when it comes to beginners. A reasonable good idea may get little or no backing if it is coming from a beginner. Often bright people get disillusioned like this because they fail to sustain themselves after facing constant bereavement.” West Bengal, he says, has problems of its own in addition to this, “It is a highly polarised situation here. It is very difficult for anyone not to get mired in the power-play.”

The bigger picture, however, is not that bleak. “Youth has started to put some thought into the society. In our days, the word ‘social entrepreneurship’ did not even exist. The most people used to say, was that this boy is ‘doing NGO work’. The scenario has changed now; colleges and school have special social credits. It has been incentivised.” India, he believes, is a melting pot of opportunities. “We need to learn how to capitalise on these available opportunities. It is an emerging country, a change of mindset is imminent.”

MAD

By Anwesha Dhar:

It was around 8:05 pm, Monday evening when I was frantically searching for a recharge outlet in my neighbourhood. It was a big day for me-I was finally going to get on a call with Jithin C. Nedumala, the founder of ‘Make A Difference’, for the first time, not as a volunteer of the organisation but as a correspondent.

Jithin C. Nedumala 1

Jithin’s story is one which has never failed to captivate thousands of youngsters of our generation. Seven years ago, Jithin stepped into a shelter home in Cochin to celebrate his friend’s admission to a prestigious college with the children there. Once there, awed by the enthusiasm shown by these kids and more so, their request for books over anything else, he never really looked back. He kept going back there, and slowly, observing and understanding the problems that are deeply rooted in our society, he resolved to take action. He called some of his friends who agreed to help, and that is how MAD was born. Today MAD is India’s fastest growing youth volunteer network, with chapters across 23 cities in India. So when my phone started buzzing at 8:10 pm and the name flashing on the screen was Jithin Nedumala, my heart started throbbing. When I profusely apologised for being late, he simply said, “Don’t worry about it” in that easy manner which makes him extremely popular with all the volunteers in the organisation.

Once we started talking about MAD and his journey, I could not help but ask Jithin what is it that actually made him go back to the shelter home and not slack off like so many of us whose resolve to do almost anything wears thin within two-three hours. “Nobody looks up to the youth,” he said, “nobody expects much. When I went to this shelter home, these kids actually started looking up to me. For the first time in my life probably, someone expected something from me. It attached a sort of responsibility.”

Being a college student himself back then, the road was not a very easy one, he agrees, but one of the greatest things he had was the support he received from his friends. “They were all super supportive. I called a couple of my friends to talk about it and 25 of them agreed to be a part of it. Everybody wanted to do something, they just didn’t know where and how. When this came along, all of them immediately decided to help.”

MAD

MAD since then has grown and developed into an organisation running many projects with the help of its volunteer network spread through the country, mainly comprising college students or young professionals. Being primarily a ‘youth’ organisation, was it difficult to make people take what they were trying to achieve in a serious manner? “When we started out, there were multiple challenges. It was not just about being young and not being taken seriously by those whom we approached. The greatest challenge was the perception of these children by the society in general. They have a lot of opinions about these children, a lot of stereotypical notions. These kids are treated like second-class citizens, being fed leftover food to eat and old clothes to wear. There is this entire class system in place…and MAD directly tried to tackle that.”

Seven years into being, MAD has established its reputation of being a platform that ‘empowers youth to become change leaders who drive positive social impact in the lives of children-at-risk.’ So in a country where this very power of youth is given no space or is undermined at every step by the society, what has been his learning by working with them as far as this very ‘power’ of the youth goes? “One big advantage of working with the youth is the sheer amount of hope each and every one of them embody. They really believe that if you do something good, it will have a positive impact. They are so vibrant…so optimistic. Their belief that good begets good never dies.” Jithin concedes to the fact that sometimes working with the youth has its own limitations. “It is a long-term commitment. When you are mentoring a child, one year would probably create a difference in their lives, but it won’t be much. Sometimes it takes 5 years, 10 years, 20 years. Young people often think it to be too long. They show impatience…they want to finish off faster. If you wish to really impact a child’s life with your mentorship, it can take up to 20 years.”

Today Jithin is credited as one of the pioneers of social entrepreneurship in the country. When asked about his take on the future of social sector in the country, he answered, “Real change comes about when there are solutions that work and there are institutions to deliver those solutions. We lack in these solutions-we still do not know how to keep women safe on the streets, we still do not know how to combat the problem of malnutrition in children…The government is there but it is an implementation agency. The solutions need to come from us, from young people who can come up with innovative solutions.” He added how we need more young people more actively involved in social space. “They need to ask themselves, what they would like to see as their legacy twenty years down the line. Would they want to partake in the corporate field and multiply their own profit margin or would they like to be someone who actually brought significant change in the society?” He does feel that the scene is slowly shifting though, “More and more youngsters are coming in. Frankly speaking, they probably have a lot less pressure than their parents had in their time. They can choose to do something that can drive change.”

animals

By Anwesha Dhar:

Every day I enter my university to be dragged into a mad rush of people, each in their own race against time. And then every day, I see Baga sitting lazily enjoying everyone’s attention and bathing in the sun. Baga is one of the many dogs on my campus.

I have always been extremely fond of animals. This is the reason why the apparent lack of care for the many animals in our country gives me shudders. When I was about twelve, I had witnessed the hit and run accident of a dog and heard its helpless whimpering. I had also been shocked by the unwillingness of absolutely everyone present on the street, including my own grandmother. From that day, I have wanted to do something, anything. So when I entered college and realised my university, especially my department, is extremely active when it came to sheltering and rescuing animals, I was delighted beyond measure. Here there were, professors and students alike, happily rescuing puppies and feeding dogs which would otherwise be called off as ‘dirty’ and ‘disease mongers.’ animals

Then I realised that my university was not all that singular, there were many other communities, small and big, which worked towards ameliorating the condition of street dogs or cats. They actively campaign through mediums like Facebook and sensitise people towards the cause of sheltering animals. Pages like ‘Save the Helpless Animals of Mumbai’ simply posts pictures of injured or deserted animals it finds on the streets and posts it on FB. Within 10 minutes, it gets several requests for adoption. These animals are vaccinated and taken care of by generous donations of many across the country.

