Volunteerism

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By Chaitra Murlidhar and Anushri Alva:

Date:24th March, Saturday, 2012

Venue: Vitthalanjan Mangal Karyalaya, Wadgaonsheri, Pune

Time: 6:30 pm

Performed by: Grade 3 & 4, St. Francis High School, Vishrantwadi.

“Anything to eat?” cried Charlie, laughing. “Oh you just wait and see!”

To most kids in grade 3 and 4, this line signifies the end of an exciting book, which is just one of the many books they have read and have access to. To our students, at a low-income private school, this embodies the beginning of an era where they now believe that they can triumph against all odds.

The Charlie and the Chocolate factory musical is not a production put up by 80 children that will last one hour on March 24th but it is the culmination of a year of dance, drama and art lessons; a year of reading a challenging book for children who couldn’t read one sentence when we started out with them; 5 months of rigorous practice; a year of fighting against labels — too fat to dance, too shy to act, too dumb to read, too poor to succeed. This is the triumph of 80 little children who, before this, had never been given a fighting chance to prove their true worth.

2 acts, 12 dance sequences and spectacular sets will bring alive the journey of 5 children and their parents through Wonka’s magnificent chocolate factory, transporting you to a magical space where the underdog will emerge victorious.

Project ‘To Infinity and Beyond’ is an art-integrated curriculum developed and implemented in an under-resourced school by two Teach For India Fellows — Chaitra Murlidhar and Anushri Alva. As part of the curriculum, the students of Grades 3 and 4 at St. Francis High school not only read – Charlie and the Chocolate factory, but were also given access to art, theatre and dance lessons, run by professionals, throughout the year in order to allow students to explore the text in an alternative and creative space.

 

Website: http://toinfinityandbeyond2012.weebly.com/index.html

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/To-Infinity-and-Beyond/124370171010615?sk=info

Trailers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=eEMTPydz6V8 and 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9rTCTgB1rA&feature=related 

 

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By Roshan Sajan:

Faith in the divine brings a balance to one’s thinking and behaviour. But it should not be a blind belief which would result in superstitions. It should be faith juxtaposed with understanding. Faith is like a flame in the dark. The flame makes the letters of the scriptures with their message clear. Our faith in God should be combined with love and humility. Devotion to such a faith can be projected as practical, useful and self- empowering rather than guilt-creating and fearsome. The idea must be to enable the youth to become ‘god-loving’ rather than ‘god-fearing’. Some of the world’s most famous and successful people have had God as a partner in all they did. The convulsion arises when rationality is pitted against faith. One can have both — together.

Tolerance, or active engagement, of believers in one faith with those of another faith is an essential need. Every religion and its followers have fundamental ideas on god, human beings and the world. If one rejects the provisions in other faiths, it is prejudice.

Interfaith is a beautiful train with many compartments. Each compartment has group of followers who identify with a faith. A person can go to each compartment and listen to what they say. S/he will discover that everyone essentially says the same thing, and that there is no difference in fundamental ideas and teachings of various religions. The inter-religious relations and religious resources of the world must be conceived as the common property of the whole of humanity. All religious experiences and traditions are simultaneously ours.

Intimate familiarity with one’s own religious system alone reflects religious poverty. We need to create a better understanding among people of different faiths to facilitate the process of reconciliation and dialogue. The efforts should be grounded in the contemporary context of prevalent inter-religious misunderstanding, often resulting in violence.

The potential of women to form opinions and engage in Interfaith dialogue and cooperation must be understood. This includes Interfaith meetings, seminars, workshops and interaction with local religious groups. It involves in identifying women’s perspective in underlying issues in existing conflicts. It is also important to explore alternative models of conflict-resolution and peace-building, something which could arise out of women’s experiences and collaborations. Investing in today’s youth is about investing in future and not doing so is the surest recipe for the spread of social tensions. As echoed by several religious leaders time and again, religions are different roads to the same destination. Morality, justice and love form the cornerstone of the major religions of the world.

What is earnestly needed is to reinterpret our scriptures for a society meant for all, where living together is possible, regardless of our identity. Truth, love and sacrifice form the underlying theme of all religions. In the end, religion is a noun which brings fruits of adjective and takes the shape of a verb for a harmonized society.

We are better together. Join us.

The author heads the Active Pluralism Project which seeks to build a greater cooperation amongst faiths and non-faiths by focusing on gender sensitization at the Kutumb Foundation, which is generously funded by the US Department of State and Interfaith Youth Core. They will be opening applications for volunteer positions shortly. Join the Facebook group “Interfaith Leaders at Kutumb Foundation” for more details.

Non profits

By Anshul Tewari and Sumedha Bharpilania:

While the usage and acceptability of social media is a topic up for debate, it certainly has emerged as a tool for social change and social good. So much so that there are books and websites being run just around the very concept of social media for social good. Indian non-profits, while over 80% of them do not even have a functional website, many of them are now taking to social media to not just spread news about themselves and their programs, but are also impacting a young, dynamic and urban audience to get out of their comfort zones and have a social impact. Below is an exhaustive list of 11 such non-profits:

1. Teach For India

Teach For India is a nationwide movement that aims to narrow the educational gap in India by placing the country’s high potential college graduates and young professionals, of all academic majors and careers, in low-income schools to teach for two years.

This non-profit’s Facebook page boasts over 70,000 fans, all extremely active. Teach For India fellows also operate many other local level (city/college) sub-pages around the same cause.

With a mission to create a movement of leaders who will eliminate inequity in education in India, Teach For India is also the winner of the The Economic Times’ Great Places To Work Survey (2011) under the N.G.O category.

Visit the Teach for India Facebook page here.

2. Jaago Re

The mission of this campaign, as the Facebook page of the same reads, is to transform tea from a medium of mere physical and mental rejuvenation to a medium of social awakening. With a following of over 1,00,000, this initiative by Tata Tea runs an array of campaigns on positive news, art and culture, citizen awakening, voter rights and much more.

The Facebook page has a strong, active community with loads of interaction and dialogue, by ways of contest, quotes, photos and much more.

Visit the Jaago Re Facebook page here.

3. Lets Talk

Lets Talk is the discussion page for the Must Bol campaign, a youth led campaign calling young people to examine violence in their lives and speak out against it. To recognize it, to talk about it, and to address it. According to the Facebook page, “This is violence that emerges from our gender identities.”

The campaign is led by a core group of 30 odd young people from Delhi, who explore the realities of gender norms and invite other young people to join the dialogue and efforts to change the situation.

Check out the Lets Talk Facebook page here.

4. Bell Bajao

One out of every three women worldwide faces violence behind closed doors. Breakthrough’s campaign Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell in Hindi) urges men and boys to take a stand against domestic violence.

Yes, this is the same campaign that featured the innovative television ads which urge people to ring the bell when they hear domestic violence in their vicinity. The basic genesis behind this campaign is that if people intrude, domestic violence will stop.

Check out the Bell Bajao Facebook page here.

5. The YP Foundation (The Youth Parliament)

The YP Foundation (TYPF) is a youth run and led organization that supports and enables young people to create programmes and influence policies in the areas of gender, sexuality, health, education, the arts & governance.

As per the Facebook page, the mission of The YP Foundation is to promote, protect and advance young people’s human rights by building leadership, and strengthening youth led initiatives and movements.

Their goal is to support and enable young people to create programmes and influence policies in the areas of gender, sexuality, health, education, the arts & governance.

Check out The YP Foundation’s Facebook page here.

6. SMILE Foundation

SMILE Foundation is a non-profit organization that works for children and women. Established in the year 2002 this organization has come a long way to provide education and employment opportunities to underprivileged children through around 52 centers across India. SMILE is also working proactively for the empowerment of Women in India. For more information please visit our website.

An extremely responsive Facebook page makes sure their work impact and information engages their audience in a healthy dialogue.

