Youth, the tomorrow of India. Time and again youngsters have proved themselves when they have got together for a cause; they do not give up or back down. Youngsters have been at the forefront organising awareness rallies and conducting programmes on social causes. They also stand up in support of other students in need as well. With 60 per cent of the population aged between 15-35, what youngsters do matters. Youth organisations have had a huge role to play in making good citizens out of the next generation.
Where there is a need
Youngsters today seem to be full of ideas, and they are looking for a place to channel them. That is where youth organisations offer a platform. “These organisations get like-minded people together and get them to work with each other. This builds a sort of comradeship among youngsters,” says Sunil Chavan, mentor and organiser, NIRMAN, an NGO based in Mumbai.
Youth organisations also instil a sense of responsibility in youngsters. The youth are driven by the need to create a better society and their own sense of satisfaction at achieving such goals. Through their work, they build and enhance their skills such as communication and leadership. The students also get a first-hand experience at exploring varied career paths and opportunities.
Unlike earlier when communication channels were limited, youngsters now have the Internet on the go and communicate through social networking sites and travel often. So their awareness radar is up to date. They either hear about such organisations from friends or fellow students or read about them on the internet or magazines.
Milbrey McLaughlin, Emeritus Professor at Standford Graduate School of Education and Director, The John W Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities and Center for Research on the Context of Teaching, in his research publication, Community Counts: How Youth Organisations Matter for Youth Development, says, “Communities have changed, families have been transformed, and workplace demands are fundamentally different from what they were a quarter of a century ago. Youth lose out. Young people with nothing to do during out-of-school hours miss valuable chances for growth and development. Youth organisations engage young people in challenging but fun things to do, offer a safe haven from often dangerous streets, and provide ways to spend free time in ways that contribute significantly to their learning and their social development.” His findings were based on 10 years of research, visiting over 120 youth-based organisations across 34 different cities in the US. Here’s looking at the work some of the organisations in India do.
World Organisation of Students and Youth (WOSY)
WOSY is an international organisation based in Delhi. Started in 1985, it helps foreign students in India. They fight for causes like social justice, human rights, peace and co-existence, fight against discrimination and drug abuse, and create awareness on diseases like AIDS and cancer. They have chapters in Bangalore, Pune, Chandigarh, Delhi, Hyderabad, Agra, Mysore, Shimla, Puducherry, Bhubaneswar and Jaipur.
Sticking true to their mission statement — to inspire and motivate youth irrespective of race, religion, region, power and language — they help international students who come to India with accommodation and university admissions. “There are so many different organisations working for the welfare of students in India. WOSY aims to create a family setting for students who come to India, providing them a platform to excel and feel at home. We share our cultural practices and also learn from them of their cultures,” says Chandrashekar Reddy, Head of the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana WOSY Chapters. Their funds come from donations and fund-raising events. Volunteers also pool in money for various events and celebrations.
The organisation also helps students get jobs in India and abroad. As their main aim is to deal with issues affecting global peace and international relations, they organise seminars and conferences. “There are more than 20,000 students who are part of WOSY. We organise freshers’ parties every year in which more than 800 students participate. Raksha Bandhan is also celebrated to promote international brotherhood. Similar celebrations are held during festivals like Diwali, Sankranthi, Ramzan and Christmas,” he explains.
WOSY members had also sought help from students in Iraq during the ISIS crisis. “We consolidated safe places and identified dangerous locations and submitted a report to the Indian government. This was passed on to Indian citizens in Iraq,” says Chandrashekar.
The youth organisation was started in 2006 by the couple Abhay and Rani Bang, doctors and social activists. They organise training camps for youngsters to identify social setbacks and work towards development of the society.
Says, Kedar Adkar, a mentor in NIRMAN, “We conduct camps in three phases with a gap of six months between each. The main aim is to help youngsters gain social relevance at work.” These camps are conducted for 8-10 days. So far more than 580 students have participated in five such camps. During the first camp, students get clarity about social work, identifying themselves with specific social issues. During the second camp, people are sorted into groups and are involved in various activities — like living in villages, getting to work with people there, providing education and helping clean up the surroundings. They also get experts from other NGOs to speak about their experiences.
For the third camp, participants get to choose where and what they want to work on. They can work with orphanages or old age homes, or help children with education and raise funds, among other community service activities. Interested candidates will be selected through interviews. “We look at the concern the candidate has about society, the drive to create a change and what they are ready to do to initiate such a change,” says Kedar.
