Shashank Debunked His Plans To Study Abroad And Decided To Inspire Change: This Is Why!

Posted on March 26, 2014 in Interviews, Volunteerism

By Anwesha Dhar:

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


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

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

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

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