Volunteerism

crylogo-wit-standup

By Sonakshi Madan:

In a country where 40% of the population lives behind the eighth ball, where impecunious condition force kids to beg for a slice of bread, where yours and mine ill-fitting shoes serve as the magical shoes for poverty ridden children, where somebody wears a Gucci dress and somebody begs for rugged scraps, where sticks, clay and mud have replaced stuff toys for some children, where bins are being searched for a burnt loaf of bread and in the age where hope is so hard to find, C.R.Y is driving for a smile on the faces of those ill-fated children.

Child Rights and You is a non-profitable organization established by Rippan Kapur in 1979. Its motto is “EQUALITY NOT CHARITY”. Its objective is to exhilarate those children whose parents can’t bear the cost of school fees, to make efforts to feed millions of famishing children who can’t afford even a single meal of the day, to bring hope for those hopeless parents of 2 million infants who couldn’t even survive to celebrate their first birthday.

C.R.Y intend to piggyback transformation by schlepping the herculean task of making people au courant about their rights. With C.R.Y’s stupendous efforts, a commendable change has been brought in about 13,000 villages and slums across 20 states. They address the root cause which keeps them at a trail in managing the basic necessities like food, education and respect.

In 1979, C.R.Y started with the efforts of 7 people with an initial amount of Rs 50 and now it raises around 36 crore every year through donations and sales of products with the synergy of around 150 professionals.

C.R.Y provided immunization to around 122,898 infants, thwarted child labour in 648 villages, got 19 new Primary Health Centres and 38 Sub-health centres rolling and let off the hook of child marriage from around 1152 villages. “Voice of India – Say Yes to Education” campaign, “Titan-CRY Education Fund”, “Free-a-child today” -CRY’s corporate quiz, raised enough funds in the initial years. CRY shored up relief projects after the earthquake which wiped off the map of Gujarat on January 26, 2001. CRY-Child Relief and You America Inc. was launched in September 2003. CRY-Titan Industries Ltd. triggered the ‘About Time’ campaign. “Project Shiksha – education as a right of every child”, was launched which used the technique of raising funds by sale of products. ‘Race for CRY’, was a virtual marathon that created awareness on Child Rights and raised resources for CRY. ‘Sabko Shiksha, Samaan Shiksha’ a charter of demands ,signed by 7.7 lack people was submitted to the Honourable President of India, Pratibha Patil in 2009. ‘Sansad Gherao Abhiyan’ and the Campaign for Equity and Equality in Tsunami Rehabilitation (CEETR) were other programs launched by CRY.

Here is some basic information about C.R.Y, for those wishing to make their contributions-

Name: CRY – Child Rights and You.
Status: Non-Government Organization (NGO)
Address: CRY – Child Rights and You, 189/A, Anand Estate, Sane Guruji Marg, Mumbai 400011.
Telephone: +91-022-2309 6845 / 2306 3651 / 3647.
Fax: +91-022-2308 0726.
Email: [email protected]
Branches: Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata
Tax Status: All donations to CRY are eligible for tax exemption – 50% tax exempt under Section 80G. CRY also offers 100% tax exemption under Section 35 AC or 80GGA. For more information, write to the CRY office nearest to you.
Registration No: Public Trust Reg.No.F-5208 (Mumbai)

saheli_logo

By Priyanka Mittal:

For a country that boasts of having a total female population higher than the total population of various other countries, that’s where it ends. We certainly cannot boast about their treatment with the same zest. Starting from female foeticide to child abuse to domestic violence to sexual abuse; the list just keeps on getting longer. In such a scenario, it becomes vital for organizations to come forward and take matters into their own hands. To name a few among many that serve the women of the country are the National Commission for Women, Self Employed Workers Association (SEWA), Maitreyi, Majlis, Sakshi and Saheli: A Women’s Organization.

Each of these organizations sets out with its own mission which reconcile at the ultimate goal of upliftment of women in all sectors of life. One such organization which started back in the day was Saheli where reaching out to women victims of domestic violence was one of its main goals at the time of inception in 1981. It has been known both as a campaign as well as crisis centre. It has been involved with diverse issues ranging from rape, domestic violence, sex determination tests, dowry deaths, unethical sale of emergency contraceptives, vaccines against cervical cancer and other feminist issues. It continues as a non funded feminist collective and survives on volunteer power, individual donations and the strength of its convictions.

Saheli has never been a very large organization and the question for generations has been: is small a weakness? Can we still make a difference? The answer to this starts with them providing relief and rehabilitation to Sikh survivors after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. Their work with women in crisis was marked by direct action. From demonstrations outside homes where women had been murdered for dowry, to going and retrieving stridhan from her marital home, to shaming men who beat their wives up were some of the ways they responded to situations. Their work on rape has not been restricted to policy level alone. It involved the launch of a campaign, ‘DILLI CHUPPI TODO, HINSA ROKO’ (Break the Silence! Stop the Violence!) which saw reaching out to public by way of street protests, distribution of leaflets in crowded markets to change the culture of acceptance of rape as a ‘normal’ part of society.

Simultaneously, like other organizations, it has engaged with law reform using the judiciary. Its work against domestic violence has proved fruitful by the fact that today we have the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, which is recognition of the importance of the issue of domestic violence. Another example can be drawn from their work against hazardous contraceptives. The organization lobbied for ‘informed consent’ and the enforcement of ethical guidelines to be followed by the contraceptive trials which compelled the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) to revise its guidelines in 2000.

In this direction, voices were raised by issue of a press release on World Health Day in 2010 regarding the unethical nature of HPV vaccination ‘projects’ being conducted in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat by PATH International, in collaboration with ICMR and the State Governments.. The licensing of the vaccine in India raised various questions such as; who is to be liable for the debilitating effects of the vaccine? How did the Drugs Controller General grant approval to the vaccine without proper research in India?

Within the list of issues, they struggle for a fair and just portrayal of women through the media. In 1987, they blackened a hoarding which was trying to sell a brand of underwear sporting the tagline, ‘She’s got nothing to declare-not even her lingerie’. The campaign did not gather too much publicity until the movie posters of ‘Fraternity Vacation’ that showed women in pornographic poses were opposed and a complaint was registered under the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act. The popularity of the campaign pressurized the government leading to framing of rules under the Act-nine months after the act was passed for implementation.

The organization, having completed almost 35 years serving and fighting for women’s rights, only seems to be getting stronger with each passing day. From dealing with cases of sexual harassment at work place, sex determination tests to being a signatory to the letter to the Prime Minister regarding the decriminalization of consensual same-sexual acts by reading down Section 377 of the IPC, it has seen it all.

It has gone from eight women, eighty rupees, a duster and a notebook to a vibrant and forceful team bringing about radical changes in women’s lives both individually and collectively. The list of problems only keeps increasing but the enthusiasm to implement change by supporting a just cause never ceases. Now that’s the sort of Saheli we would hold on to tightly and not let go in a hurry.

iStock_000000185043Medium

By Barkha Sethi:

With the emerging trend of everything being electronic (e-) or online; donations or charity have also been molded in same. People now ask for charity with their non- profit Websites or charity websites. This has made  it easier for the public to donate. To attract more donors, a website has to be designed specifically. Below are some points:

1. Your website should be on top list for your readers- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art of building, or tweaking a website to improve your search engine ranking and attract the supporters who are interested in your charity. For this purpose one has to be careful while giving headline to the content or titles to the pages, the links and content should be more relevant to the subject, identify key terms for users to easily find you and include good pages to your website.