In fact, working for these little furry creatures does not even require a separate organisation or page, I have seen many individuals who simply take care of animals they spot on the street or take them to the vet. Recently when I went to Goa, a friend of mine spotted an abandoned Alsatian, not even the so-called ‘stray dog’ we spot on streets, left probably because of some skin disease by its master. My friend petted him, talked to him and sat with him for several hours and soon they became very good friends. The investment here is so little, indeed. The community in my university runs entirely by the willing participation of the students, who take full charge of feeding, vaccinating and taking care of these animals. The funds are often raised by generous donations but mostly by arranging for fundraisers like bake sale, which is again, completely organised by the students. They do not do it for some certificate or ‘social credits’ they are offered by the university. Nor do they do it to invoke some feeling of altruism among anyone. They do it because of a powerful emotion called empathy which they feel for these creatures. They realise that these creatures are full of love and they deserve every bit of attention or care we can offer to them. The reason they choose to volunteer is very simple and the most basic motive behind volunteerism in general-because they feel good doing it. Their only investment, perhaps, is a rupees three worth of biscuit packet every day. In return what they get are warm cuddles and unconditional love, two things which remain absolutely priceless in this world.

Photo credit

live aid

By Anwesha Dhar:

“If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”

What is it about music? What is that power that music has over us, the power to enrapture and take us through the various troughs and crests of emotions? Whatever it be, there is no denying that music is a powerful tool. It is sometimes the one thing that connects two otherwise different human beings. Needless to say, there are some who identified this immense power inherent in music and directed to usher change of the highest degree. Some formed super groups and some organised what is known as ‘benefit concerts’. A platform where well know celebrities, musical stalwarts came together and used this tool sometimes to raise awareness and sometimes to raise funds. live aid

Arguably, the first widespread benefit concert was held in 1971 at Madison Square Garden in New York, named ‘The Concert of Bangladesh.’ It was a devastating year for Bangladesh, marred with the war for liberation which killed thousands of people and the Bhola cyclone. Ravi Shankar, who had ancestral roots in Bangladesh, hoped to aid the nation by holding a small concert and donation the funds. With George Harrison’s support, this turned into a tremendous occasion with musicians like Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton joining in. Ravi Shankar was accompanied by music veteran Ali Akbar Khan for the opening act. Even though the concert ran into a few problems later, The Concert for Bangladesh remains remarkable for the sheer awareness it generated for the lesser known cause and problems of Bangladesh.

The Secret Policeman’s Ball, a string of concerts held from the end of 70’s for Amnesty International was in many ways, not only instrumental to raising funds but also in setting new trends and standards. It brought together comedians and rock musicians on one platform, a feature widely responsible for the immense popularity of these concerts. Not only did it have established performers like Monty Python but it gave exposure to many lesser-known alternative comedians as well. Rock musicians like Sting too gave a solo performance here, then uncommon among band artists. U2’s Bono, a widely acknowledged humanitarian has gone on record saying how these concerts became a part of him and encouraged him a great deal to use his talent for wider causes. Many in the industry hail The Secret Policeman’s Ball concerts a precursor of the memorable and hugely popular concert of 1985, Live Aid.

1984-1985 present Ethiopia and Eritrea were struck by a terrible famine, pushing thousands to death by starvation. After this news hit UK, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure got together and formed the super group “Band Aid” with other artists, and released “Do They Know It Is Christmas?” that year. This struck a chord with the people and this idea grew into the legendary concert, “Live Aid” performed simultaneously at John Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia and at Wembley Stadium in London. It was one of the greatest television broadcasts of all time and the crowd roared as Richard Skinner kicked off the show. It had an impressive line up of artists, from David Bowie, Queen, U2, Elton John, Dire Straits, The Who, Sting in UK to Mick Jagger, Madonna, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Bryan Adams, Bill Crosby in the USA among others. The concert cemented U2’s position in the industry as well as that of Queen, which gave one of its greatest performances. The logo of Live Aid became iconic as well, the guitar shaped as the map of the continent of Africa. It became of the highest grossing concerts in history, inspiring later concerts like Live 8. The concert ended with two super groups, Band Aid in UK and USA for Africa, in USA performing “Do They Know It Is Christmas?” and “We Are The World” respectively. The concert remains one of the greatest examples of how music has the power to penetrate into the souls of people and move them into doing something for the society.

In our country, however, benefit concerts are a rarity. Even though artists, both musicians and dancers perform time to time to raise funds, a large-scale concert is hardly seen. This maybe because of the trouble involved to get artists together, the lack of such organisers or owing to the very fact that the Indian music industry today faces a dearth of individual performers. Names like Shaan, Alisha Chinoy, KK who used to release independent albums in the 90’s giving rise to a strong pop music culture, have all migrated to the music film industry or have dwindled away. Even though artists have come forward time to time, and in their own capacity have contributed to raising awareness, concerts themselves are hardly seen. Indian artists hold within themselves this great power of music, hardly used in such a massive capacity, which when used can salvage many from their present turmoil. Whether the future will allow them to make use of this tool is yet to be seen.

The power of music yet remains only half realised. It can push us to think and delve us into deep thinking or make us forget all the cares of the world and enjoy the moment. Whatever it may be, the role music and artists have played over the years cannot be ignored. Language, barriers and other pithy things can hardly prevent it from resounding in every nook and corner of the world, hoping to mould it into something better.

the adventurists

By Anwesha Dhar:

Last night I was watching Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk on ‘The Art of Asking’. She talked about her journey from posing as a statue to a struggling musician and how it was by asking for help from her fans that she was able to wade through the waters. However asking for helping is not easy-you need to foster a connection with people and need to overcome the very fear of ‘asking’ for help. Today in the world, many of us are trying to bring about a change, to make this world a better place to live, to essentially help people. Of course this willingness to help also rests on resources available, particularly monetary resources. While going to people and simply asking for money might work a lot of times, it is the art of asking and the ability to establish a connection that wields a great control on the outcome. For some time now, people involved in the social sector have been striving hard to achieve this-by running campaigns, tireless innovation and unabated zeal. It is not an easy job at all-we all are extremely possessive of our own resources and parting with our hard earned money for something which directly does not benefit us may not appear very appealing. Of late people even suspect the motives of the fundraiser and the organisation itself, labelling them to be fraudulent without flicking an eyelid. I myself have been on the receiving end of such attitudes-people slamming doors on my face, cutting me midway and calling the security. The funny bit to consider here is that I was not even asking for their ‘hard-earned’ money, I was merely asking for ‘raddi’ i.e. old newspapers and used notebooks so that I can utilise the funds I get by selling the junk for the education of some children I teach at a shelter home. Fundraising therefore is trickier than what it appears to be and one needs to constantly come up with new ideas to bridge that gap between the donor and the fundraiser.

movember

One of the most remarkable campaigns in this regard has been ‘Movember’. An annual charity event to raise awareness and funds for oft ignored issues related to men’s health, Movember involves men growing their beard for the entire month of November , altering their appearance, thereby ‘donating their face’, and sensitising people about the issues and collecting funds. Movember became a rage and till date has raised considerable funds and raised awareness on health issues like prostate cancer. While men, known as ‘Mo’s bros’ participate actively by growing their beard, a lesser known fact is the participation of women in this annual event, who are called ‘Mo’s sistahs’ and basically do the same thing as these men, sans the beard. In spite of Movember not being present in India, due to social media tools, it garnered immense popularity with many men growing their beard in November to express their support.