Check out the SMILE Foundation’s Facebook page here.

7. Center for Social Research (CSR) India

Based in New Delhi, India Centre for Social Research (CSR) is dedicated to creating a violence-free, gender-just society through social research, capacity building and advocacy.

As per their Facebook page, “We believe that people of all genders deserve equal rights, privileges and opportunities. We believe that women can be catalysts for and agents of social change. And we recognize that restructuring gender relations requires the participation and support of all sectors of society: women and men, young and old, grassroots to national levels, private and public institutions alike. All people, regardless of their gender or status, are decision-makers–and therefore also change-makers.”

Check out the Center for Social Research (CSR) India’s Facebook page here.

8. The Kutumb Foundation

Since 2002 the Kutumb Foundation has been working with children and young people from the disadvantaged sections of the society. The Kutumb Foundation works out of the Khan Market area and from other parts of the Delhi-NCR. The organisation focuses on education and life-skill building amongst children and young people through alternative and creative mediums.

Check out the Kutumb Foundation’s Facebook page here.

9. SaveLIFE Foundation

Winner of the 2010 Rolex Award for Enterprise, SLF is a first of its kind initiative to combine community volunteerism with Healthcare, Technology and Law Enforcement, to provide urgent medical care for road accident victims.

This non-profit is working towards mobilizing and engaging everyday citizens in Basic Life Support to improve road safety and emergency care in India.

Check out the SaveLIFE Foundation Facebook page here.

10. Digital Empowerment Foundation

Digital Empowerment Foundation, a Delhi based not-for-profit organization was registered on December 2002, to find solutions to bridge the digital divide.

The mission of this non-profit is to inspire individuals and communities to use technology for their own advantages. It focuses on enabling communities to be aware and conscious of the utility and necessity of using Information Communications Technology for their own empowerment.

Check out the Digital Empowerment Foundation’s Facebook page here.

11. Video Volunteers

Video Volunteers (VV) is working to create an alternative media landscape in which thousands of people around the world, living in slums and villages, are producing high quality video content that brings awareness to communities and empowers them to take action.
We create models of sustainable, locally owned media, and devise training programs that give communities the journalism, critical thinking and creative skills to run them.

Check out Video Volunteers’ Facebook page here.

Have more to add? Please use the comments section below.

What-will-I-do-about-it-team

By Abhimanyu Sarkar:

On the first day of a school in 1840, a nine-year old named Savitribai Phule walked up to the gates of her school in the village and made a simple request: she wanted to enter. She was turned away because she was a girl. She was married off the same year, as was the social custom in those days. However, she didn’t let this dampen her spirits, and she educated herself by borrowing books from the village library. She also opened the first ever girls school in India in 1848 and was the first female teacher of the first women’s school in India. She also became a crusader for women’s education, lower castes and abolition of Sati (i.e. immolation of a recently widowed woman on her husband’s funeral pyre).

164 years after Savitribai Phule asked herself the question ‘What will I do about it?’, I joined the Teach for India Fellowship. In the more than hundred and sixty years that had passed since the first-ever girls school in India, some things had changed in India… but some things remain just the same. Women and lower castes have equal rights to education and Sati is almost non-existent in India, but these social problems have been replaced with more ugly social realities like dowry and female infanticide.

‘One day all children will attain an excellent education’- This powerful statement is what inspired me to join Teach for India and be part of a movement that is striving to end the educational crisis in India. However, one month into my Fellowship, and I was grappling with some persistent questions. What is the true purpose of education? What does ‘excellent education’ for my children really mean? How do I mould my kids to make them sensitive to social issues before their impressionable minds are filled with biases? How do I empower my kids through education to face social issues and drive change in their own community? How do I make my children responsible future citizens of this country? Where can children raise their voices so that their ideas might be considered for change that betters our society? How do I extend my locus of control beyond the classroom and to the community and eventually the country? How do I increase awareness about social issues not only amongst the 60 children in my classroom but the society at large? It was at the same time that I met a few Teach for India 2010 Fellows who shared the same concerns that I did, and were looking to initiate a project to address these concerns. I guess what brought all of us Fellows together was the realisation that while academic achievement is a difficult yet attainable task, changing mindsets can be extremely difficult. This realisation drove us to initiate ‘What will I do about it?’.

What will I do about it?’ provides a platform for children to present their ideas on issues that affect society as a whole to drive change. (Website: http://whatwillidoaboutit.org/) The transformation we want to bring about in children is from being ‘helpless’ to becoming ‘drivers of change’. Our mission is to create a movement of children who will bring about change in this world. We believe that if every child asks himself the question ‘What will I do about it?’ when faced with a problem, s/he will come up with a way to bring about change, and this is the long-term mindset we are trying to inculcate in every child through this endeavour.

This year, we brought together 10,000 students from 50+ schools across the city of Pune from all economic strata to present their ideas on solving corruption. We now plan to showcase all ideas in an exhibition to corporate and government leaders who can then affect change at a macro as well as micro-level. We have already created an impact with this project and the Pune Municipal Corporation has legitimized our event across ALL primary schools in Pune. Next year, I plan to initiate this project in other major cities of India, and add other events and activities in our spectrum to heighten sensitivity and awareness amongst children.

What the ‘What will I do about it?’ team strives to do can be reflected very well in these lines written by Rabindranath Tagore –

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

Volunteerism

By Simrat Ahluwalia:

The 21st century youth might just be regarded as the ‘busiest’ people in comparison to the previous generations. From academics to extracurricular and sports to gadgets, they make the rat-race look competitive with every single day that passes by. In the hustle of life where they have friends to meet, teachers to listen to, parents to love, places to travel, sports to play and a career to think about; one might feel they have no time in the world to spare.

Volunteerism or tendering ones skills and time for altruism, usually for free, may seem to be a far fetched activity on their agenda. Although there aren’t sweeping figures which will make us believe that the allegation isn’t true, but the passing years have shown an overall increase in the awareness and participation of the youth in the act of volunteering.

From teaching unprivileged students to campaigns – they are ready to do it all. Whether they do it out of social-good interests or just to pass time is a question, which has mixed answers. But on posing the same question to a sample of the youth, I have found that there is great readiness to work for social causes.

Yamini, a student of Hindu College worked for a month with an NGO named Aarohi based in the central Himalayan region. The NGO runs a school for kids of the villages of Kumaon, Uttarakhand and basically helps students up to grade 7 to learn English through interactive methodologies. She says, “Working with little children from different backgrounds living a small village in the mountains, was more than just a wonderful experience. I was given an opportunity to be with so many children, who were full of energy and a very genuine and endearing urge to learn. It felt like I was putting my knowledge to something much bigger, and something that could help so many people.”

Another set of testimonials by a group of college students who volunteer almost regularly for medical camps in unprivileged areas mention that the positive feeling one gets on rendering selfless help is extremely overwhelming. Aakriti Dhawan, one of the volunteers at the camp organized by Delhi University’s NGO Aarohi, says, “everyone should work for people in need because it does not take more than a few hours of one’s day. The camp expects one to just pitch in once a month and so is extremely flexible.”

Adding on to the positives is Pavit Dhillon who volunteers as a creative writer for Aramaan Foundation. His work was to provide knowledge to the people through articles and blogs as that is one way to change their Dis-ability into Liv-ibility! Though he took it up as it was a necessity from college, he says, “Everyone should chip in for a good cause.”

In criticism, a student whose identity has been kept secret (on request) expressed that a social service set-up in her college is just namesake and is joined by a bunch of students dying for a mere certificate. She pointed out that in many institutions voluntary work set-ups face lack of direction and focus.

Though awareness towards volunteer work has increased many folds, students face lack of worthwhile opportunities, time constraints and also hold themselves back due to lack of remuneration in most cases. Living out of pocket money, no one would mind earning extra bucks! This is a strong reason that keeps a major chunk of the youth from volunteering.

