TODAY’S youth have been predominantly labelled as “carefree” for the lack of their commitment towards society and their interest in humanity welfare. Breaking the walls of this myth, youngsters have proven that their resonance is powerful. There is a silent but powerful yearning among the urban youth to make a positive difference to the community around.
In the year 2008, when The Times of India launched ‘Teach India’ campaign more than 80,000 people enrolled from major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai of which 80 per cent were aged between 18-30 yrs. It is evident that many more people aspire to be a part of such campaigns but lack of information desist them from actively participating and involving in social affairs. It is also understood that most NGOs are run by full time staff; either paid or inspired workers. NGOs needed orientation on effectively utilising part-time volunteers, many of whom are highly qualified.
Youth for Seva (YFS) was born in April 2007 as a project of ‘Hindu Seva Pratishthana’ to bridge this gap by connecting those interested in volunteering with different service organisations and creating peer groups for each project.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. YFS has attracted over 4,000 volunteers since inception and it has spread its wings in Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, Bhopal, and Coimbatore apart from Mysore, Shimoga and Hubli in Karnataka. It plans to expand in near future.
There is room for every one
Whether you have few hours in the weekdays or weekends or few months after graduation, YFS has a schedule to suit your work pattern. Prithi, an engineering student who teaches English at Veerabhadranagar Government School on weekends says, “The beauty of YFS lies in its flexibility. Whatever your interests, time availability, and experience level is, YFS will find something for you.”
Weekend and weekday volunteers
Volunteers are involved with activities such as teaching children in orphanages, conducting spoken English and computer skills classes for students in government schools, slums, playing with sick children in hospitals, and volunteering at schools for children with disabilities. Volunteers assist in free medical camps and follow up treatments for the needy. Women who volunteer on weekdays, run non-formal schools for children of construction workers who otherwise do not attend school.
College students participate in ‘Seva Vacation’ during their semester breaks and even go to remote villages to volunteer. It was a thrilling and life enriching experience for the students from IIMB (Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore) and other Engineering college students who spent their vacation with Vanvasi children at Dandeli and Bandipur forest. Prabhanjan, an engineering student who volunteered in villages through the Seva Vacation programme says, “Volunteering with YFS has given me a new perspective on life. The few weeks I spent with our Vanvasi brothers and sisters in the forests of Bandipur have left an indelible mark on me.”
Thirty five Fresh Engineering graduates participated in the ‘Seva Fellowship’ programme in 2009. Shri Vikshut Mundkur, an Infosys employee, took a year of sabbatical and volunteered full time with YFS. He setup the environment division and even after returning to Infosys, continues to head this department. He says, “I had the passion to do something for the environment and YFS provided the perfect platform and support needed to put my ideas in to action. There is total freedom in YFS to realise your dream and that’s what I liked the most”.
Smt Ashwini Bhat, who also took sabbatical from Infosys and volunteered with Healthcare department says, “I really appreciate the open and transparent culture at YFS and the freedom given to explore new ideas. It is highly enthusing to work in such an environment.”
To bring about a bottom-up change in the people to lead eco-friendly lifestyle, Green Commandos (GS) was launched in 2009. GC assists in setting up solid waste management systems in neighbourhoods and is an active member of Solid Waste Management Round Table in Bangalore. GC volunteers actively plant saplings and are setting up in Green Clubs in schools. To encourage people to use uncolored, clay idols of Ganesha, ‘Parisara Ganapati’ (www.parisaragana pati.net) was successfully carried out by GC.
Doctors for Seva
To provide quality healthcare to economically lower families, Doctors for Seva (DFS) was initiated in 2010. There has been a zealous participation from the hospitals and individual physicians to support this programme. Within six months 26 free medical, dental and eye checkup camps were conducted and sponsorships were arranged for all those who needed referrals whether it meant donating spectacles or sponsoring surgeries.
Partnering with other NGOs
YFS is associated with many local NGOs that are working in various spheres of education, healthcare, environment and rural development. This network has facilitated the volunteers to choose service projects closer to their homes and also many NGOs derive support from the young and highly qualified volunteers. The volunteers are making phenomenal contributions to their community and creating positive change in the lives of thousands of people.
School Kit, Seva Fair and Sponsor a Child
In addition to working with other NGOs, YFS volunteers initiated their own projects. For the past two years, they have organised a school kit drive to provide underprivileged children with necessary school materials. Donors sponsor a school kit, which includes a school bag, books, pencils, pens, and a geometry kit, for Rs. 250. In 2010, YFS school kits reached over 35,000 children in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
‘Seva Fair’ has been a flagship project of Pune wing where stalls are setup in over 100 companies to promote products made by SHGs and people with disabilities. Similar fairs were conducted in Bangalore and Hyderabad during the festival of lights, Deepavali.
YFS also launched a programme called “Sponsor a Child” in 2009 (www.sponsorachild.youthforseva.org) through which 570 children are provided with education and health support.
Collaborating with the corporate
YFS has also partnered with many companies to implement Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes. Adopting government schools for healthcare and academic improvement have been the major focus of CSR programmes. YFS has also united with companies to setup Green Clubs in schools to raise awareness about eco-friendly lifestyle among children. KPIT Cummins, EMC Data Storage Systems, Bosch and Phillips are some of the CSR partners of YFS.
Towards creating a movement called ‘volunteering’
YFS is not interested in building a large organisation. Our aim is to facilitate a movement of ‘volunteering’ where everyone will feel empowered to make a difference. The recipe for any public work to become a movement is that “All have to give some time; some have to give all the time.” Volunteering brings about sensitivity to social issues. It makes people feel connected and instills a sense of belonging to larger community. The overwhelming response to YFS and similar programmes across the country reinforces our conviction that “Youth volunteering in India is an idea that was waiting to explode and there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”