Another amazing fundraising event organised ever year in our country is the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon. Innumerable NGOs till date have signed up with this marathon and have benefitted from it greatly. There are various ways and sub-teams which allow corporate, celebrities and even the common man to participate in this marathon and to raise money for one of the partner NGOs of the run. Today, it is one of the biggest and arguably the most famous fundraising event of the country, inviting millions from all over the world, irrespective of class, caste, creed, age, gender to participate in the run. A confluence of people from all possible walks of life, the marathon is a stellar example of the fact that everybody can effect change in the society in their own way.

the adventurists

A lesser known but absolutely unique organisation which operates on the principle of establishing a connection and raising funds at the same time is The Adventurists. They wish to make this world a ‘less boring place to live’ as well as to help make it better. They have hit the right balance with events like the Mongol Rally, Mongol Derby, Rickshaw Run etc. They invite adventurists to sign up for one of these events involving extreme sports and harsh conditions, fuelling their thirst for adventure but with a twist. Every participant has a specific target to raise, which then goes to a partner organisation. What is more amazing is that, even though they have an official partner ‘Cool Earth’, that works for protecting rainforests and helping indigenous communities, they allow for a commendable number of other organisations to partner with them and benefit from the funds raised! Their event ‘Rickshaw Run’ involved three men undertaking the challenge of doing a cross country trip-from the North-East to Jaisalmer within a fixed number of days and limited resources. The Adventurists have managed to raise 5 million pounds and they have sworn not to stop till they actually do make the world ‘a better place to live in.

While these aforementioned events show how fundraising can be extremely fun, it can easily be done on a small-scale and without much fuss. An event like raising money through a bake sale has proved to be extremely successful. Jadavpur University in fact, organised a string of bake sales with students coming forward to bake and selling the same to utilise the funds for Uttarakhand relief as well as for the dogs who live at the campus! The effort expended can be less and effect multiplied if social media tools like Facebook is utilised properly. There have been numerous examples of people setting up pages on Facebook asking for funds from anyone who ‘connects’ to the cause and procuring a considerable sum within a few days. An amazing example is that of Geo, a puppy who got injured saving a 10 year old from a hit and run. Through FB, Geo’s family was able to pay for all the medical expenses and gain a lot of support worldwide.

All said and done, fundraising is not easy. It involves shedding all inhibitions, fears and shame and actually asking people for help-an art we have all forgotten for the kind of lives we lead. But once we conquer that fear and realise that it is irrational to be so afraid of asking people for something you truly believe in, it becomes a cakewalk. And when they too realise how strong your belief is and understand the cause, the ‘connection’ is established and we all take one more step towards the change we wish to see.

bono

By Anwesha Dhar:

The term ‘star power’ has often confused me. It consists of two words of extreme significance in the language. Star is a metaphor for many absolutions and abstractions, while power with its many connotations can elude one quite easily. Yet, the term stands for a certain kind sorcery wielded by the elite of the society. Sorcery because it shares in the finicky nature of magic-it can work wonders or can go horribly wrong. These stars, the so-called celebrities are the royalty of the new age world-they have lavish mansions, cars, fame and this ‘star power’ which can influence thousands across the globe. More often than not, we see this power being used for wrong reasons, perhaps to get one out of a parole for drug abuse or an accident. However, there have been stellar examples of celebrities using this over-abused power to highlight important causes by actively supporting them, or by partaking in various fundraising activities. No matter what the context, these celebrities have immersed themselves for a cause and have used their status to ameliorate the condition of several thousands who live in the margins of the society.

bono

The very first name that comes to my mind is that of the lead singer of U2, Bono. I have been reading about his close association with Amnesty International and role in many benefit concerts, including the historic Live Aid which catapulted U2 to new heights of stardom, and his activism in Africa to raise awareness surrounds HIV-AIDS since time immemorial. However, Bono has gone a step further and has been instrumental in setting up DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) to fight poverty and further his endeavours to counter AIDS awareness in Africa. Bono has also received international acclaim for his work and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize thrice. He is has collaborated with other musicians, including Alicia Keys and Sting, for philanthropic purposes. His collaboration with American punk-rock band Green Day resulted in the song ‘The Saints are Coming’ to rehabilitate many after the devastating hurricane Katrina. In 2013, Bono gave a TED talk concerning his activism, even calling himself a ‘factivist’.

Not lagging far behind is another musician, Sting. His participation in concerts arranged by Amnesty International, including A Conspiracy of Hope series, is well known. Sting also partook in the Live 8 concert, a follow up to the massive 1985 Live Aid concert which was in close association with Make Poverty History campaign. He also founded Rainforest Foundation Fund with his wife for the preservation of rainforests and to protect the rights of the local communities of that area.

Another prominent celebrity who has attracted much attention for her involvement in humanitarian activities is Hollywood actress, Angelina Jolie. She claims to have first felt the need to be more involved in such activities while shooting in war ravaged country of Cambodia in 2001. Since then, Jolie has been incessantly involved in activities concerning visiting refugee camps, starting schools and centres for children with HIV and tuberculosis. She runs projects under the name of her adopted children in their native-country like the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Project (MJP) in Cambodia and Zahara Children Centre in Ethiopia. In 2006, Jolie with her partner, Brad Pitt established the Jolie-Pitt Foundation.

This ‘star power’ which has been so beautifully used by celebrities like the aforementioned ones has also been used by the once richest and arguably, the most powerful man in the world, Bill Gates. His efforts invested in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fight extreme poverty, promote education, easy access to information technology is well known. It is argued to be one of the most transparent organisations in existence, which allows access to the financial documents of the organisation to the public. Gates is a signee of the Giving Pledge along with Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg which entails donating half of one’s wealth in due course of time.

