Indian-origin youths to be honoured for social work
Nineteen youngsters of Indian origin will be honoured by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at a special ceremony Sunday for their voluntary work in India.
The Gujarat Garima (Pride of Gujarat) awards, organised by Gujarat Times, a weekly Gujarati language news magazine published from New York, will be given to the North American youngsters doing social work in India for the past year under fellowships from the US-based Indiacorps voluntary organisation.
The award ceremony will also mark the launch of Indicorps' "Ahmedabad Volunteer Project", under which selected youngsters will work to improve civic conditions in the city.
Indiacorps was started by 27-year-old Anand Shah and his two sisters Sonal and Rupal to help North American youngsters of Indian origin visit India for social work.
"The idea was to provide a platform to those in North America who wish to spare time for social work in India," Anand said.
"Many youngsters of Indian origin in the US want to help their motherland. There are many agencies collecting donations and channelling funds to various projects in India, but we wanted to help those who were ready to devote their own time."
The idea germinated four years ago, after Shah returned to the US from a visit to the Mumbai-based Tattvagyan Vidyapith, a religious institute founded by the late Pandurang Athavale.
Anand visited campuses and libraries in the US and talked to youngsters about the idea. He then launched a website, www.indicorps.org, to invite people to visit India on one-year "public service fellowships" - funded by the savings of the three siblings.
"We had thought we would get about 10-15 applications. To our surprise, the website registered more than 20,000 hits and we received 60 applications," he said.
Anand then short-listed several organisations active in the voluntary sector in India. He also briefed the selected participants, in their late teens or twenties, about work conditions in India.
Nine youngsters received the fellowship in its first year, followed by 11 in the second.
"Indicorps has given me an opportunity to understand the people of India and appreciate their values," said Kabir Kumar, who was given the fellowship last year but decided to avail it this year.
Another participant, Gaurav Parnami, worked with slum dwellers here last year, but has returned this year to continue his work.
When the state government announced the Gujarat Garima awards this year, Anand found himself in an august company that included industrialists Mukesh Ambani and Ratan Tata and economist Jagdish Bhagwati.