Monday, March 29, 2010

Youthrise update

I have just returned from chaperoning the Youthrise group on one of the most exhilarating and
satisfying experiences I have had in a long time. Youthrise is a purely student driven initiative which was inspired by the need to take on the responsibility and active leadership towards making a change in the aftermath of the 26 / 11 terror attacks in Mumbai. Under the auspices of the Social Experience Department, a group of KIS students came together with a set of goals:

• Leadership aimed at motivating and inspiring youth across the country
• Saving the Environment by building green houses and encouraging organic farming in tribal
areas in the Niligiris
• Fostering Unity through service while actively using media and music to bring about social

The first Youthrise initiative was a tour to Delhi and Mumbai where the group met survivors of the Mumbai terror attack, political leaders, media personalities and musicians from whom they
Youthrise taking a class at NAWA School, Kotagiri received both encouragement and a promise to lend their services and support towards the groups efforts in building a nationwide movement. Today the movement has already spread to 46 cities in the country. “Greater numbers means greater change. We are looking at building an international youth movement to impact a global change.” says Ananda Boga, Founder and President of Youthrise at KIS.

Today these highly motivated students have adopted a tribal orphanage in Kodai which they visit every Saturday. They are currently painting the building, teaching music, art and sports to the children there while simultaneously giving them both love and encouragement.

On 11 February we left on a four-day trip into the Nilgiri hills. We spent a day in a small town
called Kotagiri and then moved to a tiny tribal village, Kolikarai. The purpose was to expose the
students and encourage them to appreciate a variety of aspects of village life. In addition we
were there to gauge the receptiveness of the local tribal community to external inputs, aimed at
improving their lives and the way they lived. On being questioned, a majority of the families
wanted us to intervene and help the children of the village in whichever way possible. On the first day, the Youthrise group visited a school supported by the Nilgiris Adivasi Welfare Association (NAWA) in Kotaigiri. In a well maintained school building which sits on the hillside overlooking a beautiful tea plantation, KIS students spent half the day with 180 young lively children who travel across unfriendly terrain from neighboring tribal villages to attend school.

While some members of our group taught them art, math and nursery rhymes, others spent time playing football and cricket with them teaching them the intricacies of the game which they all seemed eager to learn. A meeting with the Principal focused on the school’s immediate requirements which included both math and English workbooks. Youthrise decided to carry these back to the school on their next visit.

On the second day we piled into a small school bus and drove down the hill to Kolikarai. Here we spent two enriching days in a tiny village set in the heart of the Nilgiri forests. The village is surrounded by beautiful tree covered hills spotted with tea plantations. It is serviced by a small functional hospital and very basic food and water arrangements. Our students adjusted to limited resources, mingled easily with the children for whom the language gap did not seem to be an impediment and appreciated the beauty of the environment and nature around them. The young boys and girls watched excitedly as our students pulled out enamel paints and brushes we had carried from Kodai and painted the swings in the village playground with cheerful colors. In the evening our group put on a cultural program for the families who flocked around them and cheered at familiar songs and dances being performed.

The next day we walked several hours into the forest escorted by one of the village folk to visit a couple of outlying tribal villages. While situated amidst breathtakingly beautiful views, they were far less developed than the one we were staying at. The group voiced the urgent need to intervene and improve their conditions. We decided to meet in the evening to discuss and come up with options which would be both acceptable and uncomplicated to implement. After a brainstorming session on the last day, Youthrise decided to go back to Kolikarai in March and run workshops for the children on basic personal health and hygiene. They will also work with the village folk on garbage management and its disposal. After reviewing the success of this project the group will adopt other tribal villages in the area while simultaneously working with NAWA in this belt to ensure a ripple effect and sustainability of this project.

Alika Khosla
Development Officer