2. A mission Or cause- Everything else leads back to one’s website’s purpose and goals. The website goals should be clearly mentioned to the reader so they know why and where they are donating. It could include converting visitors to members, providing info about existing members, building your email newsletter, building awareness, and collecting donations.

3. Reader friendly- As mentioned before the website should be user friendly so that the people can easily access to the website without much problems. The layout design should be consistent throughout the site, the menu should be easy to use, the text easy to read, and links easy to identify.

4. Contribution of the donators- Let your users know what you do with their money once they donate. They’ll want to know how they’re making a difference in someone’s life. Also this will promote them to donate further and influence others too to donate.

5. Photos and videos- A website with more readable material is the past. Now everyone in their busy lives wants everything fast and clear. So, a charity website should post photos of their organizations, their works, the change in someone’s life, videos of their existing members, their experience etc. This would make the website more interesting and truthful at some point.

6. Credibility of the website- It is difficult to believe anything on internet. Thus, one has to convince the visitors for their contributions to donate to one’s website. To convince them of your legitimacy, supply a business address, contact details, regularly updated content of what the charity is currently doing and make good use of design.

7. Donate button- The donate button is most likely the most important asset of a charity website so it should be prominent and obvious. This is the ultimate end goal for users. It should be easily available to users to use it.

8. Keep in touch- Sponsors will want you to keep in touch as they now have a vested interest, so make sure they are up to date. Let people sign up and send them an occasional newsletter about what the charity is up to. This will also be helpful when it comes to looking for future donations.

9. Design of website- The design of the website should be convincing and impressive to the visitors so they are convinced to at least surf your website for once. You should focus on using more relevant pictures, graphs, videos, visuals, slide shows, etc. as it will encourage people to donate to your website. Also you should use good colors combination as it plays a major role in taking people to your website and use it.

I hope that these tips will definitely help and are useful for the charity websites. Thinking about something is the first step, implementing on it is another and continuing that with best efforts is the most difficult step but the most important step is how to implement what we think.

References: www.webdesignerdepot.com and www.thedrum.co.uk

 

varun-slider-1

By Srishti Jain:

Are you a successful professional who yearns to know how he can take the first step towards doing that something for the less fortunate, or are a student, a sedentary worker, a midwife, or anyone just born on this planet and is confused about how he/she should get started? How can he in his own little ways make a difference. Well then you grabbed the right piece of text for you.

Anoj Viswanathan was one such individual. He had everything a normal student would dream of – good academic record, degrees in technology and management from one of the best schools, a work experience to boast of in a CV, but then also there was a fire in him that only needed some wind to catapult him into starting a venture named Milaap (www.milaap.org).

In his own words- “The idea for Milaap was born during my stint at Orissa when I saw first-hand the difference made by solar lights to the poor households. At the same time, I also realized that these services reached only a few households and failed to make a bigger impact due to unavailability of low cost money for the poor. Milaap.org was founded with a simple mission — to connect flourishing Indians and its Diaspora with the working poor through charitable lending”

Milaap is the first micro-lending platform that enables anyone in the world to lend to India’s working poor. It combines the internet and human intent to create sustainable social change. Anyone from any part of the world can now lend as little as Rs 1000 or USD 50 to India’s working poor, enabling them the means to lead an improved standard of living. The process is simple. Choose a borrower. Make a loan. Get repaid. Recycle.

Coming to know of this venture I couldn’t control myself from knowing more about it, and even spreading the word. I don’t want to bore you by testifying the authenticity and transparency of the milaap network and system, milaap.org will answer those questions for you, but what I really intend to do is harbor your will, a long lasting wish maybe which you once had and weren’t able to fulfill it because you didn’t know what to do about it! Milaap is surely the answer for you.

And even before you know it, there is even a bonus to it. Thanks to Varun Agarwal, another such determined individual like many of you out there.Varun Agarwal is a young engineer, turned entrepreneur, who’s now turned author and has just launched his first book.

Having known the struggles of being an entrepreneur firsthand, he is keen to ensure that entrepreneurs across India, especially the ones in rural areas get every possible opportunity to succeed. Which is why, he’s doing something unique. He is a filmmaker and has 3 startups-

Alma Mater: They make merchandise for students of schools and colleges www.almamaterstore.in

Reticular: A social media marketing company www.reticular.in

Last Minute Films: A film production house www.lastminutefilms.in

He thinks Milaap is a great initiative and his book is a perfect give to the lenders. We need more initiatives like these in our country. I would love to see where the organization heads from here on. He’s giving away copies of the book ‘How I braved Anu Aunty and Co-founded a Million Dollar Company’ to anyone who makes a loan of Rs. 1000 ($25) on Milaap.org.
4 simple steps:

1. You contribute to the author’s cause
2. The author gifts you his book
3. Money helps a rural entrepreneur
4. Get your money back in a year.

You can even track where your money goes and is in what hands. It’s a complete win win situation. Remember, there are still many copies of ‘How I Braved Anu Aunty and Co-founded a Million Dollar Company’ to be given out for free, all you have to do is lend Rs 1,000 or more to this cause and get your free book! Head over there and show your support for the cause. All is required of you is an intent to help and make a difference to the million lives out there who weren’t as fortunate as you are today. It’s unique, it’s innovative, it’s real. And it’s really happening.

pathakoli-pathshala-dhaka-city-bangladesh+13224111439-tpfil02aw-32721

By Syed Anik:

Education in its broadest sense is a general term, which is basically defined as a means by which the norms, values and skill set of a certain group of people are transferred from one generation to the next. Any experience that has a decisive effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts can be considered education, which is often taught by means of formal schooling.

In layman terms, any experience in life can be considered a learning experience, and hence can be called education. Education in its technical and broadest sense comes with numerous benefits and they are more than academic success and a good career. A good education is essential to the development of mental health, ethics, morals, individuality, and character, and so on and so forth, and as such stands for each and every individual of Bangladesh.

Recognising the fact that education for these children should be a part of their lives, certain youth of our nation have come forward to make an attempt at changing the present scenario, and this brings us to the subject matter of our article today. Introducing Pathakoli Pathshala, which is a school that strives to provide education for underprivileged street children absolutely free of cost. The school started its journey from the March of 2011, with a small space at the Suhrawardi Uddyan, which is owned by the PWD. The school itself is a volunteer organisation and is run by students hailing from different educational institutions.

Amit, a 9-year-old child who dwells on the streets of Dhaka, was seen writing Bangla alphabets at this school in Suhrawardi Uddyan. Due to his financial standing, he was unable to attend a regular school. He is one of the many thousands of street children who are deprived of education and their rights to an education. Upon hearing from his friends of an institution that provided education free of cost, he came to Pathakoli Pathshala last year and ever since is quite happy. He aspires to carry on his education and dreams of becoming a pilot one day.

Upon paying a visit to Pathakoli Pathshala, the Joven witnessed the institution in action, that is to say, children getting an opportunity to study in an entertaining atmosphere. Mohammad Farid Hossain, one of the three founders of the school, says, ‘My friends from college and I would regularly visit the Suhrawardi Udyan and upon seeing the state of these children we decided to help them. Consequently, I, along with Syed Minhaj Hossain and Sazzad Hossain Tuhin, founded the school in March 2011. As of now, we are happy to say that we have 40 students.’

The school currently provides 30 dedicated teachers, books, stationary and food once a day for the students; all of the above is being funded completely by its members. Utilising the money gathered in the communal fund, the members have set up an ice gola shop in the nearby park. They receive Tk.5 from each gola that is sold and that money goes directly into the school fund.