Closer home, the situation is a bit more complex. These problems range from cases of celebrities associating themselves with activism for gaining coverage to the extremely complicated question of what charity is or how it should be done in India. While many Bollywood celebrities over the years have lend their support and voice to various social causes, the line between doing it just for the cause and not for better publicity has proved to be rather unclear. However, some have walked the extra mile rather quietly, focussing on utilising their stardom to highlight the cause rather than use it as a self-promotion tactic. Names like Nandita Das, Shabana Azmi, Gul Panag, Milind Soman figure in on the list quite often and their activities range from promoting women and children’s rights, raising awareness on HIV-AIDS, education etc. The multi-faceted Nandita Das, in fact, co-founded Leapfrog, an agency that concentrates on making socially conscious films and has been tirelessly touring round the world, giving talks on the same. She also is closely associated with the ‘Dark is Beautiful’ campaign, raising her voice against discrimination in skin colour which still poses as a serious, but much ignored question in India. Rahul Bose has gone a step further and has founded Group of Groups, a parental organisation with 51 charitable organisations under it as well as Foundation, which provides education to children hailing from modest economic backgrounds in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

However, while these actors steer clear of the limelight and mainstream glitz and glamour of Bollywood, there are a few names that use their so-called ‘commercial value’ to promote causes. Vidya Balan is one such name on that list and has created quite a stir when she accepted Jairam Ramesh’s proposal for being the ambassador of sanitation and drinking water campaigns. She has shot for a string of advertisements promoting the same, which are currently being telecast on national television. Another unlikely, but prominent, name is John Abraham who has his own brigade (John’s Brigade) for Habitat For Humanity, a Jimmy Carter Project which strives to provide habitat for the needy.

Star power is indeed one of the most powerful terms to exist in our vocabularies. These people, and many others, have exactly shown why-they are all trying to illuminate an otherwise dark sky, trying to make a difference and change the world in their own little ways, one step at a time.

volunteers_welcome

By Anwesha Dhar:

One fine evening, when I was about four years old, my mother draped me in a sari too big for me and announced that I need to dance in front of people on a big stage. The idea of twirling under the spotlight and being appreciated with beaming smiles from the audience thrilled me. Five minutes later when the initial excitement died and I asked her why, she said it was for a function organised by her NGO and I was volunteering. Two big words I had hitherto never heard of let loose chaos in my little world. Before I could make much sense of it or stomp my childish pride under my feet and admit that I did not know what it meant, I was dragged to the stage to put up my little act which received warm accolades from everyone present. That day, unwittingly, unknowingly, I felt proud of being a ‘volunteer’.

volunteer

Around twelve-thirteen years later, when I was done with my school finals and like every single adolescent in the world, bored out of my skull, I found myself randomly searching ‘volunteering for NGOs in India”. By now I had performed in many such shows, visited old age homes as a part of my school’s social service programme and donated gifts on Christmas to an orphanage. I did not do it because I suddenly felt a surge of philanthropy or altruism. I did it simply because I was bored. I registered for a couple of NGOs and forgot all about it within the next two days. I was persuaded to attend the recruitment drive for one such organisation by my friend, who was perhaps more bored than I was and I gave it a shot. Needless to say, that proved to be a stepping stone for me in the long run.

It wasn’t like my views changed overnight, I just happened to turn up for a couple of classes. Then, I couldn’t stop. The ‘perks’ of being a volunteer, if you were to ask me to list them down like all other lists we see on social media these days, can range from three to three hundred. It’s a matter of perspective and I surely can’t list down anyone else’s experiences for them. But what I can say objectively, without a modicum of doubt, is that volunteering helps you to come out of that shell so many of us live in because we are just generally, quite cowardly. When you volunteer to teach or clean wards or serve food, you realise the responsibility you are shouldering. You realise that there are people who are looking up to you and hiding behind that shell is no longer an option. The first ‘perk’ is, therefore, possibly this, you learn to be unafraid.

Once there, for the first time, you are given a platform to voice your thoughts, your views; you are given a chance to inspire others. From someone whose hands grew clammy on the thought of taking the mike, you learn oratory.

Another; possibly the greatest perk is that you meet people from all walks of life, from different corners of the country, from different strata of the society. They might be radically different from you in the way they dress, in the way they speak, their choices in food and music. What will strike you is that, at the core, those people hold the same belief system that you do. Their passion, their zeal, their spirit would be a mirror image of yours.

Most important of all, you learn that volunteerism isn’t just about going to the orphanage or old age home or the slums and fulfil those two hours of duty you signed up for. It’s not about donating clothes or food or books and feeling morally uplifted. It is about learning patience when the child cannot get the spelling of crocodile correct despite several attempts; it is about learning to care and spend some time just asking them about how they spent their day at the old age home; it is finally about caring enough to not donate old clothes or tattered books and thinking about ways to procure new ones.

Volunteerism is not life-changing in the sense that it makes a philanthropist out of you. It is life-changing in the sense that it helps you realise more about yourself and those around you. It teaches you patience, public-speaking, kindness-all of which are life-skills and will stay with you long after you have finished your programme and got that much sought for certificate. It teaches you that ‘orphans’ are ‘children-at-risk’. And the difference is as subtle as that.

Here I am today, several years after my first stint as a volunteer, aware fully of the implication of those two big words. My pride still refuses to stop inflating.

MAD1

By Make A Difference: 

23 cities. 23 different camps. All united by one heartfelt cause: empowering children at risk. The annual Dream Camp conducted across 23 Indian cities by volunteers of non-profit child development organization, Make A Difference (MAD), will be held in Delhi on 31st Jan, 1st and 2nd Feb.

MAD

Once a year, every MAD child is put through a Dream Camp experience. The Dream Camp is an inbound or outbound child-development programme that provides children with a holistic learning experience aimed at nurturing and empowering them to be more aware of themselves and their surroundings. Every child has dreams and aspirations. At Dream Camp, these dreams and aspirations are identified and worked upon, session by session. We believe every child deserves to dream, and dream big. And Dream Camp is the facilitator. The volunteers, who teach these children over the weekend, are closely involved in deciding the sessions for their children.

The reason it is named a Dream Camp is because each MAD volunteer believes that they can impact their children’s life and have the potential to make their dreams come true. In other words, they believe they’re the Dream Catchers for these children!