In light of the negatives proclaimed, there is a definite lack of action even though volunteerism among the youth has gained popularity. People need to forget monetary and materialistic (i.e. certificates) interests for a while and work for something they believe in or are moved by. Time constraint is something everybody faces, but if one genuinely feels for a cause, he/she will find time in one way or another. If youngsters give a little of their time and effort into volunteering they are promised a revitalized mind, improvement in skills and a sense of satisfaction from within.

Do you think stipends and remunerations are a necessary part of the package when volunteering one’s time and skills for a good cause? Is there a cause that you would volunteer for without a stipend or remuneration?

Author Bio: This article is written by Simrat Ahluwalia, a Social Media intern with Halabol, a platform launching on Republic Day to raise awareness towards social issues and causes and connect individuals with non profits and corporate organizations in a fun and socially pro-active way.

Video Volunteers-India Unheard

By Esha Vaish:

The media is often found to be rampant with misrepresentation and skewed representation. While a Bollywood tadka-song features in primetime news, important issues of human rights violation find no voice in the slots and quirky blurbs on news channels. The brutality doesn’t end there. In the race to grab eyeballs, the truth is often found to be a casualty, the statements of tribal groups changed, a mask of half-truth adorned by the translators and news producers.

Thus, it seems only fit that retaliation seems to be brewing under the surface. Taking the form of a parallel movement, a new form of reportage has begun to emerge throughout the country. Today, Community Video Units are presenting rural areas with a voice, returning media ownership to the people.

A non-profit organisation doing phenomenal work in the field, Video Volunteers has made media an empowering tool. Rural media development has largely been hindered by deprivation of training including journalistic skills and technology to create and store news. High end media production tools are extremely expensive and require infrastructural support such as electricity. The funds and resources, both are found lacking in rural areas.

Video Volunteers addresses these basic problems. The proliferation of easy to use and comparatively inexpensive handy-cams has been teamed with basic journalistic and recording training in inaccessible and backward areas. Through this the organisation has created a network or journalists and media people. Working with the communities and explaining the need to disseminate and propagate news, they are able to involve the villagers and impress upon them the importance of such an association.

Local news producers have better rapport with the community and are now able to bring to light stories of conflict for people to contemplate about, conflict resolution for other communities to implement and reporter profiles, to inspire others to take initiates as well.

The videos thus created and sent by the Community Video Unit representatives are sub-titled and uploaded on their site to bring to people unaltered news and shed light on important issues that need to be addressed. Such a movement triggers tangent action, driving a point and a final outcome home by collecting opinion polls, creating a reaction through editorials etc.

This mechanism has not only made the urban dwellers aware of existent problems but also given the rural population a platform for expression and questioning.  Spearheading a wave of change seems within the reach of such Community Video Units. As the movement gains prominence, and as communities join in and participate, the blind-spot in reportage created by conventional media might be eradicated after all.

Click here to visit their site. Also check out their Facebook page here.

 

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Wake up

By Angana Prasad:

Disgusting, literally means causing revulsion or strong disapproval of something, or simply something which makes us feel yucky… and our heart goes eeks…! I often run out of fingers when it comes to counting the number of things that make me say “O my god! What the …”.

Imagine those little kids on the streets, tattered clothes, yellow teeth, smelly, running nose… how they hold my hands and touch my feet with their dirty hands, begging for alms.

Monsoon time, the most romantic season of the year, pleasant weather, green everywhere, it showered some time back, there are potholes on the streets, a car goes by and splash… my new pink skirt is spoiled!

My best friend’s birthday, we have a treat at McDonalds, ‘Aapke zamaane mein Baap ke zamaane ka price’, I have a taste of Aloo tikki burger, I don’t like it, so I dump the rest in the bin, the waiter comes, picks up the bin and empties it in the Municipality bin outside. I walk out and see an old man in tatters picking out the half eaten burgers, sitting under the tree next to a stray dog, and hungrily nibbling onto his feast…

Homeless beggars, living in the abandoned buildings of the railways, defecating in the open, cleaning their backside from the same drain in which they had defecated.

Rakhi Sawant, titillating videos, bold remarks, publicity stunts, revealing dress, not even an iota of sophistication and definitely seems to have no self-respect.

All of these have the unique quality to evoke a feeling of nausea and send a goose flesh running down any person who sees it. How hopelessly DISGUSTING they are, and each time I think of this, can only remark “Which pit is humanity descending into?”

It disgusts me every time, every minute, every second, but gets worth with the realization of how I have led this to happen… Had I ever cast a vote, I could have had a government that could have saved my pink skirt. The roads would have been nice always and no pothole would have gone splash. My father should never have pampered me enough that I should waste my food, forgetting about the ones who could even eat out of a municipality bin. I should never have left my tap running open while brushing my teeth, that today I see them washing from potholes and drains. Why had I been judgmental about girls who slept their way to the top, never understanding what should lead another Rakhi Sawant to the making, who has to sell her body to earn her bread.

It disgusts me for always having been a mere part of the crowd and simply watch things happen, to never do what I should have and never get bothered till my own ease was hindered. So, it finally stands at having a responsible opinion of what is happening around us and work actively as the need may be, rather than letting the disgust get the better of us. I’ve written this bit in the first person because it actually had struck me as a thought as to how irresponsible I had personally been, each time I took to blaming someone for something I did not like… Young as we are, the best we can be is to develop a perspective, build an opinion and be active against the evils that we keep pointing at.

Photo by David Shankbone from Flickr.

Nirmaan

By Neetha Kurup:

As a student of BITS, Pilani I have witnessed students performing incredible tasks when it comes to achieving something. Of the many clubs and departments on campus, there is one that stands out: the Nirmaan Association.

The Nirmaan Organization is an NGO–a not-for-profit organization that aims at empowering our nation through knowledge and a sound economy, eradicate poverty and provide opportunities to the underprivileged of the country.

Originally established by the students of BITS, Pilani in the month of February 2005, Nirmaan got registered as an NGO in 2007. With eight chapters spread through six different states and 500 members, Nirmaan is an organization to be respected.

Have you ever crossed the road and noticed little children selling toys or peanuts and often wondered whether there is something more you can do for them? More than half of India’s 1.2 billion is less than 25 years of age. With such an advantage, it often falls upon the shoulders of the youth to do something to lift our country to the status of a developed nation.

Every child has the right to education. This education could help our country in so many ways; it is the way we start to remove all other ills of the society. Along with the education, every member of the society deserves to be given a chance to work for his daily bread–so he can provide for himself and his family.

Nirmaan is an organization that strives to provide both these facilities to the deprived in the country. One example of how they help these people is that during fests in colleges, Nirmaan sets up booths that help sell handicrafts made by them. The proceeds go to their development.

The question is, are the efforts of one such organization enough? An organization of 500 members in a country of 1.2 billion people? Yes. There are many who go about wondering about what they can do. But there are only a few who set out to doing it, and it is only those who make a difference.

Jyoti Sachdeva

By Mahalakshmi Ganapathy:

Swami Parthasarathy  while addressing the audience in Pune remarked ‘95% people in the world only take and take while  only 5% in the world have learnt to give. Even out of this small minority of givers, it is only a miniscule amount who actually give without the expectation of getting something’.

Shocking as this revelation may seem, is infact the sad reality which exists around us. Having felt uncomfortable with this above fact, I decided to literally hunt down people who engage in the pure act of giving and was mighty disappointed in not being able to find even one. Just while the thought of giving up entered my mind , my mind still persisted  and finally with a lot of soul searching within and outside ,met with Mrs Jyoti Sachde ,who fits the bill just right. It is only after meeting and interacting with her did I feel that some good still exists in the world accentuated by the bleak image created in the opening lines.