The school’s curriculum falls under two categories: basic level and advanced level, correspondingly. A student at the basic level learns the alphabets and numbers. At the advanced level, students learn as per the national curriculum, beginning with Grade 1, which will consequently lead to an SSC followed by HSC. Furthermore, the school has also planned to admit these children to prominent schools once they have attained a certain level of education.

We witnessed Mohammad Tuhin Akhter Rana, another student at the school, playing in the grounds behind the school. Rana’s mother sells flowers on the streets to get by and hence does not have the financial ability to enrol him at a prominent school. Therefore, upon hearing of Pathakoli Pathshala, she did not hesitate to send him there. Upon asking Rana about his experiences in the school, he happily said, ‘I had heard about this school from my friends and since I joined, it has been a year, and I love studying here. The teachers are very friendly and cooperative.’ As of now, this young man hopes to engage in service once his education is complete and wants to contribute to the well-being of his family in the near future.

Reminiscent of Amit and Rana, there are thousands of underprivileged street children for whom an education is a farfetched thought, because they are struck with poverty. Since they do not have a place to live and some of them are orphans, they live on the streets. Rather than dream of education and a better life, they search for odd jobs, and sometimes get involved in anti-social activities to make a quick buck. This is where Pathakoli Pathshala stands out in helping to change the very fate of those who cannot afford the means to a fruitful life.

Although primary education is a constitutionally-provided free and compulsory right, there are several factors hindering these children from receiving an education. One such factor is family ties and the financial barriers that fall with it, as many parents can’t bear the cost of sending their children to schools.

There are many voluntary schools akin to Pathakoli Pathshala and they are adamantly working to help the underprivileged children attain an education. These schools are dedicated to providing an education that is free of cost to the impoverished children of Bangladesh, so that sooner or later they can disentangle themselves from their state of poverty and make a place for themselves in Bangladesh as free and productive Bangladeshi citizens.

The above scenario demonstrates that the collective and dedicated efforts of our youth today can help many a child to attain an education and never feel deprived of happiness. If we, the youth, can better work together to increase awareness with regards to this situation, we can collectively influence others, directly or indirectly, to do something good and demonstrate our abilities to bring forth something exceptional for our society and in turn for our nation and our country.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author:

Syed Anik is a journalism student at Stamford University Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh. To read his other posts, click here.[/box]

Live-below-the-line

By Vanessa Picker:

The ‘Live Below the Line’ campaign was founded in 2010, with the goal of changing the way that people think about poverty. Through challenging individuals to survive on the equivalent of the extreme poverty line for a total of five days, the Oaktree Foundation has created widespread awareness of the issue, whilst also raising funds for educational projects in impoverished communities.

Demonstrating the growing success of the campaign, more than $1, 795, 000 has been raised in the last month alone. Schools, universities, companies and individuals have participated in the campaign, each contributing to the growing success. Money raised through the campaign is being implemented in a diverse array of aid projects, such as building schools in Cambodia, training teachers in Papua New Guinea or supporting micro finance programs in East Timor.

According to the co-founder of the campaign, Nick Allardice, the idea arose as a result of the advertising and information overload associated with extreme poverty. Nick wanted to be able to transcend the information overload and raise awareness through providing people with a real life experience of the struggles associated with extreme poverty.

‘We wanted people to better understand that extreme poverty isn’t about the starving children we see on TV, it’s about impossible choices that none of us can possibly imagine. For example, a mother having to choose between finding enough food to feed her family over the next week, and buying a potentially lifesaving course of antibiotics or medicine’.
Whilst it is undoubtedly important for people to be aware of the prevalence of poverty, it is equally important for individuals to know that campaigns such as Live Below the Line can make a difference. Importantly, the initiatives that are currently being supported through the campaign can provide a platform for individuals to lift themselves out of poverty.

Although there are still 1.4 people living in extreme poverty, a combined global effort to tackle the issue has resulted in a significant decline. Since 1985, the percentage of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has more than halved, dropping from 52% to 25%. These statistics exemplify the success of campaigns such as Live Below the Line, which aim to support projects that empower and educate people living in extreme poverty.

Importantly, the campaign is not a standalone initiative. The Oaktree Foundation has mobilised over 100,000 young volunteers to take part in various campaigns and initiatives. As one of the fastest growing international development organisations, the foundation is run entirely by young volunteers, aged below 26.

In addition to the Live Below the Line Campaign, Oaktree has successfully led anti-poverty initiatives such as the 2006 MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY concert in Melbourne. Similarly, in 2007 and 2010, Oaktree led the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY Road Trip campaign, which assisted with securing a commitment from the government to increase foreign aid by $4.3 billion.
The success of the 2012 Live Below the Line Campaign suggests that the prevalence of extreme poverty is now an issue that an overwhelming number of groups and individuals want to address.

childs-play-video-game-charity

By Vishakh Unnikrishnan:

Gaming has always been considered as just a means of entertainment in today’s generation, but this notion is gradually changing among people in the modern society, through more of social gaming. What is regarded as soon to be the most primitive form of entertainment, video games has had an amazing history throughout and can be praised more for it perks than be criticized for its defects.

Social gaming has gone a long way since the success of a game called ‘club penguin’ in miniclip.com. The basic reason for social gaming to turn into such a mainstream success is because people began to appreciate and enjoy the company of other gamers more than artificial intelligence. Social gaming was adopted by many websites and social networking sites in the last 5 years. This trend has led to a huge investment in the industry. Rarely does one, especially a gamer, acknowledge or even ponder about the idea of using games for philanthropic or beneficent purposes. The New York-based gaming advocate and non-profit organization Games for Change (G4C) has been supporting the creation of social impact games since 2004, and is focused on games for government agencies and NGOs, such as NASA and the U.N., as well as corporations that have a vested interest in teaching their employees how to find solutions for political, social, and financial issues.

The organization also can regard any game under the ‘games for change’ category if it meets with the organization ideals. The primary motive of the organization is to try and juxtapose gaming and education, and has met with ample amount of positive response. The idea seems plausible, after the success of the critically appreciated game Portal, developed by Valve, as a game which helped students learn and understand simple physics terms like momentum, and energy conservation. Through virtual visible application, students tend to grasp the logic behind most theories and are easily able to interpret them. The serial entrepreneur and founder of Atari, Nolan Bushnell states that “Kids don’t like to learn abstract things out of context. A video game presents that context in a very serious way. The reality is that today’s children have different brains than years and years ago. Brains are very plastic and conform to the types of structures that they’re placed in.” Other than for education purposes social gaming has helped the society in various altruistic ways. The game WeTopia is a new online social game designed to raise money for children’s charities in the real world. In the game, players can help raise money for various aid programs, by viewing sponsor ads. Sponsors then make donations to non-profits that provide basic needs, healthcare, and education in the real world. Although Games for change predicts that only a fraction of the money goes for aid, the parent studio company ‘Sojo’ claims that 50% of net profits will be donated to its charity beneficiaries. Business minded entrepreneurs also haven’t ignored the benefits of social gaming. IBM released CityOne, an online game that challenges players to make city energy systems more efficient and sustainable. Through solving real world issues, like water scarcity, alternative power resources etc. the game tries encourage industries to implement them in the real world. With Gaming reaching out into almost every sphere possible, it is clear that the notion of gaming being a source of mindless entertainment, can be considered pure applesauce.

Picture 148

By Pinak Pani Datta:

Our nation is the home of multimillionaire Mukesh Ambani, but it is also the home of millions of people who survive on Rs 32 per day. I always wonder why this country with so many energetic youths is considered a backward nation, even though we are good economically, culturally, politically and have one of the best defense systems. The reason lies within. We have the energy, we have the will, but we do not know how to channelize it for developing a better nation. So here I present you 5 things which every Indian student can do to see a better India.

