Go rural for total India

Go rural for total India

New Delhi: It’s a different kind of internship. Stay in a village for five weeks, learn some, teach some and contribute where it is most needed.

iVolunteer, a not-for-profit organization, has a summer fellowship programme for youth that selects students from metros and other cities and places them in villages in Uttaranchal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu etc.

“The thought behind the India Fellow Programme is to get the urban youth into contact with the rural," says Shalab Sahai, director of the fellowship programme. Currently in its fifth year, the programme has received over 800 applications and has 175 fellows so far.

“It’s an option for this summer. It could be life changing or maybe just enough to make a small contribution to society," says Sahai.

“It’s very simple. India is hugely getting influenced by young people and thought. City kids are going to decide the future of 70% of the country, yet they have no idea about life in the village. The programme’s aim is to build that missing connect," the director explains.

The NGO picks a small but motivated number of volunteers and places them in different villages across the country. This year’s selection process is currently in progress. “It’s a rigorous programme, not a campsite or a picnic," he warns. “Motivation and a positive, open attitude are the foremost requirement. There is no skill set as such; however knowing the local language is an advantage."

Click here to view a slideshow narrated by Mihika, an iVolunteer fellow who worked in a village in Gujarat.

iVolunteer ties up with local NGOs like Pahal and Chirag in Uttarachal, WOTR (Watershed Organisation Trust) in Maharashtra, and Seva Mandir in Udaipur. The fellows are required to complete projects, such as make documentary films on how to promote local tourism, hold educational and awareness classes, and assist with leisure activities like drawing or pottery. In the past, fellows have come up with ideas on how to add to village income, helped create women’s self help groups, conducted research into the reasons behind school dropouts and how they can be arrested, and also helped with setting up shops, maintaining accounts, and coming up with processes to minimize work and maximize profits.

After volunteers are chosen, the NGO conducts an orientation programme for them before placing them in villages. “It can be a culture shock for both parties, and we tell them how to adapt and not disrupt the daily lives of the villagers," says Sahai.

The fee for the five-week programme is Rs18,500 per fellow. It includes training, travel and stay. The NGO also offers scholarships in a few cases.

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