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Save a tiger this summmer

Take advantage of some great volunteering opportunities

education Updated: Apr 17, 2012 13:41 IST
Vincy Davis

Volunteering is a great way to gain some meaningful experience in life. Not only does it help you reach out to your community, you develop new skills, explore career paths, discover new avenues and meet interesting people. Get in touch with the NGOs around the city or if you’re the adventurous kind, explore some of these options outside the city during your summer break. It could prove to be the perfect opportunity to see new places, experience the local culture and make friends with likeminded people.

Charusheel Tripathi, a student of LSR, volunteered to conduct social audits in Bihar’s Araria district and learnt valuable lessons about rural India last year. The audits were organised by Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS), an Araria based trade union working for the rights of the unorganised sector and saw participation of over 40 student volunteers from different universities. “The social audits revealed to us the extent of misappropriation and unequal distribution of resources at the grassroots level, depriving workers of their basic rights,” says Tripathi.

Another volunteer, Deepak Johnson from IIT Madras, found it to be a life-changing experience, “I’ve become more serious now and know about the ground realities which would not have been possible without this stint at JJSS.” In between audits, Deepak even found the time to spend a few days with some of the volunteers in bordering Nepal – making it an unforgettable experience altogether.

Within Delhi, there are NGOs like Pravah and Swechha which facilitate placement of volunteers with various grassroots organisations around the country. Swechha evolved from the “We for Yamuna” Campaign and has, over a span of 11 years, turned into a hub of dynamic volunteers. Through its ‘Influence’ programme, Swechha educates young people and mobilises volunteers to act on environmental issues. One element of this programme is the facilitation of internships and volunteerships with leading organisations such as the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala. “These outstation internships give us the opportunity to put our education to good use. They clear misconceptions and help us connect with people we would have e otherwise overlooked”, says Jyoti, an LSR student and volunteer with Swechha.

IIT Delhi student Kundan Kumar says his month- long stint with the Narmada Bachao Andolan group in Madhya Pradesh last year transformed him into an outgoing and confident individual. “Meeting new people, interacting with village leaders, learning to live in peace with others taught me many life lessons. The experience was all this and more than what the NGO Pravah prepared us for during our orientation and training,” says Kundan as he continues to live by Pravah’s motto – ‘From me to we’.

Pravah is connected with 30 pan India NGOs working on issues of empowerment and development. These include the Aruna Roy-led, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (Rajasthan) and the Pan Himalayan Grassroot Development Foundation (Uttarakhand) which works on assisting communities in restoring water basins in the lower Himalayan regions and promoting sustainable development.

Before applying for volunteering remember to not be hasty in selecting a project or organisation. First, take time to think about what problems or issues in the community concern you and as you search for the “right” volunteer activity, ask yourself how much time you can give to this activity. Work out your commitment levels.

Are you ready to do without modern comforts? Would you be willing to take on hard work in possibly harsh conditions? Volunteer for something you enjoy or would love to explore. Once you’ve sorted your motive for volunteering; you will find it is easy to get hooked on to. It then not only expands your horizons but can translate into a satisfying, life- long commitment.

Charusheel Tripathi student of LSR
Social audits in Bihar’s Araria district made me aware of the extent of misappropriation and how there was unequal distribution at the grassroots level, depriving workers of their basic rights