1. Make use of the reservation system: We know India has a strange and unique caste based reservation system which was implemented 60 years ago to avoid the social differences. But, after 60 years we are still in the same position. Those who could make use of the reservation system have already done it and are doing well in the society, but still many Scheduled caste/Scheduled tribe/Other backward caste students don’t even get to go to school in many parts of the country.

Many people opt for a revised system of reservation on the basis of per capita income; well it is not possible considering the political conditions of India. But, it is inevitable that a well-to-do Dalit student will really feel the conditions faced by another Dalit person. So, why not make use of that boon which government has already provided us?

What I propose is a ‘Stipend Foundation’ for the reserved class. Those who are listed in the SC/ST/OBC lists can work for their brothers and sisters. We are provided with stipends from the government, so why not donate the same for those less privileged students? We are good enough to make our own living, so why waste the governments’ funds on parties?

2. Donate clothes: We all like to shop every now and then, but do we even keep track on where our used clothes go? Sometimes in a dustbin, or sometimes used as a napkin to clean out after party stuffs. So, why not donate one cloth to a poor child every time we buy a new one? It’s as good as the aforestation campaign. And, we can easily afford it too.

3. Donate books: After every semester, we just wait for the new book, what happens to the ones we had been using in the previous semester? Most of them are not needed in the future isn’t it? So we can easily donate books to someone who needs them but cannot afford to buy one or even issue one from a library.

4. Start free tuition: Knowledge increases when it is shared. Instead of spending our extra minutes on the Facebook page, we can teach at least one poor child. Teaching a middle school guy is not a big job for us, but it is a huge task for his construction worker parents. Think over it!

5. Concert for a new audience: If you are a musician and you are fed up of the boos and less encouraging comments from your friends, find a new audience. Go to a slum and pick some random kids and play for them. You will get at least one interested child whom you can mentor. Who knows you might get a full band out of them.

Aman Biradri-1

By Devika Mittal:

I had enjoyed working as a teacher in an NGO. So I had opted for umeed, one of the children homes of Aman Biradari, to repeat the fun. But it turned out that I did everything but that. Initially, I felt a bit turned off because teaching kids art and craft was not my cup of tea but by the end of my summer vacations, I had shocked myself. The dil se campaign was a mutual learning experience. I learned a lot while I taught. The two months with Umeed can be described through some lasting memories that me and Manya (another volunteer) managed to collect.

While we would do some documentation work in the office room, kids would keep swarming in and out. And when we would ask for their names, we would get Munna, Rocky and Abhishek (Bachchan). It was only the files which would force them to tell us their real names. I asked this boy his name and with all the seriousness in the world he said “Shahid (Kapoor)”. I had accepted it but the moment he turned away, his friends called out his real name.

And then there was this day, when a kid ‘found’ his parents. They were passing by the home when he spotted them. Everyone in the home was just too happy that day.

The most challenging part was of course managing the kids. It was a task to go around the home and gather the kids. Then they were to be held in a room by one volunteer, while the other went around looking for some more. While some of them were very enthusiastic to learn, others considered themselves just too cool to stay put. One very typical scene would be that two kids would start fighting and while I made efforts to stop them, others would become spectators. But When I would manage to get the two kids to negotiate, I would look up only to find the room empty.

But we did manage to extract a lot from their creative sides. If the coloring sheets ended up like inter-state disputes over resources (crayons and stationary), photo frames and the shoe aquariums, which had them grouped together, became treaties.

Childhood is incomplete without those stupid fights. And when you have a space to share with your peers as well as seniors, tables are bound to be in pieces. I was once suggested by a kid to stay over to experience ‘real’ politics.

Then there were some moments where I became a student. I was given a lecture on hindu-muslim unity and how politicians are disrupting it. In fact, politics was their favorite topic.

But of course, the best part about the whole experience was the love and respect that they would express. They would always be so excited to see us coming. They would always force us to eat with them. After completing our volunteership, we had been to the home once. And the naughtiest of them all was the happiest to see us again. That paid us off.

Working at Umeed, we also saw the challenges that are involved in the management of an NGO. We can imagine how hard it must be to manage more than 100 kids of varied age groups. I had also been for the field work once and saw for myself how things work at the level which is so vulnerable but also the most neglected. Though I would always crib as this volunteership required four hours of travelling everyday, the experience was worth it as it really inspires me to give back to the society. Umeed lives up to its name. It gives one the hope that things can be changed and will change.

Asmita

By Jigish Shah:

A Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) is created by independent people who are not associated with any political party or the government. Social work is their main aim. India has the most number of NGO’s in the world, followed by Russia. There are several types of NGOs such as charitable, social, health-related, etc. and their roots stem from local as well as International NGOs.

Similarly, an NGO named Asmita is located near my residence in Borivali, Mumbai. This NGO has done a fantastic job in helping people earn their bread and making them self-reliant and independent. This NGO has a small number of members who work actively in the organization and serve the people. The NGO gets several donations from various shops nearby and also from many individuals who are interested to see this NGO work and contribute to societal development.

Asmita helps the illiterate to learn how to read & write and also teaches the poor children English and other languages such as Hindi and Marathi. Apart from teaching languages, the organization conducts special sessions and workshops for helping people and kids to learn how to make handicrafts and to effectively use them. It also organizes extra classes for cooking, stitching and gardening. In a fun learning environment, kids learn things to help them in their future while on completion of these courses; jobs are provided too, in order to make them independent and self-sufficient. On Sundays, the NGO serves lunch to all the poor people also donates toys, books, clothes etc.

The main initiative of the NGO is to make people self-independent and they work hard to meet their goals. The members even spend lot of time behind the organization to run it smoothly and do not hesitate to spend their own cash for the benefit of the people. The organization is one of most the reputed NGOs in IC Colony and have won several accolades for their social work and service towards humanity. Asmita teaches us to help others in our own little ways. This NGO is an example for us to feel the joy to help and serve others.

Img: http://stilllifeprojects.com/project-rhino-case-study/

YUvaa

By Pooja Solanki:

In this fast-paced life, where we don’t find time for our beloved ones, the under-privileged children hardly see a morning. Breaking this myth is a non-profit organization, ‘Yuvaa’. The fundamental motive of this organization is to ‘spread smiles’ on the faces of not-so-privileged children in particular areas. Yuvaa has initiated various programmes, under which they plan to come to the rescue of these children. Till now, they have come up with three projects, namely, ‘Khushi’, ‘Asha Kiran’ and ‘Prerna’.

Let’s have a brief look of their initiatives:

Khushi (Gifting):

It’s an innovative project which promotes ‘gifting’ in a big way. Under this project, school children shall be motivated to give away any three of their unused articles to these children. And as a return gift, the school children would be gifted plant saplings. This shall bring forth the joy of giving and sharing.

Asha Kiran (Ray of hope):

Asha Kiran , as the name suggests, would provide a ray of hope to the under-privileged children suffering from Cancer. Under this project, financial assistance would be provided to them and they expect to save as many lives as possible. Throughout their treatment, intriguing activities like story telling would be conducted in order to improve the distressed mental frame of the kids.

Prerna (Motivation):

This project aims to bring out the ‘creative-self’ of the under-privileged children. A talented bunch of kids shall be selected through auditions and groomed in music. Various competitions shall be held among them based on localities on the lines of IPL.