The Dream Camp, which is into its third year running, seeks to develop the soft skills and aptitude of the 500 odd children under the organization’s care through an interactive residential programme. The sessions planned for such camps include personality and soft skills development, career counselling, personalized mentoring and a series of motivational talks by eminent public personalities. The camps have grown in magnitude down the years; mainly because of the impact they create in uplifting child morale and empowering them to be better citizens in the future.

In the Dream Camp to be held at Delhi, a total of 110 kids and 60 youth volunteers under the organization’s umbrella will be taking part.

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About MAD
Make A Difference (MAD) is a platform that empowers youth to make positive social impact in the lives of children at risk in orphanages, street shelters and poor homes.

Volunteer profiles range from teachers (who work with a class of ten children and act as role models), to fundraisers (who organize events that raise funds for children) to placement organisers (who conduct activities to broaden the career horizons of children). At present, nearly 2000 volunteers reach out to 5000 children living in shelter homes across 23 cities in India.

MAD is the winner of the Ashoka Staples Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition 2008, and was nominated as the best Medium Category NGO in the Indiya Shines initiative organized by GreatNonProfits.com in 2009. MAD is also a Noble Laureate of the Karamveer Puraskar awarded by ICongo and finds appreciation as a global fellow of YouthActionNet, Cordes Fellow 2010 and the winner of Dasra Peer Capital. MAD was further awarded the World Summit Youth Award last November and was named ‘Leader in Volunteer Engagement by iVolunteer.

 

VSO2

By Samuel Fox:

This year I spent 12 weeks taking part in International Citizen Service (ICS) with VSO in Jharkhand, India.

When I first found out that I’d be spending three months in eastern India during the monsoon season, I was somewhat apprehensive. Fortunately the weather proved to be pretty ideal, as the rains were nowhere nearly as frequent as I had envisaged and had a cooling effect on the temperature for a day or so after each shower. We stayed together at what was known as the Rural Technology Park (RTP), about 18km away from Deoghar. Our two cooks took on the roles of adopted parents and always kept us in high spirits despite having a limited understanding of English. A couple of times we surprised them at meals by wearing fancy dresses, which they found absolutely hilarious, as the concept of dressing up was not at all familiar to them.

VSO1

Deoghar is home to one of the most significant temples of Lord Shiva. As a result, every year in the holy month of Shravana thousands of pilgrims descend on the town wearing bright orange, after having walked 105km barefoot, bringing with them, water from the Ganges. The festive atmosphere is unique, and the diversity of worshippers is quite fascinating: some pilgrims being from affluent backgrounds and others evidently much poorer, yet all brought together through their religious devotion.

deogarh

After completing our extensive training programme, we had a week of visiting different communities to conduct research for presentations. This initiation was very important to get a grasp on the differences in pace of life, infrastructure and the role of women. In some rural communities there was a notable lack of women’s voices, whilst the local NGO we were working with (NEEDs) employs women in prominent positions.

The project I was working on (‘Anganwadi Chalo Abhiyan‘) involved improving the capacity and functioning of the government run preschool education service. In rural India it is very common for young children to work in the fields so it was our job to ensure that they had access to appropriate education, nutrition and health monitoring. On our first day in the village there was an all day wedding party. This got us off on a good footing as they were in high spirits and allowed us to join in the drumming and dancing. After our data collection we began to work with the children, playing games and singing songs in Hindi and English (‘What’s the time Mr. Wolf’ was a particular favourite). After only a few days the children were able to lead some activities on their own. Community members received us very well on every visit and they would come to watch us working with the children and talk with us. We were very generously treated to lunch by one community member, featuring some deliciously cooked mutton. One of the most satisfying parts of the project was handing out new toys and learning materials at the community centre. The first toy we gave them was just a small plastic ball, but that alone got them in an excitable playful mood. We also got them to decorate their own paper butterflies, which they were extremely proud of, parading around the village and showing them off to their elders. During our project we became aware of several shortcomings in the services the government was providing. At the end of the project we presented our findings to local government officials who stated their intentions to make changes within the next week in our village.

VSO2

I found the Indian people very hospitable and endearing. They take a great deal of pride in their treatment of guests. Another striking characteristic is their profound love for music and dancing. People I met were seldom hesitant bursting into a song and do so with remarkable confidence. Family ties in India are extremely important. In the West we have come to expect our families to respect our decisions concerning our lives, whilst in some parts of India family often plays an integral part in the decision making process. Their sense of community is much more assured than in the UK. Whilst carrying out our data collection, villagers could name all of the children in their surrounding area without batting an eyelid.

Working with the national volunteers was fun. At our mid-phase review in Rajgir, Bihar (a significant place in Buddha’s life) discussing cultural differences proved to be one of the most interesting sessions. Addressing challenges like these proved fruitful and allowed our groups to work better together after returning to our projects.

VSO3

The programme kept us busy with community action days (CADs) and global citizenship days (GCDs), as well as our respective projects. We conducted a CAD on a stage outside a school for International Youth Day, making the youth aware of their future career options and encouraging them to actively participate in their communities. We performed songs in English and the nationals also performed in Hindi. A notable GCD was on the topic of hygiene and sanitation at a rural school. The children responded with great enthusiasm and all of the children and their teachers were made to wash their hands in the proper fashion.

I enjoyed my ICS experience very much and recommend it to anyone, regardless of what their future career plans are. It is the perfect platform to develop organisational and interpersonal skills, and a brilliant way of gaining an understanding of infrastructure in the developing world. I have gained a lot of confidence in working to professional standards and I am now motivated to start a career in development work. Spending time living in another culture has been a valuable experience to me and I intend on continuing my learning of the Hindi language for future visits to India.

Challenge yourself to change the word, join here

GM Poster1

With the mission of bridging the gap between urban and rural India, Gramya Manthan is an initiative by Youth Alliance. Youth Alliance is an organization working with a vision to “Connect EACH Youth With a Cause”. They aim to build a movement of young leaders equipped to meet India’s problems by designing processes to identify young individuals with a spark to think innovatively for the larger social good. They do this by conducting programs where they get experiential exposure in both urban and rural space to identify their passion.

About Gramya Manthan ( Rural Immersion Program):

Gramya Manthan (Rural Immersion Program) aims at bridging the gap between India and Bharat. It will select 50 most amazing hearts from the country and take them on a rural exploration. The idea is to make youth realize the pressing issues of our country, it will help them understand the problems of our villages and execute solution during the course of program.