While on the topic of giving, Swamiji asks a simple yet complex question ‘What is the meaning of giving?’ This simple question has been compounded by many difficulties and complexities in today’s world wherein the consumerism is very high, people are spoilt for choice which has also given rise to the culture of hoarding and storing away things. Swamiji  though gives a very simple answer to this. He says, “To give means  to actually give away things that you do not need’. His explanation to this line then follows-‘I am not asking you all to give away everything, but to give away things which are extra, in excess, that which is over and above your basic needs’. I cannot but help draw the same parallel between the philosophy of Swamiji and Mrs Jyoti who share the same principle and who follow it in different ways.

One look at her three bedroom house in Pune and majority would have gone back with feeling of disgust, thinking how can one keep the house in such bad condition and in a filthy manner. Clothes, utensils, electronic items overflowing and not even an inch space to walk, let alone sit and one has to really be lucky to find place, but this discomfort vanishes in thin air when you start interacting with her and hear out her story.

Her philosophy is very simple. She accepts anything under the roof and believe me, when I say anything; it really means anything and everything. So one can find an overflowing stack of books, utensils, sarees, blankets, electronic items and she accepts everything thing that her donors get to her with a smile on her face and gratitude which comes from the heart. Her small philanthropic venture has become so serious that she now finds it hard to accept things from people and has to sometimes politely reject them for lack of space. Her donors ,visitors have become part of her life and sometimes even help her arrange things at 3 or 4 am sometimes .

Her health concerns would baffle many, but this iron willed lady does not seem to give up  and single mindedly moves on with her mission of giving the most needy ,acting like this bridge between the have’s and have nots. She plays multiple roles of being mother, mother-in-law, granny to little tots, social worker ,President of organisations, award winner and is still comfortable giving time and dedication to all these roles.

It is great what one thought or an idea can do. Mrs Jyoti started her small gesture of helping  old age homes, orphanages and other organisations which fall short of basic resources and very humbly still wonders how this small venture has become a full fledged activity run under the registered Mamata Charitable Foundation in the year 2007 even though her work started informally since 1990. She beamingly announces that  she just recently sent her 120th truck full of clothes to an organisation in Gujarat. Her work has travelled to nearly all places in India and she has been able to help organisations that do not get government funding .

Through this article, we want to raise awareness about her work and also collect funds for expanding her good work, with a bigger place. Take time out to visit the website at  www.mamatacharitablefoundation.com and help this iron-willed lady in her noble mission of giving and reaching out to people.

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nileema mishra

By MP Manohar:

When Nileema Mishra won the Magsaysay Award (also hailed as the Asian Noble Prize, instituted in the memory of erstwhile President of Philippines, Ramon Magsaysay), this able lady known for some great pioneering work in the villages in Jalgaon and known in the narrow confines in the state of Maharashtra, in a way obscure, has come in to national limelight, nay international limelight.

Magsaysay Award Foundation while announcing the Winner proclaimed, “She is being recognized for her purpose-driven zeal to work tirelessly with villagers in Maharashtra, India, organizing them to successfully address both their aspirations and their adversities through collective action and heightened confidence in their potential to improve their own lives”.

Facts about 39 year old Nileema Misra reads like, she was born to a middle class family having an abiding interest in social welfare and public activities, in the village of Bahadarpur, Maharashtra. She went on to Pune and pursued Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. Though she could have easily gone on to become an urban professional and lead a comfortable life, she shortly after completion of her course in the year 1995 returned to her native place Bahadarpur with a dream to transform the lives of downtrodden women in her village.

As a child she was distressed with the all-round poverty prevalent in her village, farmer suicides, plight of widows and old aged and at a tender age of about 13 years, she decided not to marry and dedicate her life to the welfare and upliftment of people. Thus when she returned with the same resolute in 1995, it didn’t take her much time to realize that the biggest problem stemmed from basic fact- lack of money in the hands of the rural families and plunged head long in to social service by starting Bhagini Nivedita Gramin Vigyan Niketan (BNGVN) on a humble scale with a handful of about a dozen women who were more vulnerable in an impoverished society.

Today the movement has more than 10000 women in various Self-Help groups, engaging in micro-credit, production of food products and export quality quilts. BNGVN also help in training the rural women folks in income-generating products and further helps in marketing, accounting, computer literacy, procurement in bulk at better prices, building warehouses etc.

What a great resolve at such a tender age of 13, to realize the dreams of our Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi to create self-sufficient village communities!  When this village girl could have been dreaming about bangles and bindis, jewelry and colourful dresses, fashion and cinema etc this kid was dreaming of transforming the lives of her fellow village folks crippled in poverty. Amazed, what I could only draw a parallel immediately in my mind, is the late Kalpana Chawla who as an young child looked at stars dreamt that one day she will go to space and she achieved it and created history and become immortal, this great Indian-American Astronaut remains an icon for present and future generations. Nileema Mishra will achieve still greater heights and become a example for numerous others to emulate.

Her father Chandrasekhar Mishra and was a retired School Headmaster and now a Trustee of RK Mishra High school in Bahadarpur and her mother a social activist. Like any father he wanted to marry her but found Nileema very resolute that she will not marry and wanted to dedicate her life to help the downtrodden women of her village. It naturally made him sad but left her daughter to pursue her dreams. Now this award has made her father proud that Nileema has been recognized at such a young age and it is a testimony that she is proceeding in the right direction in her chosen domain.

All this has not come without challenges. When in the year 2000 Nileema wanted funds very badly to take her activities to the next level, she without any hesitation sold hers mother’s ancestral jewels to garner about 3 lacs and thus created a revolving funds to start new income-generating schemes as well as building basic infrastructure like computers. No big deal for Nileema who even when she was a kid saved her pocket money to give it to poor village folks.

She had already announced that the 22 lacs she would receive as prize money would go in to fund further activities. She received the prestigious medal and certificate in a spectacular function in Philippines on 31-Aug-11 and has brought along with that international focus and attention to Jalgaon.

In Nileema’s words her education in Clinical Psychology has helped clear negative thoughts and focus on social work.  Nileema and her group’s activities encompass wider issues like health problems faced by rural villages by building 300 odd private and communal toilets.

She went in for the micro-finance route for uplifting the financial status of women is very noteworthy at a time when this sector is being accused of commercial exploitation and coercions leading to even suicides in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Though micro-finance started as a very noble venture for rural transformation, it has got commercial overtones and over the period has lost sight of its lofty goals and has become yet another flourishing profit-mongering industry interested in profits alone.

But given the glaring fact that present day banks are yet to come out with a special rural platform for financial inclusion of the impoverished rural lot, these micro-finance companies will alone be the refuge of the rural India despite all shortcomings. But let the micro-finance institutions take a few leaves out of Nileema Mishra’s prodigal work and realign their priorities to provide a viable, sustainable and a compassionate business model which will make rural communities more self-reliant and prosperity which will go a long way to alleviate poverty as well as to the GDP of our nation.

Snapdeal nagar

By Kartikaye Gilra:

A privilege last earned by Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata (Tatanagar), and Gujarmal Modi (Modinagar) has been extended to snapdeal.com. A distant village in Uttar Pradesh is now known by the name of “Snapdeal.com Nagar” earlier known as Shiv Nagar. The tiny town had good reason to, because SnapDeal, India’s version of Groupon, provided it with fresh water.

Snapdeal’s founder Kunal Bahl wanted to do something with his company’s growing profit. The 28 year old CEO found the opportunity in water. He found this for a fact that a mere $5000 would install 15 hand pumps that would relieve the villagers from walking nearly 2 miles just to get clean water. The villagers were grateful for the generosity shown by the company and decided to rename the village.