“We are constantly seeking people from media to send out our message to the audiences. I urge each and everyone to come forward, volunteer with us and create a society where we could live happily together,” says Aseem Chandna, Founder and Managing Trustee of Yuvaa Foundation. Such NGOs do an incredible job by extending their support to the less fortunate. They need to be encouraged by every institution of the society so that they can flourish and create opportunities for the not-so-privileged. Funds should be raised and everyone should take every step, however small it may be, to help them achieve their goal.
More information can be found at www.yuvaaindia.org. Spread a smile!

MAD1

By Nupur Dogra:

Everyone in the world eats, drinks, sleeps and works for a survival. All of us run after high paying jobs and luxurious lifestyles. We all live a similar “ambitious money oriented lives”. But there are few who refuse to be a carbon copy of any other well-off humans. They want to make a difference to the society, to the way they and other people live. There are many who want to live for themselves or their loved ones. But, there are only few who, make a difference and live for the society or the underprivileged. Following is the story of one such organisation who pledges to make a difference to the society they live in.

MAD (Make A Difference) is a non-governmental voluntary organisation to help the less privileged children of our nation to have a better lifestyle. It was established in 2006 by few undergraduate students in the city of Cochin, India. Now it has extended its branches all over India by establishing its centres in Delhi, Chennai, Mangalore, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Thiruvananthapuram, Vellore, Vijayawada, Vishakhapatnam, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Bhopal, Nagpur and Gwalior. It is basically a youth volunteer network developed to help the needy children across various orphanages and slums.

Today in India, English has become a more than just a language, it has become a source for better lifestyles, a trait of a desired personality, a mode to survive and face the society. MAD realises this demand and trains its children in English language skills. The government schools fail to provide an education or skills which are at par with the private schools. Thus, MAD has taken this as a responsibility on them. They focus on the urban deprived kids who are mainly from orphanages, slums or poor shelter houses, who lack resources and opportunity due to financial or any other constraints. They have a five level English course, of 100 hours duration.

They also impart computer trainings to the children as operating a computer is a prerequisite in majority of the jobs in today’s time. Also they have a placements programme which helps the children to choose a career option by keeping them aware of all the options available to them. They currently have more than 1200 volunteers who cover over 3500 children. They have teachers to train the volunteers on how to teach and tackle the children. They specially focus on children who have studied till 10th or are still in their primary schools but in a different language. There are various camps and workshops organised for a better experience and many knowledgeable experiences such as visits to colleges, factories, hotels etc. are conducted.

Such organisations are blessings to our country. They prevent so many useful resources from getting wasted. When you don’t like something or some aspect of society, cribbing won’t help; it is your actions which can actually make a difference. They surely have made a difference to the society, to the people and to where they belong. Would you also make a difference?

Follow the Leader

By Tarun Cherukuri:

Muralidhar Devdas Amte, fondly called Baba Amte, was born in a wealthy family and educated to be an advocate in Warora. When the sweepers of Warora challenged him to clean the gutters, he did so facing his worst fears. But the same Baba who was named ‘Abhay Sadhak’, the fearless student by Gandhiji, quivered in fright when he saw the living corpse of Tulshiram, no fingers, no clothes, with maggots all over. He went on to say, “I took up leprosy work not to help anyone, but to overcome that fear in my life. That it worked out good for others was a by-product. But the fact is I did it to overcome fear.”

Baba Amte’s life is a paragon of excellence in social service. A guiding light for those seeking purity of life filled with empathy and compassion. But more importantly, his life story brings to fore the moral courage that is very rarely found and highlighted in our world which is inundated with success stories in business, entertainment, sports and politics.

The story of CNN Hero of the year 2010, Anuradha Koirala, whose group ‘Maiti Nepal’ has rescued more than 12,000 women and girls from sex slavery, immediately reminded me of Baba Amte. Her life is also a shining example of moral courage and mental fortitude. It is commendable that CNN has taken the initiative to identify and honour such acts of selfless social service. In a world where success is mostly measured by monetary and positional achievement and leadership is lionized in fields like business, sports and politics it is indeed heartening to see recognition of leaders like Anuradha, who are working tirelessly and anonymously for social change.

These two stories of exceptional public service also raises fundamental questions on what is the DNA of exceptional leadership and at what level should young Indians bring about change in their societies?

I have always struggled to articulate my own theory of leadership. What does it mean to be a leader? Is it measured on scales of success in your professional field? Is it measured by your standing on the leadership competency models in your organization? How do we then calibrate the leadership of all the freedom fighters whose virtues of service and sacrifice hardly fit into the consulting models?

After much thought and reflection of the stories of Baba Amte and Anuradha Koirala, I would define leadership as having a strong sense of integrity to do the right thing with no personal attachment to the end result. There is no dearth of avoidable suffering and unfulfilled potential in the world around us. But very few of us possess the rare virtue, the moral courage to be true to the feeling which calls us to act in the service of those suffering and lacking opportunities to fulfil their potential.

Secondly, to everyone out there like me wondering about the nature of impact you want to make — micro or macro, take time to reflect on the life stories of Baba Amte and Anuradha Koirala. Our life will not be evaluated by the bank balances or the press coverage we accumulate. Instead, it will be evaluated by the power of eulogy written for you by those nameless and voiceless brothers and sisters you have served through your work.

I will end by quoting Baba Amte himself on his search for truth,

“I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see;
I sought my god, but my god eluded me;
And then I sought my sisters and brothers, and in then I found all three”
And I ask myself the question, “Do I have the moral courage to stand up and act for others?”

village

By Madhav Gupta:

In the year 2007, during summer vacation I happened to visit my friend’s village. This village was just too small and population was also very minimal at some 500-odd people.

Name of the Village- Halka

State- Jammu & Kashmir

District- Marh

Sarpanch- Shri. Devi Dass Gupta.

I stayed in this village for over a month. My friend’s grandfather was the Sarpanch of the village and he had held that position for the last 40 years. He would usually win by 90%+ votes every time. At first I didn’t find this a very big achievement, knowing that the Sarpanch usually belonged to the ‘royal’ families of these villages; so, it’s quite obvious that people would elect him as the Sarpanch.

After knowing this history, I was quite intrigued by this man and wanted to meet him and know about his journey. The journey of the undefeated Sarpanch. My very first meeting with him took me by surprise due to his appearance. He was of below-average height, wasn’t well built in contrast to his grandson, who was a by-product of “desi-ghee”, his wardrobe was very ordinary- basically he had nothing fancy or even something that would show that he is a ‘proper royal man’.

But this man would speak only in Urdu and the way he spoke made people have a blind faith in him. He was a true aurator who took people by charm and grace. He would speak in a low tone, eloquently with a very sophisticated use of words.

But all I wanted to know was how this man could not be defeated even once in the last 40 years? Why could this village not find somebody of a better calibre? So, I went on to meet people and asked about him and his family. And the results were just astonishing;

The village didn’t have any hospital till 2002, so the Sarpanch himself would take the injured or sick guy on his own to the hospital located in the city (which is 23km far), and get them treated (thanks to his contacts). He also got Rajiv Gandhi to visit the village but never made un-authenticated use of his powers. Among his many accomplishments, he didn’t let any factory set-up as it could have harmed the farmers; started 3 schools in this village on his own, 2 of them later got government grants. He got the village youth educated about agricultural sciences, whereas he himself is just a class 7th pass; the first temple in the village was built by him, that too in 2004.

Caste and creed don’t hold any value for him (70% SC-ST). And he had the zamindari system abolished by fighting with his own brother (who has now moved to the city).

Every day in the evening people come to his house, tell him about the problems and he has no bureaucracy set in his village. Every time people come, a “desi chai” and biscuits are ready for them.