Gramya Manthan is dedicated to developing social leaders; well-rounded youngsters who are equipped with leadership skills to solve the challenges faced by Indian villages. Its core aim is to ignite young hearts with holistic concern for their society and nation.

GM Poster

Impact of Gramya Manthan ’12

The last Gramya Manthan saw participation from across the country with participants from 11 states who internalized the problems of the villages and came up with implementable solutions in education and livelihood. Youth Alliance has helped alumnus establish a livelihood center, “Swaraj” as well as a learning center “Kilkari” in the villages which has helped build trust and confidence in the process. Their another alumni Manoranjan started “Ek PAHAL“, which is an enterprise in Kashi, Bihar with a mission to impact the lives of students, enabling them to maximize their potential by reforming education.

Apply now. Last date for application is 15th May, 2013.

Click here to apply

For any queries, you can write to [email protected] call at +91-9873427669/+91-7827540546

fellowship1

Every summer, the Happy Hands Foundation has some very interesting young people work with them, volunteer tirelessly, and share their vision of empowering artists through multiple innovative projects. Incubating young, creative ideas is a passion at Happy Hands, and everybody has thoroughly enjoyed watching relationships built around them and grow.

This year the organization has initiated a youth fellowship – the Youth Arts, Community and Transformation (ACT) fellowship.

fellowship1

Aimed at connecting 17-20 year olds with the country’s craft communities this fellowship allows for a selected group of individuals to travel to a craft cluster, live with a community and assist them in creative production, design, computer training, marketing, documentation, etc – and help develop capacity of the artists’ group.

The month long fellowship includes an Orientation/Training (in New Delhi), a two-week project in the village, and a week long time to compile their learnings into a public exhibit/campaign.

Happy Hands’ work with young people spans across disciplines and focus areas . In this cross-flow of ideas and inspired learning, the fellows discover their own self, strengths, aspirations and have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of rural artists while learning from them. The Fellowship kit and other details can be found here.

2009 Staff Retreat - Shiv Ahuja-3393

By Vrica Vij:

“I can’t put my finger on it. There is something this place brings out in me, and others around me- an ability to do things that we never thought we were capable of. My own work spans so many levels- from direct advocacy with policy makers on young people’s health and rights to working with communities of young people in Uttar Pradesh from across the socio-economic, educational backgrounds on advocating with local communities and governments” (Gopika, 26, Projects Manager)

 

I was fairly indifferent to these kinds of statements while I worked in another organization. Eight months into that job, I got sharp sporadic pangs to hunt for something new and when I finally stumbled upon TYPF quite accidentally, I jumped on it without realizing the seriousness of my actions. It was more hardcore than I could have imagined and also quite ironically full of happy madness. We have captivated a volunteer base of thousands, and have people here, that work full time on issues of human rights, gender and sexuality, access to primary education and health services, enabling artist rights and livelihood sustainability, digital media and child rights, good governance and policy/advocacy.

Where else do you get people coming back day after day, for work that they’ve been doing for anything between a few weeks (yours truly) and even ten years! Where do you have colleagues that’ll drop everything in a second to help you with that finance thing you’re struggling with? It’s strange really. People come here, work to their bone, and still, remain so painfully optimistic and happy, that it just seemed plain strange to me. That is, until I was working for a while. Maybe it’s the pink and blue office, maybe it’s the work, or maybe it’s the people. The one thing that’s certain is that YP is love.

Maneesha (24, Programme Coordinator, Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights) when asked why she chose a youth-led and -run organization says, “TYPF, regardless of age gives young people the reins to lead one’s own programme. This organization really does invest in everybody, as it wants to create people who can take the lead in processes that direct their own situations in life. She also added, “It is imperative for young people regardless of their position in the organization to represent at policy forums to make sure that the policies made for young people are really representative of their demands and context at national and international levels; and at TYPF that is not distant dream.” Radhika (23,Project Coordinator, RTI Branch) adds, “There is abundant freedom of creativity in terms of our programmatic divisions – I get to design, implement and evaluate my programme and at the age I am, that’s really amazing.”

Three weeks into my new job I can see that people here are putting their time to good use and not doing everything the conventional way, which is what makes this space interesting. It is a youth-led; youth-run organization that’s more of a close-knit unit where everyone is on everyone’s checklist!

Vrica Vij is the latest addition to our crazy family of young people here at TYPF, joining us a few weeks ago. The YP Foundation is looking for more eclectic and passionate young people to join our team and be a part of this experience. To know more, visit us here and apply!

Published as a partnership between Youth Ki Awaaz and The YP Foundation 

urbanization

By Anshul Kumar Pandey:

Gandhi famously said that the real India resided not in the great cities of Bombay or New Delhi, but in its 700,000 villages. The number of villages has gone up rapidly since and it is not surprising given the amount of money on which a poor Indian, no wait, a poor bhartiya lives. There is a difference you see. A prosperous person of this country is an Indian, while the non English speaking and non connected person is bhartiya. This chasm has been acknowledged by no other person than the PM in waiting Mr. Rahul Gandhi. The question that arises is where should we start from if we have to think about urban development in India? Should [email protected] be a primarily urban country? Or should [email protected] be a conscious model of urban rural harmony?

In a country where famously there are more temples than toilets, it is difficult to even start with the where’s and how’s of planning. Land being a sentimental and contentious issue, any policy on urban expansion would have to deal with the pulls and pressures of the democracy in acquiring land for such purpose. This is amply demonstrated by the pending Land Acquisition bill before the parliament which seems to have been reduced to that ever expanding category of “to be passed soon” bills.

It is in this backdrop of urban planning and the challenges surrounding it that the issue of Environmental sustainability acquires legitimate seriousness. While we and our governments may treat climate change as something which will happen only when human colonies on other planets have been established, it is necessary to seriously acknowledge the gravity of this matter if India really wants to be one among the world leaders at 75.

What does the future hold for us? No one can know. I won’t even take a chance.

Over the period of next one week, Youth Ki Awaaz wants to feature your remarks, comments and opinions about how volunteering can create a better India in 2022. Our editors are already contributing. Your thoughts will be compiled for consideration for India’s National Volunteering Policy Framework. Tell us your thoughts on the need for volunteerism by visiting our submissions page. Stay tuned!

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Anshul Kumar Pandey is the Editor-at-Large with Youth Ki Awaaz. To read his other posts, click here.[/box]

Literature

By Nitum Jain:

When was the last time you read a Hindi novel/book? Discount the ones that were part of your school education and then think harder.