Kunal Bahl hints at more such philanthropy in the works by his New Delhi business. When he was being asked whether this is a publicity gimmick following was his reply: “All we can say is that time will show our commitment to this project and even the things we do in the future. You need not be a multibillionaire company to make a change in society around you. This project was not about the power of money but the intent and efforts which our team took to give this dream alive. Even if one small company takes inspiration from this, we will feel our efforts have borne fruit.”

Previously, Kunal co-founded a detergent company in the US while at college which now sells products in 3000 stores in the US. He has also worked at companies such as Deloitte Consulting and Microsoft in the US. Kunal is an engineer from the University of Pennsylvania and holds a business degree from The Wharton School. The company was started with a seed capital of 40 lakhs. Following is what the founder had to say: “While I was studying and working in the US between 2002 and 2006, I realized that the retail landscape in India had changed. Buyers were becoming more sophisticated and small retailers had turned professional. So, while consumers still liked a good bargain, they weren’t interested in petty haggling. It struck me that starting a business that provided discount coupons would succeed in India and so I returned to Delhi in November 2007.”

The company is source of motivation for a lot of youth in this country as it gives them a hope to make it big and do something for the society which lot of us wishes to do but lack the means to. It instills a faith that numerous opportunities exist in the world and everybody can DREAM!

Swechha YKA

By Meghavarshini Krishnaswamy:

Swechha,  a NGO  based  in  Delhi  is  a  multifaceted  organization  working  for  environmental  conservation,  waste  management,  underprivileged  children  and  volunteer   placements.  Each  wing  has its  own role to play  in  spreading  awareness  about  sustainable living  and  social  service.

Some of  the  environmental issues  intensive wings include Green-The-Gap,  INFLUENCE  and  Bridge-The-Gap.  INFLUENCE  conducts  internship and volunteer campaigns dealing with various social issues. I volunteered for the “Spotted Stop It” campaign dealing with waste generation  and its global impact in the future.  The  campaign  used  the  method  of  street theatre  and  mobile junk art exhibitions  to spread awareness and the team  performed in various college fests and market places with the simple message of ‘Use Less, Generate Less’.

Green-The-Gap  converts  non-biodegradable waste into wallets, jholas, coasters and more.  Swechha  hires its own tailors and workers  who are ensured fair conditions and salaries, thus  setting an example for workshops in Delhi. Green-The-Gap also gives its team  the opportunity to design and create “branded merchandise”  from  tetra packs, milk packing and bits of cloth. Bridge-The-Gap works with schools, creating awareness about environment related issues with field trips, interactive sessions and training. It helps children understand environmental problems by giving a new angle to textbook teaching.

Vedika  Jiandani is one  of  the co-coordinators  of Swechha. She started working for Swechha as an intern  before becoming a full time member of the team. She is a postgraduate from NIFT.

 

Me – What inspires you to work with Swechha on its environment conscious campaigns?

Vedika Jiandani -The most inspiring thing is the enthusiasm, commitment and energy of the volunteers. The second is the constant support of the Swechha staff. Also, the satisfaction of doing my bit for the environment and society.

 

Me-Tell us about the environment related projects and campaigns you have been a part of at Swechha.

Vedika – I co-coordinated the April 2011 Yamuna Yatra. We, along with 60 students from Vacant Valley school travelled to the Yamunotri and back. The purpose was to educate those class 11th students about the condition of the river and the change in the water from the origin to Vrindavan.

 

Me- Tell us more about volunteer mobilization. How does Swechha inspire people to participate in its campaigns?

Vedika – We do a lot of activities with volunteers at the college level under our ‘INFLUENCE’ program. We visit colleges across Delhi and interact with students, explain the different opportunities we can provide and understand their interests. We also conduct rural exposure camps on an annual basis where we take large groups of volunteers to villages where they get to see and interact with tribals.

 

Me- Swechha works a lot with school children. What is your prime focus?

Vedika – With school children, our focus is not only  to make them aware of the present environmental condition but also to make them think and  act in the best possible way. We regularly conduct workshops where they learn to use waste and create usable products. We take them on Yamuna walks and landfill walks as we believe in a more practical and action-based approach. When they understand the situation, children automatically start spreading awareness among their family and friends.

 

Me- Which campaign or project do you think s most successful and why?

Vedika-That’s really difficult to answer! However, I would say Yamuna Yatra. It is a 12-day journey to Yamunotri and back. Swechha has been organizing tem for 8 years now and has received the most amazing responses from participants. The stress is on  importance of saving the river that provides drinking water to more than 70% households in Delhi. After seeing, touching and tasting the pure  water of Yamunotri, the sight of the choking drain in Delhi leaves a deep impression.

 

Me- As an NGO, where do you think Swechha stands? What are the grey areas?

VedikaSwechha is still a young organization and has a lot to accomplish. At the same time, I am happy to say that even as a fresher, Swechha gave me immense leadership opportunities.  It is constantly growing and so are the projects. The only grey area I can think of is changing the mindset of our population, which refuses to come out of its comfort zone to take action. However, I am certain that if we remain determined, there is nothing we cannot achieve.

 

Me- How is Swechha’s contribution different from other NGOs?

Vedika– I believe that every active NGO holds the same importance as another. Swechha has always believed in building efficient networks and collaborations which has always been our strong point.

 

Funding

By Anshul Tewari:

This was originally posted at the Youth Action Center.

While most of us try and self-fund our projects, and while that is the best bet for anyone, there does come a time when you are in need for external funding and help to sustain your project and grow it along the way. Even though there are many typical ways of seeking funds, such as – grants, venture capital, angel funding, donations, etc. – we try and look at few innovative funding models to help you grow your project to the best.

1) Indiegogo:

IndieGoGo is an easy online platform for anybody in the world to raise more money, from more people, fast. With IndieGoGo you can turn your passion into a funding campaign, promote your idea, engage a fan base, and get funded. It provides all the tools you need to build a campaign and share it with the world.

Know more about Indiegogo here.

2) GiveIndia:

GiveIndia is a donation platform that allows you to support a cause of your choice from about 200 NGOs that have been scrutinised for transparency & credibility.

GiveIndia runs a platform called iGive which enables anyone to raise funds for the cause close to their heart.

Know more about GiveIndia here.

3) RangDe.org:

The motivation for starting Rang De was the belief that the peer to peer lending model could be leveraged to lower the cost of microcredit and reach out to under-served communities. RangDe.org’s vision is to make poverty history in India by reaching out to underserved communities through microcredit. They do this through a network of committed field partners and social investors and offer microcredit that will have a positive impact on business, education, health and environment of the communities they work with.

Know more about RangeDe.org here.

4) CitizenEffect:

CitizenEffect gives Citizen Philanthropists the ability to choose their project, leverage their social networks, and communicate directly with their partner community. It is probably the best way to raise funds for the cause close to your heart.

In their own words, “We are seeking people that do not just want to give $50, but want to bring their friends, family and social network together to raise $1,000 or $5,000 or $10,000 and to make a real and significant impact in the lives of a community in need.”

Know more about CitizenEffect here.

5) ChipIn.com:

ChipIn’s mission is to make it easy to collect money. They enable users to organize group payments and fundraisers (“ChipIns”) in a quick, easy, and secure way. They also make it simple for organizers to publicize their ChipIns, by providing powerful fundraising widgets that can be embedded in social media.

Know more about ChipIn here.

6) Milaap.org:

Loans provided using Milaap are disbursed at approximately 12 to 18% interest rates – almost 50% cheaper than the existing credit available to small borrowers. While a donation through charity has a one-time existence and a relatively short life-span, your loans on Milaap, once repaid can be used to fund another project, thus creating a liquidity cycle needed to uplift many small credit borrowers.

Know more about Milaap here.

Have more to add? Add your favourite ways in the comments section below.