After doing all this, he did stand for MLA elections in the mid 90’s but lost badly. The reason was that the population of his village was only a very small fraction of the whole district and he was not getting into the business of minting money, but in the business of service. But that fight didn’t let his morale down and he is still serving the village very selflessly in a dedicated fashion.

His family is not rich the way they used to be, business has reduced. And when asked about his family, Mr. Devi Dass looked around the village and replied calmly with a smile on his face, “This is my family”.

fs_homeless_maintitle1

By Carrie Williams:

Vine Maple Place is a homeless shelter for single parents in the Seattle area. The organization takes care of donation distribution, children’s character building activities and provides transitional housing at affordable prices. The home provides jobs to volunteers, one of whom quotes that the experience of volunteering has blessed her with the experience of God. Volunteers hold programs and classes that allow residents to increase their employability and give them motivation to work full or part time. The volunteers offer to teach classes, be mentors to young boys and girls, as well as to the mothers of these children, who are generally single women.

The organization started after several Christian churches in the area came together to refurbish some run down apartments. The apartments are now made into affordable housing, furnished with donated furniture. The shelter is currently adding three more apartments. Volunteers are often retired therapists who became mentors for the young people that live in the shelter. Other jobs of volunteers are fence building, organizing the offices, and setting up classes and events. There are now over twenty churches who contribute. It’s great to see people helping others in small ways, by volunteering their time and showing concern for the less fortunate members of the community. It is important for one to open one’s heart to a stranger.

Residents must go through an application process because there isn’t enough room to accommodate everyone. The shelter is for battered women, which is just another term for abused women. Almost 90% of the homeless who apply here are victims of assault and domestic violence. Symptoms often include the women developing fear and a perceived inability to escape. It is a form of post traumatic stress disorder. It is predicted that 1 to 2 million women each year are beaten by their husbands in the United States. These women are often difficult to work with, because they believe they deserve the beatings and have trouble talking about their situation. However, one employee mentions that it is up to the individuals to decide how much help they want to receive; the activity of the organization is not just giving handouts. Homelessness is a serious issue because not many are interested in helping. I also believe that the women need to first want to change and only then can others help them. Often the victims of abuse don’t have their families to help and go to these apparent strangers at the shelters for assistance.

aruna_roy_rti_protest_20060904

By Manish Kumar:

“Ain’t no power like the power of youth ‘cause the power of youth don’t stop!”

This article represents my views and thoughts and is based on my own personal experiences. In 2010 after completing my 1st year of college I was interested in doing an internship, when I came to know that social audits of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) were going on in Araria, Bihar whose organisers were Jan Jagran Shakthi Sangathan (JJSS), then a people’s organization (a trade union since 2011) in Araria. I applied to them and suggested this to a few of my friends too, but my friends rejected the idea of applying for these audits at first stating that it’s in a remote area without usual comforts and is not a paid internship. Two weeks after applying, I got a call from JJSS for a month’s audit work. I was excited by the selection as I had a keen interest in the mechanism of social auditing. I went there and worked for one month along with people from different streams of life, including a few research scholars, students from other colleges and most importantly, some excellent people of JJSS, who work on a grass root level for the sake of the poor and extremely oppressed people unaware of their rights. Working there exposed me to the policy making and ground level work structure of MNREGA, parallelly making new friends equally enthusiastic about improving the social scenario, specially a few who were participating in such audits for the past several years. It was my first real introduction outside the textbook to the policies of the Central Government of India towards rural development.

I had a firsthand experience in auditing which revealed several irregularities and corrupted modifications in the administration at the Panchãyat level. From fake signatures to incidences where the normal wages meant for workers were paid in much less amounts and through diverted channels. The audit exposed these and many other such irregularities and causes of grievances from the villagers in terms of catching officials red handed while indulging in corruption. We organised several public hearings and presented every detail of the report of our audit to the people of the concerned village. After the audits, Araria administration acted very well and fired some of the officials who were involved in corruption. Motivated by this experience, in 2011, I, along with 40 more students from different universities and some research scholars participated in Public Distribution System conducted by Dr. Jean Dreze, an eminent Development Economist and Dr. Reetika Khera (Professor, IIT Delhi). We surveyed nine states and gathered information about the status of PDS and also the possibility of a new policy of cash transfer at the rural level. According to this new cash transfer policy, Government will provide the money to buy food instead of the food itself, and fair price shops which are providing ration (and comes under the Government) will shut down.

We interviewed several families, visited many fair price shops and did some related activities and found that cash transfers are not possible in most of the states because there is hardly any infrastructure and electricity, banks are very far away from residential regions, people are illiterate. The survey was conducted in a remote location, in a village mostly unheard of even in the state it is in, devoid of even the basic luxuries like regular water and electricity, but it took me by surprise that rather a large number came from cities like Delhi and Mumbai, making it a fun, productive and emotionally satisfying experience.

That was some light thrown on my experiences regarding auditing and surveys. Now what is a Social Audit? And how can the youth contribute to the society through social audits and surveys?
Social Audit refers to the steps that are taken to ensure that the work done by the government is actually benefiting the people whom it is intended to benefit. It is based on the principle that the local governance should be carried out, as much as possible, with the consent and after completely understanding the requirements of the people concerned. It is a process and not an event. Thus, Social Audit is nothing but understanding, measuring, reporting, and most importantly improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the local governance.

Social Audits and Surveys can be carried out only upon active participation, which an enthusiastic bunch of young people and students can provide abundantly. There are so many reasons for participating though. Firstly, Audit/Survey is a very hectic and time consuming work, often carried out in locations whose weather and circumstances are physically and mentally harsh for the participants from better off towns and cities, and thus can be handled better by the generation in 20-30 years of age group. Another thing is that they are at the age when they are pursuing their studies and are fresh minded and full of ideas. There is also a moral and ethical responsibility on the youth to uplift our country’s social situation. As we know, India is facing so many scams and cases of corruption. In fact MNREGA is facing corruption charges up to 2000 Cr. rupees itself; hoarding and leakage of ration from PDS stores is quite usual too.

Lastly, I just want to appeal to the youth of this country to take an active interest in such activities, not only for betterment of the country’s wretched social scenario (which is a realisation that comes only after a true first person experience) but also for grasping a sense of responsibility, identity and personal role in the large scheme of things that runs, and runs throughout, the nation. Internships like these are not, and cannot be paid ones, by their very essence, and money shouldn’t be an objective at all for the participants. You are the only one who will take charge in future and run this country, so for once, let just the dream of seeing India on par with the developed nations drive your enthusiasm.

International youth leadership

By Zach Buckley:

The realm of higher education places a great deal of importance on study abroad programs for college students, but gaining a firsthand understanding of different cultures of the world should truly begin a bit sooner than that. Teen volunteer abroad programs are an excellent way to add depth to a high school student’s understanding of what life is like in other regions of the world.

Programs like these not only expose students to new and exciting cultures, but also allow them to help gain a sense of community with the entire human race, instead of just fellow Americans. Although the benefits gained from this kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience are virtually endless, here are the top four greatest advantages of international volunteering for teens.

1. Well-Rounded Character

Nothing helps shape a teen’s character quite like volunteering abroad. On top of the values of selflessness that come with helping those less fortunate, students are able to communicate and identify with those in different parts of the world. This experience gives students a more intimate understanding of what life in other parts of the world is like, and that they are capable of making things better. Teens who have volunteered in other parts of the world tend to have a deeper sense of confidence in their abilities to make the world a better place, which is one of the greatest lessons a student can take with him or her as they move on to college and the professional world.