By no means is Hindi Literature synonymous with Indian literature and it will be a gross presumption on my part to think so. India, with her rich languages, can never have one mainstream literature to satiate its populace and a few languages can at the most claim to be frontrunners. She, however, is the nation where Sanskrit literature was nurtured by the likes of Kalidasa and Valmiki, where texts such as the Vedas became the very foundation of the society that India cradles in her lap, and where literature married its close cousin — Art — in seminal texts such as Bharata’s Natya Shastra and the Sanskrit dramas.

This land of Sita and Draupadi saw a constant process of metamorphosis as dynasties came and went, as many different-minded emperors wrote her history and as many Queens and Viceroys held her reins. The literature changed genres; it changed languages. Today India produces literature scattered all over its glorious anatomy, ranging from Urdu to Bengali to English.

We all have grown up with Premchand and Tagore, and have read or at least heard of Chandrakanta at some point in our life. Today we have the likes of Vikram Seth, Jhumpa Lahiri and Anita Desai keeping afloat a form of (for the lack of a better term) ‘high’ literature that appeals to the voracious literary appetites while writers for the masses like R. K. Narayan, Ruskin Bond and Chetan Bhagat take care of the rest of the market. We have inspirational writers, we have a huge non-fiction section to appeal to specific tastes and like any other country we have our own appetite for self-help books. India has raked in literary awards; it has made its dent in the Bestseller lists of many a metropolis. So many achievements, such good progress; perhaps now you are wondering where I am going with this article?

I feel what India lacks is an integrated literature. A tolerant literature. A literature that brings up all its genres together and not orphan one for another. An independent literature. An entitled literature.

India’s English literature is on a train that is on a never-ending track to progress, but left on the station are the malnourished regional texts that watch it chug by, waiting for a chance to earn enough to buy the ticket. Bengali, Hindi and Urdu, meanwhile, are struggling in the waiting list. A literature survives its language; and a language without literature is a soul meandering without a body. Without a corporeal form, its existence will soon erode in our memories till no recollection of it is left. Adaptations and translations are a great way to survive a text but they are yet to hit it big in the Indian markets.

A bit of a fantasy buff, sadly the last good book of the genre based in India was several years ago, but notably from a completely westernised (conspicuously referred to as a British writer) Indian figure, Salman Rushdie. Which only makes one curious as we are a country with probably the most defined and complex mythology known to man. Our religions can be enough fodder for thought for a fantasy writer’s mind to last him all of his seven lives. And therein lays the bone of contention. We may have the resources but do we have the power to use them? Can you imagine an Indian version of, say, the Da Vinci Code? Can you imagine someone ‘rediscovering’ faith, albeit fictionally, and an uproar not occurring? Book-burnings, fatwas, court cases, vandalism.

Heck, Rushdie got a fatwa as well.

A writer is a free spirit. I do not deny that outrageousness can seldom be tolerated but to make someone into a seditionist just because they do not conform is even more ridiculous. If the writer’s thoughts are derailed and re-boarded on the diplomatic lane, it makes him/her a liar to his/her own work. For a liberal, secular country, the nibs of its pens are wrapped in cloth to dull their sharpness — I want to see an India free.

I am particularly averse to the thought that we borrowed languages; that we borrowed Urdu from the immediate West and we borrowed English because of our wish to be westernized. Our history is proof that the languages came to us and were gradually absorbed in our culture. What we hold is ours because the literature we produced with it is entirely ours, no matter the origin of its alphabet. I wish to see writers comfortably writing about their lives, their country in any language of their choice and not feeling compelled to morph according to the language. I wish to see a writer writing in English but in his indigenous Indian style. I wish to see an India asserting her identity.

A literature in a particular region, in a particular period is a perfect reflection of the era, its people and their ideologies. The literature we produce today gives the feeling of an insecure, wannabe-western, bigoted, scared, elitist, lost and amnesiac nation which India isn’t. I want to see an India proud.

Over the period of next one week, Youth Ki Awaaz wants to feature your remarks, comments and opinions about how volunteering can create a better India in 2022. Our editors are already contributing. Your thoughts will be compiled for consideration for India’s National Volunteering Policy Framework. Tell us your thoughts on the need for volunteerism by visiting our submissions page. Stay tuned!
[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Nitum Jain is the Associate Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz. To read her other posts, click here.[/box]

technology

By Sumedha Bharpilania:

I would never call myself a patriot, for I am far from being one and absolutely do not see myself as someone who can embrace martyrdom with open arms. I however, have always been proud of the fact that I am an Indian. My sceptical acquaintances often question my love, for they believe that there is not much that India has to offer and that my pride is not justified. But none of this deters me from feeling a little happier, every time our country celebrates its Independence. I also presume that I do not fall into the category of people who are ‘technologically challenged’; technology on the contrary, has always intrigued me. I therefore die a little, every time a Japan, a United States and a South Korea walks away with the crown of the most technologically advanced country in the world. ”Where is it that my country falls short?”, I question. And I realize that I, myself have the answer to the same.

The fact that India is highly dependent on other countries as far is technology is concerned, is disheartening. Employment of technology in the fields of agriculture, energy resources, healthcare and even education, in order to cater to our teeming population, is vital. We have the numbers but we need to work on the quality. We have the potential, but application is the need of the hour. We have the brains and we have the funds but the rampant corruption, lack of literacy and the faulty system is what hinders growth. Why else do you think that the most intelligent minds go on to serve countries like the United States and help them prosper, instead of doing something for the nation they owe their identities to? I personally see India as an affluent power, which is capable of funding researches which provide an incentive for people to become scientists and analysts. I see India as a country which is at par with the superpowers in research and development, because we are nothing but adept at the same. I think India is more than prepared to employ technology to combat social issues, when the grassroots levels of society can benefit from, say, social media to voice their opinions.

When India celebrates its 75th year of Independence, nothing will make me happier than watching my fellow Indians take pride in the fact that they own mobile phones, tablets, laptops and music players that are manufactured by Indian brands. I would love to see an iBall compete with a Bose (the founder of which happens to be of Indian origin), a Micromax selling more phones than a Samsung, an Indian website competing with the likes of Mashable and discussing social media the way it has never been presented before. I would like to see innovations akin to the Akash Tablet selling like hot cakes in the global market, making life difficult for a certain giant called Apple with the nth version of its iPad.

