When most countries in the world are experiencing ageing problem, India is lush with about 65% of its population below 35 years of age. The youth in India has emerged to be a great force marking its presence in politics, economy, science, civil services and many such important avenues. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that there could never be a better time to be ‘young’ in India.
People could write at lengths about the positive changes that the Young India engenders but still there are some important avenues that need our immediate attention. If Wikipedia were to be believed, India’s charity index ranks 91st in the list of 140 countries and the United States of America, 2nd. The list of most Philanthropic people in the world starts with Bill Gates, an American, and features many more like Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg etc. There does appear an Indian in the list, Azim Premji ranked at no. 4, just one Indian in the list of twenty. India never lacked rich people; still we stand at 91 in the list of 140 and appear just once in the list of 20. That, to me, is a big concern for a country, which is home to over 1.2 billion people.
The stark difference between the indices of these two countries had my rational nerves churning. What makes USA a frontrunner in the list and India trail by this extent? What are we Indians doing wrong, that the Americans seem to have all figured out? Having stayed in both these countries for a significant amount of time, I could find answers to some of these questions.
A few days back, I was reading some tips to help me get into one of the top business schools in the U.S. Engage in volunteering work, said most of the websites. Social work makes your profile look very impressive, it further said. Top schools in the U.S. encourage and hugely value the contributions that their prospective students make to the society. Every school has a day of caring, every corporate office sets aside few work hours for its employees to dedicate to volunteer work. Having done so much, no wonder USA appears at the top of the list.
Question remains though: Is it just the Government that makes USA one of the most charitable countries in the world or is there something that the people are doing at their individual levels too? The answer is YES, the individuals in the U.S. are doing a lot by themselves and there is so much that we can learn from them. Young India is full of energy, which needs to be utilized in the most productive way. All we need is to take the first step and an account of my recent experiences holds the cue as to where to start.
Recently, I moved to a new city in the U.S. In just six months, Seattle has won me over with its energy and enthusiasm and CRY Seattle deserves a special mention for my admiration. CRY (Child Rights and You) Seattle is the local chapter of CRY America that raises funds to support multiple projects in India aimed at improving living standards of people living in the remote places
The Seattle chapter of CRY was started in 1998 by a few Indians and has transformed into a big community today. We organize various events throughout the year to generate funds. CRY America, with the help of CRY Seattle and other similar chapters, has been able to make 4000 odd villages child labor free, enrolled about 650,00 kids in schools and immunized around 200,000 children.
Joining hands with CRY Seattle has been an enriching experience for me and also an example that young India needs to emulate. It may come as surprise to many that none of the volunteers at CRY Seattle work full time. All of us volunteers have our 9-5 jobs and it is the after work hours that we devote towards planning and organizing different fund raising events. We meet every Monday to plan for upcoming events. Some of our weekends end up being busier than others when we need to be at the venue of the event setting up CRY booths and welcoming the attendees. We sometimes survive on one sandwich and a bottle of water but at the end of the day all our hard work seems worthy when we look at the funds we were able to raise. Day ends and everybody goes back to their job on Monday morning.
The volunteers of CRY Seattle are no different than any other Indian. We have our families and jobs to attend but we still make time to work for CRY. We do not make huge monetary contributions out of our pocket, but we get together and contribute our time to raise considerable funds. This makes me ponder that if we, in the U.S., can do it, then why not the Indians?
We hear and read stories of so many young Indians who are leaving their jobs for their social work pursuit. These efforts are really commendable but I find these a rather unsustainable solution. We cannot expect everyone to leave his or her job and start working for charity. They need to earn money to provide for their family. However, to spare one hour of their week’s time to charity is not too much to ask for. Organizations like CRY Seattle have proved this model to be sustainable and pretty successful. If every person if India pledges to devote just one hour a week towards a social cause, imagine the kind of change these people can bring when they join hands.
India is as young today as it could ever be which makes a strong case for utilizing the young energy to the betterment of the society. In the end, we all need to think, as Emma Watson would say, If not me then who, if not now then when?