2. Stronger Ties Between the U.S. and Foreign Countries

First Lady Michelle Obama recently spoke with young students at Howard University about the importance of studying and volunteering abroad to make America stronger. She elaborates on this concept by explaining,”Make no mistake about it, whether it’s climate change or terrorism, economic recovery or the spread of nuclear weapons, for the U.S. and China, the defining challenges of our time are shared challenges.” With all of the problems that America and other countries across the world are facing, our best bet for finding effective solutions is by working together.

3. Greater Understanding of the Value of Academic Subjects

For high school students who may not fully understand why they have to spend hours each week studying foreign languages, history, geography, global politics and other enriching academic subjects, volunteering abroad will offer the opportunity to apply these skills in a real-life setting. One of the biggest complaints students often have is that their studies aren’t applicable to the challenges they face in their everyday lives. By placing them in a setting where foreign language skills, understanding of geography and political climate make all the difference, students will gain a new understanding and appreciation of the valuable subjects they are taught in school.

4. Development of Selflessness

Traits like selflessness and compassion can’t simply be taught. Students must develop these traits on their own through exposure to different cultures and by developing personal relationships with people of all kinds. Becoming involved in cultures outside of their own allows teens to see past prejudices and stereotypes that can often divide people. Volunteering abroad allows students to gain an appreciation for differences and a fuller understanding of what other cultures are truly like beyond their assumptions.

The challenges that we face on a national level, as well as the world at large, are easier to approach with the support of multiple countries. Eliminating the dividing lines between nations and cultures through volunteer abroad programs is one of the best ways to accomplish this goal of greater unity across the globe. By starting with America’s youth, we can eliminate these stereotypes sooner to foster more well- roundedleadership for the future.

Zach Buckley is a freelance writer based in the Midwestern United States.  Having graduated from high school in the year 2000, he belongs to the millennial generation.  Zach holds a bachelor’s degree in history and political science and a master’s degree in communication.  He enjoys exploring developing trends in education, technology and culture.  When he isn’t reading or writing blogs, he enjoys sampling good music and good food.

pulejawan

By Raju Moza:

South Asian history is replete with acrimony, hatred, war, belligerence, medieval intrigues and what not. If the efforts to depart from this History is not taken now, vicious cycle of our historical perspectives, will make future reflection of our past.To enable this peace, one has to move beyond established paradigms of nationalism and envisage future similar to that of European Union,where borders have become irrelevant. Is it possible, yes its very much possible either it can be done through TOP down approach, where charismatic leaders embark upon this mission or BOTTOM Up approach, where the citizens outcry for peace/ This Union is so profound that Leaders are forced to think on those lines.

In order to attain a Borderless world, the movement and mission has to be gradually build by the citizens rather waiting for Political leadership to take the initiative. First and foremost prerequisite is to have Peace in the region.Peace has been at abeyance in this region for quite some time, various initiatives at poltical level and at Citizen’s level were carried out to build the constituency of peace. Several initiatives like Aman ke Asha by two prominent newspaper ‘s of India and Pakistan were tried out to dispel the hatred between these two arch rivals.

Pul-e- Jawan is one such intiative which envisages to build a cooridor of Peace through Citizen Networks. Pul-e-Jawan is an initiative of Internews with country partners like Digital empowerment foundation (DEF),bytes for all in Pakistan and Internews in Afghanistan.

Pul and Jawan are two words which in Hindi, Dari and Urdu denote the same meaning, that is, bridge and youth respectively. These are among 3000 common words among the three languages.

The program had kick started last year from Kabul, where five active citizens each from the three countries where invited together to discuss issues related to the peace in region. The idea is to have three different forums within each country, which will promote constituency of peace.

Pakistan’s Pul-e-Jawan country forum, organized by Bytes for all,on 11th and 12th of April 12, 2012 got an overwhelming response,pointer to the yearning for peace amongst Young population.

In this regard a Citizen media event is being organized in India on 14th of April. It will bring Policy makers, citizen journalists,Journalists and other stake holders under one roof and discuss various ways and means which can be undertaken to develop peace in this region through Citizen networks.

WHEN – 9.00 Am to 5.00 Pm,14th of April, SATURDAY

WHERE – India International Centre (Annexe) 40, Max Mueller Marg, Near Lodi Road, New Delhi India

WHATPul-e-Jawan Citizen forum

Register now to attend the forum. Click here.

The Footpath School: Where it all happens

By Paresh Pahuja:

Footpath School” is the brainchild of Shree Kamalbhai Parmar, running on a footpath of Ahmedabad. He has been teaching children on the footpath for last 12 years without any selfish motive or acknowledgement. These children belong to the families of labourers, domestic servants and rag pickers. Kamalbhai not only gives them free tuition and stationery, but also provides them with free meals. Initially, he had many difficulties; but he was too resolute to get demoralised. Today, he teaches as many as 150 students.

By profession, Kamalbhai runs a metal fabrication business. These students attend the Municipal school in the noon time and come to him in the evening for extra tuitions. He has received the Dharti Ratna Award from the governor of Gujarat Dr Kamla Beniwal for his remarkable initiative. 

Ashwini, a 5th class girl who wants to become a teacher
Mehul, who's also in 5th class and wants to become a doctor. His father is a laborer.
Jayesh of 5th class. His favourite subject is maths and his dream is to become a policeman.
That's Dhaval and his dream is also to become a policeman.
Mitali from 5th class. She also wants to become a doctor. Her father is a plumber.

Some more bright young minds:

  

The Footpath School: Where it all happens
He's the man behind all this: Shree Kamalbhai Parmar

Nothing can really stop you if you’re dedicated and determined. Look at these students. They might not be going to good schools, but they have the dedication for education — for knowledge. They have big dreams, and they want to achieve them.

Illiteracy gives birth to many other problems like poverty, population, corruption, human trafficking. Therefore every child must be equipped with primary as well higher secondary education.

Hats off to the effort put in by this man. He is the real hero of our times. If only our society could have a million more Kamalbhai Parmar.

1322751351_tfiprod2

By Tarun Cherukuri:

“How does one become a butterfly?” he asked
“You must want to fly so much that you give up being a caterpillar.”

Metaphorically, this is the same question I started with on my TeachforIndia (TFI) journey as a fellow in 2009. What is my depth of drive to serve people? I always had deep reverence and admiration for Gandhiji, as how much one single man could do for millions of spiritually starved people just by changing himself. I hoped that such an intense journey of personal transformation will lead to discovery of my inner self — my self-actualization need and my drivers for it.

During January 2011, I was running a Writer’s workshops based on central themes of the Lion King story in my classroom. Our big goal for the year was to plan, perform and organize the Musical for the story. My kids were into the story at a factual and sequential level in Reader’s workshops since September 2010. Wanting to take it up high on Bloom’s cognitive development level, I hit on this idea on integrating it in to writing as well. As is the process, you need to model the way of writing on the topic to the kids. Also, being 10 year olds, I realized that I really needed to delayer the emotion to the basic level so that it made a deep connect with all of them. In the process, I realized the distance I have covered on the journey of personal transformation during the course of fellowship. The themes that we wrote on were –

“I was put to shame when…” (SHAME)
I was a 16-year-old caterpillar, who couldn’t take the possible ignominy of not cracking the IIT- JEE test and ran away from hostel for one full week on the streets. Now, the butterfly can make itself vulnerable in front it its kids by sharing any story of my life in intricate details, just like little Simba got over shame in the end of the story!

“I fear about…” (FEAR)

From fearing about being judged in public like Simba, I have shed my cover and inhibitions as I found my purpose being a teacher in front of my children.

“My responsibilities in the Circle of Life are…” (RESPONSIBILITY)
From being self-driven, I am now driven to make the TFI vision of ‘one day all children will have an excellent education’ a reality by 2060. It has given my dreams new wings.