Social Service YKA

By Arshia Chatterjee:

As shallow as it may sound, I was never one for social service. Sure, I sympathised with people less fortunate than me, and I supported my parents when they decided to donate to charity, but I was never the kind of person who would do hands-on work and help. So it did not exactly make me jump with joy when I found out in the 11th grade that every Sunday we would make a trip to a centre called Shining Star which housed and educated children born to parents with HIV/AIDS who could not afford to look after them.

When we went to Shining Star on the first weekend, I was simply amazed. The children at the centre  had no idea who we were or where we were from. Half of them could not even pronounce our names. And yet, they were so delighted to see us there. They were fascinated by our uniforms and our shoes and they could barely conceal their happiness about having people around. We learnt later from the centre supervisor that these children had never known what a home was. Most of them had been cast out of their villages because their parents were discriminated against for being affected by AIDS. When they found their way to the city, however, they were still shunned, and finding that they were unable to provide for their children, left them in the care of Shining Star.

Even though we first went to Shining Star to complete our course requirement, I can say without hesitation that each one of us grew to love the children at the centre. It was a delight to see them every Sunday, flinging open the gates and running up to us every time they heard our bus arrive. Even better to see was the way these children who were no more than eleven years old stick together and stand up  for each other.

On our last day at Shining Star, I would never have thought this charity experience would ever mean so much to me. We were saying our goodbyes like we did every week, when one little boy who was five, grabbed my friend’s hand and asked if we were coming back again the next Sunday. It just showed how much we had grown to love these children and how much they had become a part of our lives that my friend who is otherwise a very impassive person, burst into tears. When we had to fill in our social service forms in school, including a short write up about what we did, I think all of us were lost about what to write, simply because there was so much we wanted to say about the children at Shining Star, but there was no way we could fit all of that in. Now, every Sunday, when we have the three-hour “free time” that we so bitterly complained about losing at first because we had to go visit Shining Star, I sit and wonder how did I  while away that time before I met those kids — Chaitan with his “inventions” that he made from leaves and twigs, and Ranjan with his dance steps to Kannada numbers, and Priyanka who would pick pink and yellow flowers to put in her hair. It would not be an exaggeration if I said that those children have truly changed my life and my view point about social service.

BRM Social Leaders Program

We live in a city faced with lots of challenges. Did you know Mumbai is the world’s 5th worst place to work. We have potholes, corruption, pollution, traffic jams, political violence, poor sanitation and inadequate civic services all at the same time.

Why then we, as youth don’t do anything beyond clicking FB ‘like’s or volunteering a few hours?

We think there are 3 reasons:

1. Its too time consuming – we have other things to worry about – studies and our career

2. Its not fun – atleast not as much fun as catching a movie and hanging out with cool people

3. Its too huge a task, and problems are quite un-solvable. System hi kharaab hai

We started with this question: How do we make social work connected to careers, make it fun and make it impactful. We put together knowledge from industry experts, social entrepreneurs, NGOs and youngsters like you. And here is our answer – The Social Leaders Program (SLP).

SLP is a 3 month program which pushes you to take on a leadership role in your immediate context. You are exposed to leadership education and mentored to take on one social problem impacting you.

BUT “1. Its too time consuming – we have other things to worry about – studies and our career”

In the process of SLP, you build in depth knowledge about yourself and your leadership style. The leadership education and project itself equips you with useful skills (and something to speak about in your interviews!). You have a certification in the end – so what you do directly impacts your career.

BUT “2. Its not fun – atleast not as much fun as catching a movie and hanging out with cool people”

Then, you build amazing networks with peers, corporates and the government. You meet inspiring people and experience the conviction and power that drives them. Instead of on-screen heroes, you meet real heroes. You make new friends and hang out with people who are self driven and making a difference.

BUT “3. Its too huge a task, and problems are quite un-solvable. System hi kharaab hai”

Using systemic problem solving, you break the issue down into one that can be solved. This small step is a blue print for larger changes. And your project is your personal manifesto – its your personal challenge to ‘make it happen’. A genuine committed effort will not only contribute to social change, but also help you actualize the potential you hold.

With corrupt leadership and a city that’s breaking down, its a great time to do the SLP – there is just so much to do! And more importantly, its something you need to do.

The application cycle for SLP is now open – you can apply for it on www.brmworld.org/slp. Mail them for more queries on [email protected]. Or, call them over to your college or company and give them an opportunity to share this initiative in greater detail.

Blue Ribbon Movement – is a youth organization working on building and nurturing leaders in South Asia. Visit them to know more.

DISCLOSURE: Blue Ribbon Movement is a partner organization of Youth Ki Awaaz.

Arpan

By Lakshmi Bharadwaj:

It’s another day in K.D. Colony, New Delhi, and a girl sits outside the walls on late evenings, listless, swatting the mosquitoes that irritate the miserable compound. The walls are high. In her heart are countless questions, a quiet dejection eats at her. Motivation is lacking, and the sighs repeat themselves over and over. When you have big dreams and yet no sense of direction, what do you do?

Some girls go to Arpan.

It’s not lavish with its blue walls of painted plaster with charts scattered here and there. A varied array of teaching equipment, a white board greets. But the humble simplicity that welcomes you is their temple of sacred motivation, where dreams are envisioned, understood and realized. It is where the cocooned pupa of hope, confidence and a love for life starts to break a shell and struggles to grow its wings and fly. To flutter about the imaginative minds and to reach greater heights. It is the blossoming of the most remarkable of stories. For six such girls of K.D Colony, this is home. Why is it important to go to college? They ask themselves, why should I learn? And here, they find their answers, together. Here’s where their aspirations are sheltered. The feeling of sisterhood, a bonding, of shared experiences makes this a place of purpose, value and high regard.

This house was built with vision, too. A vision to help. “We aren’t short of philanthropists but we want to work as catalysts.” the founder had once quipped. When a bunch of students from the University of Delhi started Bodhi Tree, they were curious and excited about the project. It was something that seemed a big challenge to them: to sensitize the community to understand the importance of the financial independence of the girl child. They also wanted to help people lead a more fulfilling life. And Arpan was the early brainchild of that project. They’d achieve this no matter what, the students thought; they’d bring a change, one person at a time. It was the sort of decision that changed everything for them.

Arpan today has become more than a home for Sneha and Zeba who came up with the project. Education here is free and is supported by only a strong web of student-volunteers from nearby universities and colleges. When it’s time for the people to light the lanterns, the girls huddle around in groups to relearn English, to be counseled in career development and to be educated about scholarship opportunities that might be available to them. They practice their writing in the traditional way, sitting cross-legged on the floor. They’re introduced to art, dance and theatre. Interests take shape, and creativity is unleashed. They participate; they find talents and exhibit them. No wonder the girls must think this little place as sacred. It’s becoming a part of who they are, ingrained in their identities.

For the founders, this is their fond achievement, but they believe in not slacking when their project is budding beautifully. “We intend to broaden the opportunities available to our girls as well as train them to use the available resources to the best of their advantage.” they tell me, “Our first step is to enable them to obtain improved social standing as well as acquire better employment opportunities in the future.”

The girls look back and reflect on the year 2003–the year when the project was founded, and changed it all. It’s been a life-altering experience, a dream that brings them closer to achieving a better, more independent world. The sustenance of the project is critical for the education and empowerment of women. If you live in Delhi and have some time on your hands, pay a visit. Teach the girls English. Talk to them and socialize. And you’ll see what dreams are made of. You’ll be of much help.

“It is such joy to empower people, to help them to help themselves.” is the message that Arpan sends. The smile in the eyes of these six girls speaks of the same joy, the same sense of purpose, the same aspirations and dreams crafted by a sincerely strong resolute will.

Check out the Arpan Facebook page here.

The writer is a Contributor of Youth Ki Awaaz.