The year 2022 would give me a reason to celebrate if I get to witness great minds who can be compared to the likes of APJ Abdul Kalam, AJC Bose, CV Raman, Homi J Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai. When young Indians would not need a Mark Zuckerberg, a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates for inspiration. When they would be citing a familiar, Indian name when asked about the person who motivated them to innovate and contribute to the field of technology. However, I personally see all of these happening only when we bring about a massive change in our education system, because with the current one, real talent will never flourish.

I would be more than happy when ten years down the line, India would shine in reality, every household would have electricity, internet connectivity would not be a far-fetched aspiration for an average Indian (the aam aadmi), when villagers in the remotest of villages would have access to television and mobile phones, when the term ‘digital divide‘ would cease to exist. When nuclear technology will really aid India in attaining prosperity and advancement in space research will leave us well-equipped to escalate to the heights of  National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

We never cease to talk about how important it is to bring about a change in our society, but then, we need to be the change. Volunteers have only inspired people to act, because one good deed sets an example for thousands to follow suit. It is all about devoting some of our precious time in order to secure a better future for ourselves. It is all about giving, at the end of the day and it sure is no rocket science.

Over the period of next one week, Youth Ki Awaaz wants to feature your remarks, comments and opinions about how volunteering can create a better India in 2022. Our editors are already contributing. Your thoughts will be compiled for consideration for India’s National Volunteering Policy Framework. Tell us your thoughts on the need for volunteerism by visiting our submissions page. Stay tuned!

Volunteerism123

By Anshul Tewari:

A population of over a billion, and a million issues – India’s diversity in terms of problems, and our lack of knowledge has often kept us aloof from the solutions. While the country stands at its youngest best, the lack of initiative in the everyday citizen and the rat race to achieve basic living standards has killed our childhood desire to change the world – and while many of us still want to do that, opportunities, or the lack of them often confuses us beyond measure. Lack of co-operation and collaboration, and the emergence of competition has made our individual efforts towards a better country very divided and distributed – both geographically and in terms of initiation. This stands as one of the major reasons why social good often goes unnoticed. But can we change this? Yes of course we can!

Let’s give ourselves 10 years – a decade. A decade of change, of collaboration, of social good – of volunteerism!

The power of selfless individual efforts, brought together towards common causes can lead to tremendous and unparalleled ground impact. The power of one, if combined in numbers, is bound to cast change.

[email protected] - a grass roots and path breaking initiative for realising the dream of an inclusive, sustainable and developed India by the year 2022, when India completes 75 years of Independence is a step in that direction.

Youth Ki Awaaz is joining hands with [email protected] to celebrate 2nd October as “National Volunteer Day”.

Here’s how you can help:

Over the period of next one week, Youth Ki Awaaz editors will take up 7 diverse topics from Moral Leadership to Environmental Sustainability and seek your views and comments on each of these, and your suggestions in correlation with volunteering as a solution.

Your remarks, comments and opinions will be compiled for consideration for India’s National Volunteering Policy Framework. Additionally, head to CountMeIn.in and pledge your support to declare October 2nd as the National Volunteering Day.

Additionally, you can also independently tell us your thoughts on the need for volunteerism by visiting our submissions page. Stay tuned!

jgw

Giving is better than receiving because giving starts the receiving process.” ~ Jim Rohn

The most special festival in India is celebrated over a period of one week called “The Joy of Giving Week“. This year, we are celebrating “giving” in the week starting from October 2nd till the 8th. To enhance the happiness obtained from this week and to increase participation, an exclusive club known by the name of Hi5 (www.hi5club.in), has come with a special volunteering program.

Hi5 is an exclusive club, for socially conscious college students across India. To be part of the club, every student has to engage in 5 hours of volunteering DURING the Joy of Giving Week, either 5 hours at a go or 1hr/day for 5 days. The goal is to have 1,00,000 students across the country participate during the week this year. Students can volunteer either on the structured opportunities provided by Bhumi (5 hrs of teaching, cleaning a beach/park, visiting an elderly home, making educational aids, sorting out clothes or doing a collection drive, etc.), or can identify their own activity. Bhumi is one of India’s largest independent youth volunteer non-profit organisations.

Colleges/students may write to [email protected] for more details regarding this activity or register directly on the website.

Teach-India-Kolkata-volunteers-teaching-NGO-children

By Ashna Mishra:

The beginning of NGOs and NPOs (Non-profit organisations), and the growth that followed, is in all aspects an emerging trend these days especially due to the falling role of government in the welfare and services for the society. These back-up firms are indeed helping create the much needed awareness and leading to the path of social development. Not only more and more such agencies are sprawling every day but also they are achieving the required participation from the society. Apart from the most famous NGOs like Helpage India and the Smile Foundation, today, we have many more. This article aims at taking a brief look at various such organizations emerging every day.

“Goonj” is one such NGO whose tagline ‘a voice, an effort’ became famous all over. The basic aim of this organization is to make clothing a matter of concern. They have led various nation-wide movements so as to provide resources to the people from far flung villages. Goonj campaigns like “Rahat Winters”, “Rahat Floods” and “Vastra Samman” definitely deserve a salute.

Another one that must be in this list is “Twissha Cultural Educational Society”, a national NGO based in Delhi which aims at ensuring an easy access of cultural education to all. TCES advocates the growth of talent and passion. Twissha works in collaboration with “T.Y.C.I.A Foundation” which targets the education for the needy children for a better tomorrow. The foundation also organizes events like ‘Dental Camp’, ‘Fitness Training’ and ‘Mini Marathon’.
“Akshaya Patra” based in Andhra Pradesh is also an ever growing organization. This NGO believes in enabling a hunger free education for nearly 1.5 million children in India.

We have discussed basically NGOs so far but there are many non-profit organizations too, like, “Teach For India”, “Make A Difference” and “Leaders for Tomorrow” which aim at the youth to make the necessary social advancements. The nationwide movement, ‘Teach For India’, is actually an organisation of outstanding college students and young professionals who teach full-time in low income schools for two years. Their vision “One day all children will attain an excellent education” says it all. ‘Make A Difference’ offers a platform that empowers the youth to become the change makers who bring about positive social impact and create self-sustaining communities. Similarly, the mission of ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ is to create a large network of youth from among the under-graduate students from all colleges across the country by enhancing skills in not only social change but also in leadership.

Various college students have also started their own organizations like “Aasra-because they need us” run by NIT Rourkela and “Aarambh” run by IIT Kharagpur. All these efforts are worth being proud of. India would definitely be a better country in terms of social conditions if such efforts continue getting the support by us all.

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