One of the most popular youth organisations, this NGO was started in 2006. With branches in Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Jaipur and Tiruchy, they are involved in the education of underprivileged children and help them deal with various social issues.
“We started Bhumi with the sole purpose of doing something in our free time, something that would benefit the country at large. When we started it, we realised that the problems we were trying to solve were bigger than they seemed. So we decided to do something meaningful,” says Bhumi’s co-founder Prahalathan K. The founders pooled in initial investments to get the NGO running. Now they are funded through donations.
“We primarily work with children of a specific region and teach them English, Computer Science, Maths and Science. We also teach them music and dance. We try to make the children socially conscious. We do reading sessions with the visually-challenged, clean beaches and hospitals and conduct tree plantations among other activities,” says Prahalathan. Their education initiatives include Kanini (computer basics and concepts are taught), Speak Out (English-learning programme), Little Einsteins (Mathematics and Science) and Lakshya (a leadership development programme for kids).
Besides this, they also conduct an annual talent fest called Nakshatra and Nakshatra Reach Out (competitions). Bhumi, which has a majority of college students as volunteers (it has more than 1,000 volunteers and counting, across seven cities in India), has won several awards, including the ‘Vocational Excellence Education’ award from the Rotary Club of Chennai in 2013, ‘Beacon of Hope’ award from Lions Club of Chennai in 2012, ‘InDiya Shine Award’ from Great Non Profits, US in 2009 and they were selected as one of the ‘Asia Pacific Emerging 100’ youth social entrepreneurships by China’s Foundation for Youth Social Entrepreneurship in 2009.
An international NGO based in Netherlands, it has its presence in over 120 countries. It is purely a student-run organisation (includes graduates too). They conduct a Youth Global Internship Programme, a Youth Global Entrepreneurial Programme and other activities for leadership development and social awareness. AIESEC is supported by United Nations Economic and Social Council and is recognised by UNESCO. It operates in association with the United Nations Department of Public Information and UN’s Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. It is also a member of the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organisations (ICYMO). ICYMO is the world’s largest youth connectivity network, which provides a common platform for youth-led organisations to meet and discuss ideas annually. AIESEC is one of the earliest youth organisations to be established (started by the end of 1940).
Varunya Ilanghovan, team leader of the marketing department of AIESEC India’s Chennai chapter, says, “The objective is to develop responsible and entrepreneurial young leaders who can lead tomorrow. We do this by providing practical leadership experiences by helping young individuals around the globe meet, network and learn from each other. We believe that seeing the world makes them understand it, and this understanding leads to effective change. Our vision statement is, peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential.” AIESEC-India has more than 6,400 members.
Here are few other organisations that contribute to youth development and empowerment in the country:
The Youth Parliament was started in 2002 by social entrepreneur Ishita Chaudhry. It legally became The YP Foundation in 2007. They help youngsters develop leadership skills. They also organise programmes to support healthcare, education, democracy, governance and arts education. The organisation also conducts the Organisational Development Committee Phases (ODC Phases). This is a four-phase programme spread over a course of 12 months. Volunteers will get to select a project, design a concept and develop it, gather other volunteers, implement these ideas in society, get feedback, finish documentation and submit it for analysis. Evaluations are done after each phase. (www.theypfoundation.org)
Youth United is an NGO which caters to helping disabled and less-privileged children and create awareness on public issues. It was started in 2006, by Jyotindra Nath, when he was studying at Panjab University, Chandigarh. Through their Smiling Future programme for children from poor economic backgrounds, they host cultural programmes, raise funds and connect with donors to help fund the children’s education and help them get a foothold in society. Smiling Future has editions in Chandigarh, Patiala, Bangalore, Pune and Chennai. (www.youthunited.in).
Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) started in 2008 as a small group of youngsters in Delhi, who got together for a common cause: to work in regions affected by climate change. It was registered as an NGO in 2009 and has since hosted several programmes and rallies on environmental and climate change, waste management, rural development, lake and beach clean-ups and awareness on organic gardens, among others. They have also held Youth Summits, usually a 3-6 day event, during which discussions on climate change and sustainable solutions are held along with skill-building sessions. IYCN has also organised the Great Power Race competition between students of India, China and the US. They have to provide solutions for climate change and conservation. It has various chapters across the country, including Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad. (www.iycn.in)