NGO

By Pavithra S:

This summer, with the sun scorching us mercilessly, most would either sought the help of any hill station or remain safe inside our sweet homes. But ever thought about those who neither have a home to take shelter nor any money to save themselves? Ever felt the need to help someone survive and make a change in the society? Have you thought of joining an NGO this summer? If the answer is YES, then bravo!! Here is something that can help you on your quest. Well, if the answer is NO you may be missing out on a great chance to work for a good cause. Many NGOs around the world are striving to make the world a better place for the underprivileged. Your participation in anyone of the NGOs this summer may make someone’s life better. Here are a few organizations working for different causes in our country, which you might want to consider for an internship or volunteering:

1. Smile Foundation:

This organization strives to create a promising future for the underprivileged children. It aims at imparting universal education which can turn those children into productive assets thereby laying the foundations for nation building. Apart from this, the organization also works towards providing healthcare facilities for people from rural villages and slums. The organization has been ranked among the top 10 NGOs in our country. With its wide number of branches in the country, about 140 projects spread in 22 states, it is an ideal choice for anyone wishing to make their contribution to the society.

http://www.smilefoundationindia.org/

2. Help Age India

When there are many to care for children and women, this organization works for the betterment of the elderly people. It aims to make the society become aware of the concerns of the aged and their issues and also to educate the elderly about their rights. It is ranked as the No.1 NGO in India. Having affiliations with 51 member countries, Helpage India has many success stories to its credit. Once you make a donation you become a part of this organization and those willing to make a larger difference can become one of the caregivers.

http://www.helpageindia.org/

3. SaveLife Foundation

This Delhi based NGO has been working at revolutionizing the way we deal with road accidents and victims. From training the entire Delhi Police and NSG, to now spreading across the nation, SaveLife Foundation (SLF) is a first of its kind initiative in India that combines community volunteerism with Healthcare, Technology and Law Enforcement to facilitate immediate rescue and care for road accident victims.

http://slfindia.org/

4. Goonj

Started by Anshu Gupta in an attempt to address the clothing problems of the poor people, the organization has come a long way since its start up in 1998. The people at Goonj believe that recycling and reusing the clothes can substantially reduce the clothing issues for the needy in our country. Its yet another initiation, ‘Rahat Floods’ provides relief funds to the flood victims of Bihar, Assam and West Bengal. The organization has been selected as the best NGO of the year 2007. People willing to be a part of Goonj can donate clothes, organize collection camps or provide financial assistance. With nearly 250 partner groups, Goonj plays a significant role in changing the face of our country.

http://goonj.org/

5. Agaram Foundation

Founded by one of the most influential actors of actors of South India, the Agaram Foundation has gained popularity within a short span of time. The trust aims at educating the under privileged children of the society. While ‘vidhai’ works towards bridging the gap between the deserving children and quality education, ‘Agaram vazhikatigal’ mentors every individual child in bringing out their talent, dream and desire.

http://agaram.in/volunteer_register

Have more NGOs to add to this list? Do post your comments in the section below.

Img: © noborders

blue cross society 1

By Shivani Singh:

You must have seen so many stray puppies and kittens on the roads, in your colony, searching for food in the garbage bins — did you ever stop and think about them? Did you even spend a second of your “busy” time to even think of taking care of them? Most of the people would say that they’re stray — their life is like that, you can’t do anything! But Blue Cross Society and many other NGOs takes this point as a challenge and pledges to change their lives.

Recently, the NGO held a stray puppy and kitten adoption camp — something which they have been doing since years and I got to be a part of this great work of humanity. At first I was apprehensive about the fact that who would adopt such stray animals but after having the entire day with such wonderful creations I got my answer. An animal lover doesn’t look at all these things; he just comes here to find a new BEST FRIEND!

There were so many people who came to adopt, many passers-by also stopped, saw what was happening and decided to contribute to this noble cause. It was great to see such an enthusiastic response and people come and give the strays a proper home. There were many volunteers from the NGO who did everything they could to take care of the animals as if they were their own children, handling them with utmost care, crying when they were leaving after being adopted, carrying them around in their arms, making them sleep in their laps — it was so moving, everything about the atmosphere there- the potential adopters and the volunteers of the NGO- everything made you feel good! I felt that humanity has come to life again amidst all these problems in the world, there is still hope!

Blue Cross Society also makes sure that all animals being adopted are fit so there is a veterinary during the entire camp, there’s also a counselor who would counsel people if they wanted to know how to take care of the animals, there were legal documents being signed and everything was so organized- being an NGO which runs only on donations, they still did everything top-notch. The dogs had been fully vaccinated and this point attracted more people to come and adopt. There were clauses which also allowed the NGO to conduct regular check-ups on the animals after they have been adopted to ensure they are in safe hands!

I was with the animals the entire time — feeding them pedigree, giving them milk, water, taking care of them, handling them, showing them to potential adopters. Everything taught me so much — you could see it in their eyes — how much they longed for love. Anyone who said that animals don’t speak; they should see how they communicate so effectively. As I saw each puppy or kitten being adopted, I used to have tears in my eyes — they had bonded with me in a matter of a few hours! I would not have been able to experience this life changing opportunity if I hadn’t opted to work for an NGO those summer vacations.

I think the youth should now start spending more time working for such social causes or the development sector instead of just working like robots to achieve one set of dreams. They cannot survive alone — they have an entire environment around them and if you leave the surrounding under-developed you cannot make progress yourself. So opt and volunteer for such NGOs and be the Change! Do something for OTHERS rather than yourselves and see the change in yourself. DO GOOD!

You can see the smiles on the faces of those you help — be it under-privileged women, or slums kids or differently-abled kids or animals just like me to see the wag of their tails, or the purr in their meows, or the hee-haws in their smiles. Be the change this summer, opt for an NGO internship instead of chasing just your careers and experience the world! At least see the issues around you and write for them, make the people aware about the cause as well as the NGO. Do the work and make people aware. For example, join Youth Ki Awaaz and write, voice your opinions, share your comments, your experience, and spread awareness. Join such NGOs and make a difference!

The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz. You can read more of her reports here.

Image courtesy: STOP POLLUTION IN BALACLAVA group on Facebook.

By Radhika Ghose:

What’s the word that’s just popped into your head; Romantic getaway? An Island paradise with a variety of “beach shopping” and culture in addition to the marine life, casinos and nightlight, adventure sports including sky diving and deep-sea diving and brimming with culture — should give you the perfect answer.

Image courtesy: STOP POLLUTION IN BALACLAVA group on Facebook.

But how about a place, where the residents have to close their windows if they wanted to stay out of hospital? I was aghast to hear, that a recent acquaintance of mine, had just been released from hospital, as she was exposed to toxic waste and bad odor from chemical waste which was being illegally dumped by Consolidated Fabrics Limited — impacting the Riviere Citron, which crosses through Balaclava a tourist hot spot in Mauritius and ends in the Turtle Bay Sea.

While this issue consistently and regularly damages the lives of the residents of Balaclava, there is a chance this mess will be soon cleared as the members of the Balaclava Residents Association, are actively involved in holding the factory accountable.

My acquaintance Katherine Roberts, a founding member of the Association, editor of the newsletter and a travel writer by profession, said she was admitted to hospital on Saturday night, 16th of April, suffering from chest pain, cough, sore throat, giddiness and nausea. At the time the smells on the morcellement were unbearable. She also said on return to her residence, she heard that many people including children were suffering from similar symptoms. So she decided to call a meeting where all the residents those all ready suffering and those who wanted to change the situation, should attend.

Another resident- Kate Ah Young decided to create a Facebook group a week ago to spread awareness and reach out to other members, Stop Polluting In Balaclava, which now has 467 members (at the time of publishing) and provides up to date details about the proceedings of the meetings, newspaper articles and press coverage as well as photographs.

So why have I shared this single issue when environment pollution is no secret to any of us? It’s not just the issue that has caught my attention, but what is being done about it. There are environmental effects on people as well as the marine life; and more will appear over the coming days and weeks.