“I want to serve….” (SERVICE)
I truly feel that I want to serve now, not out of self-righteousness but because I believe that my happiness and liberation is bound up with the underprivileged children of this country.

“I am attached…” (ATTACHMENT)
From being a product of the rat race system, I am no longer attached to the fruits of my action and only focus on working positively. I have found my objective equilibrium with the world.

It is with this rooted deep desire to do something for the country which is purposeful, passionate and impactful, I reflected deeply about the root cause of our governance failures and my possible contribution to it. I have grown to believe that answer to bad politics is good politics. Power when combined with passion, purpose and integrity can fast-track wellbeing of people. One of the fundamental questions I asked myself was, “What does it take for a young person with idealism, intellect, integrity and Indian as his/her only identity to win an Indian election in the current scheme of things?”

It has been 65 years since we have realized our dream of political independence. However, we have yet to realize our economic, democratic and spiritual independence.

Any other field or profession in India has success stories of people who have beaten heavy odds to be successful. My goal is to show that we can crash barriers to entry in the field of politics in India as well. Irrespective of identity and position in society, a patriotic and spirited individual must be able to qualify to win and rise in our system of democracy. My mission is to demonstrate that it is possible and hopefully in the process institutionalize it through the Indian School of Democracy.

Studying at Harvard Kennedy School for the last one year has made me realize the importance of India’s urgent need for a public policy school which not only develops the discerning intellect of a student but builds empathy and integrity through community experiences. William Faulkner, an American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Mississippi, would say “to understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi”. I can vouch to that wisdom from my limited experience of two years in the Wadgaonsheri community in Pune at TFI.

I still do not have all the answers to the big question but believe in the direction which my ideas are leading me. Hopefully, going back to my roots after my study, understanding some of the towns and villages of India in all its hues and sounds, listening long and deeply enough to people and serving them in my own means might open up the necessary opportunities.

There is much to feel sceptical about, the rationality of my logic and the audacity of my dream. To them I will politely quote Robert Kennedy, who paraphrased George Bernand Shaw’s words…

“Some men see things are they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?”
And on that day when I finally get to fly, you will know me and the fact that I have given up being a caterpillar!

Intia 044

By Neelima Ravindran:

Every once or so a portal opens, bringing along a transformed perspective in your life. Some of them like fleeting comets wane after a flash of brilliance. But some like the stars shedding light on your path linger on forever, changing your outlook in its course. Once such door was opened to me when I enrolled as a volunteer in Bosco Mane.

Bosco has various branches and service points across Bangalore that helps in the rehabilitation of street children. Abandonment, abuse, poverty and other social ills force these helpless children onto the streets away from their homes. Bosco, through contact points, picks such children up and after gaining their confidence, takes them to shelters depending upon their age and sex. The entry shelter for the younger kids is Bosco Mane headed then by Fr. Cyriac. I was introduced to Fr. Cyriac through an ivolunteer scheme which works as the potential volunteer-NGO interface. My lack of knowledge of the local language was a constraint in working directly with the children of the shelter. I was allocated to help in their office and awareness schemes. I still vividly remember my first visit to Bosco Mane. There were many children, some playing and laughing, some studying, some walking around, some just sitting and gazing; strangely they all looked at home and at ease. The new inmate, a small kid who had been just picked off the street looked suspiciously around as he was given a thorough wash. Simple things can be at times very precious. Taking bath, eating good food, a roof over the head, I took for granted all my life but for the kids at Mane, these were gifts bestowed on them by a few kindred souls.

My major assignments were travelling along with Fr. Cyriac to various schools and institutions in and around Bangalore to create awareness of the shelter. I remember the enthusiastic participation of children of all ages in schools to know more about the deprived kids and expressing their readiness to lend a helping hand. Students in many schools formed groups for collecting old newspapers from their neighbourhood and selling them to raise small funds to help the unfortunate children of Bosco. It was a magnanimous move from those little hearts, to help their less fortunate fellow children. We also got in touch with various MNCs, who would not only sponsor money, but their time as well, in taking the kids out for picnic, organizing sport tournaments, teaching them etc.

It was indeed a delight to see the youth of our country so ardently participating for a cause. The young ones at the shelter look forward to a better life and if those who already enjoy the affluence do their bit the world would become a much blessed place to live in. The dedicated workers and management of Bosco Mane along with the volunteers have opened up a path forward to make a thousand buds bloom and spread their fragrance of love and affection around. Let us hope that through such efforts the abandoned children will get a life worthy of living. For me it was a revelation that brought about a paradigm change in my attitudes and I felt honoured to play a humble role in such a benevolent movement.

New Delhi_Mongolpuri

By Ayesha Nusrat:

Are you ALL going to J.J colony, Ghevra?” A woman asked us, with an incredulous look on her face as though we’d asked the driver of the shared auto to take us to the wrong place. When we convinced her that Ghevra was indeed our destination, she said “Achha aap log kisi sanstha se honge” (Oh! So you all have come from some NGO) and before we could respond, her tone and demeanour completely changes and she continues, “haan ji ab toh yahaan NGO wale hi kuch badlaav la sakte hai” (Only NGO can bring some change into the situation here). What she meant by “here” was Ghevra.

A hot Sunday afternoon and that was our first visit to Ghevra – a slum resettlement colony on the fringes of the national capital, a revolting result of the preparation to the commonwealth games. Families and whole settlements were shifted from the heart of the city to this extreme periphery without even the provision of basic drinking water or a primary health centre.

The metro ride to the far end of the city (after which we had to take a shared auto) should’ve been a clue as to what lay ahead. Here, one bids adieu to the magnificence of the city’s huge apartment buildings, malls, office complexes and then a 20 minute ride to Ghevra abruptly projects an image which is a stark contrast to our increasingly “urbanized” and “modernized” city of Delhi.

The very first sight we saw was that of people crowding behind a water truck to get their supply of water. And children brutally honest as they always are, asked out aloud if gathering was due to a fight, which was an incredible eye-opener to the vulnerable situations they live in.

School children and daily workers leave home before daybreak to catch the early morning train which is the only one that links this place to the city. And since the metro is expensive, they cannot afford to miss the same to return home in the evening. We learnt of children contributing to their family’s meager earnings assist in construction work with no safety regulations after school and recently, a child had lost his life a few months back.

While the community members ventured on long daily journeys to the city, where they used to work prior to shifting, the only question that occupied their mind was how will they earn a living now. Most of the population comprised of daily wage earners who didn’t have anywhere else to go now. Many families had no other choice other than leaving their allotted land to return to the hub of the city for livelihood. Sights of deprivation, loss of dignity and lack of opportunities moved us.

We comprehended that urban poverty had its own challenges; clogged drains, poor sanitation, long queues for water, rampant diseases, encroachment on open spaces, garbage strewn everywhere — all of which present a gloomy picture of the “development” done to this “resettlement colony”. And, right before our eyes was an overwhelming evidence of the historical silencing of the disadvantaged.

Ghevra is the reason why months later, I still believe that collective efforts of interfaith social action, maternal health advocacy and malaria prevention can make an incredible impression in changing the status quo. Ghevra challenges us, inspires and instigates — and I couldn’t have asked for a better community to work for.

Image courtesy: http://www.architectureindevelopment.org/news.php?id=41

Ayesha is a Faiths Act Fellow of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation working for maternal health projects and malaria prevention in Ghevra, New Delhi. To know more about Faiths Act and its work in India, check out their Facebook page and www.faithsact.org

Sign In

Don't want to log in right now? Submit here.