This aside, they have proved what being active on Facebook, for the right reasons can really do!

What needs to be highlighted is the fact that the residents are making a continuous effort to save the environment and themselves from mortal danger. One may argue that they are a small group and that’s why it may be easier for themselves to organize themselves and the meetings; but it does take a single person and his/her effort to make a difference. These are the kind of resident associations we need to aspire to have.

On another note, the President of India is dining in Balaclava as you read this article.

Teach India volunteer teaching young children

By Shreya Ramachandran:

India is a country which, in the present times, is characterised by a dramatic division of its population into two sections: those who live above the international poverty line and those – 41.6% of the population, as per World Bank’s 2005 estimate – who live below it.

The economically secure and the economically impoverished sections live literally side-by-side in India – urban areas witness sprawling businesses, constant upcroppings of cyber-cities and shopping malls and a Westernised corporate culture; at the same time, rural areas are dependent on a failing agricultural system for survival – monsoons are moody, farming practices are outdated and government help, in terms of technical support and loans, is irregular at best.

Rural migrants to urban areas are not much better off, having to face cramped living conditions and dubious employment prospects, with no consistent supply of food and water to tide them through.

How is this gap bridged?

There are constant efforts on the part of concerned citizens who are comfortably well-off, with the aim of trying to make life for the underprivileged slightly more comfortable, even in a small way. The most common method of helping is volunteerism – donating one’s time, with no incentive of profits, to help a worthy cause.

NGOs in Delhi, for example, report that nearly 40% of their staff is composed of women from upper-middle-class society who spend two weeks in a month at the NGO offices, and these women also apply to take part in off-site projects in remote hinterlands of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkand, to name a few.

Volunteering, in the true sense of the word, is associated with selflessness – a desire to give to others without any reward at the end of the task. However, the privileged section of people seem to be volunteering these days simply for the sake of drowning out that pesky voice ringing in their ears that tells them to be worthy citizens and good people.

The indulgent consumerism and the unabashed opulence which most of high society lives in, seems to create in them a sense of guilt – or a need to justify their expenditure and way of living. So they volunteer their time, or donate their money, or offer their skills, to causes that surround them. One might argue that whatever their motivation, the end result is the same: help being given to those in need of it.

However, is it also not important to consider the intention with which they begin the task? Selflessness is lost to the wind as these acts of supposed kindness are just engaged in to satisfy themselves that they are now respectably considerate citizens of society – it is done with an “I Feel Good” sensation. They can now boast of their achievements in a pseudo-humble manner.

Of course, there are those from the well-off pockets of society who volunteer for the sake of helping others, and without expecting gratification or accolades. But are these altruists in a minority?

Can volunteerism really be considered selfless if one exits the venture feeling smug and contented – and after the sporadic bursts of human empathy, one goes back to living the same lifestyle only to feel the need for justification a few months later? How much is this helping anyone, and to what extent? Simply put – are you really helping someone if you are only doing it to feel good about yourself at the end of it?

It seems that the very essence of volunteerism is fading away.

CE_YKA

By Anshul Tewari:

2010 was the year of some great announcements and analysis of some of the most critical issues India has been facing. In the last 3 years of its existence, all of us at Youth Ki Awaaz have seen and emphasized on onekey principle of bringing about the change in our society, i.e., citizen activism. It is only when everyday citizens get together and address an issue – that we see ground breaking change happening.

With this thought in mind, I take immense pleasure in introducing our partners in change, Citizen Effect. Citizen Effect is driven by the idea that anyone can make a real and significant impact in the world. Their mission is to provide everyday citizens the tools and networks they need to work directly with communities around the world.

They help you partner with communities in need, and build a more self-reliant and sustainable life for them by completing a small but critical project. Citizen Effect is a great example of how common people like you and me can be the solution and help others lead a better life.

Just a visit to the Citizen Effect website will give you an insight into how people have engaged themselves in philanthropy and impacted thousands of lives.

In the coming days, you will find a lot of discussion on Citizen Philanthropy, some great opportunities for yourself, case studies of how communities have been impacted and much more. You can follow the updates atyouthkiawaaz.com/topic/citizenphilanthropy.

To know more about Citizen Effect, log on to http://citizeneffect.org/. To know about the projects they run, visithttp://citizeneffect.org/projects.

The need of the hour is to be the change. We are ready, are you?

random-acts-of-kindness

By Faiyaz Hawawala:

“Whether it is a small or a big act of kindness, it is not to be showcased.”

This is a very simple sentence but has a deep meaning if you try to understand it. Since the past few days I have been meeting and hearing about some people who actually believe in the above sentence. According to me they are real-life heroes and I think that their acts of kindness, which are not only beneficial to society and mankind but also to the environment and ecosystem, should be shared.

Let’s talk about two people on whom my friends once made a short documentary film. There are two friends named as Bharat and Hassan together known as “Miya Mahadev” in the old walled city of Ahmedabad. They are called so because of acts of kindness they do and the bond of friendship prevailing between them for the last 25 years. They have seen many riots with their own eyes and Bharat bhai helped Hassan bhai by saving his lorry, which was his only source of income, from a mob.

For 25 years there have been several small and big acts of kindness by “Miya Mahadev” such as providing drinking water to people during summer, helping people to sought addresses personally and on calls with their deep knowledge of routes by making available their mobile numbers on sign boards saying “Miya Mahadev Inquiry Center” for absolutely no cost. and a lot more. Their friendship is respected by all the traders in the market and by their own family. Moreover, they respect each other and their religions a lot. Apart from that, Bharat bhai has taken the responsibility of opening the shrine opposite his tailor shop every morning and starting off with a prayer in it daily. Though belonging to a lower financial class, by doing small and big acts of kindness they set an example in our society. I thank my friends Aayush Patel, Mit Jani, Prateek Gupta and their team for showcasing the kindness of “Miya Mahadev” so that it makes a positive impact of communal harmony amongst the young generation of India.

Today I met a thoughtful and respectable nature lover, wildlife enthusiast, a birdwatcher, an artist, a sculptor, and a photographer, Mr Tejas Soni. While talking to him I realised the importance and greatness of things he has done in his life to help the birds, other animals and creatures to balance the ecosystem. In his thoughts I found courage to fight with the wrong. He has helped promote a bird sanctuary named “Thol lake” which is 30 kms away from Ahmedabad by finding new species of birds and making efforts to stop littering in the area.

This ensures that dogs and crows don’t hog the area or further disturb approximately 250 species of birds which are found at Thol. He has always helped people who are interested in birds and bird-watching by providing necessary information. His aim is to educate and spread awareness amongst more and more youngsters and children about nature so that they start respecting it, in his words, “When people will start respecting nature, they will automatically stop harming the environment and the ecosystem will be balanced”.

After meeting him I met another enthusiast but one of a different kind, a snake enthusiast, Mr Aavishkar Joshi. 10-15 years ago, he used to work in a water resort near Ahmedabad where people used to kill snakes whenever they encountered one. After much thought, he decided to catch them and free them into the forest rather than killing them. After getting in touch with some experts he started getting more knowledge about snakes and became an expert on the species, while the snakes became his love.

Since then he has rescued approximately 2000 snakes and saved their lives and also the lives of people who had encountered them. He reminisced some of the incidents of snake rescue and tears rolled down my eyes. People used to thank him as though he was a God; the happiness he used to see on rescued people’s face was the best feeling in the world. And on top of it, he and his team, whom he trained, did not charge a single penny from the rescued. They believed that it was their duty to “rescue the snake as it had entered the human habitat by mistake“.

For me these kinds of people are my real life heroes rather than SRK or Angelina Jolie. What about you?

Image courtesy: http://www.timeisloveblog.com/2009/09/15/22-random-acts-of-kindness-anyone-can-do/

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