From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Gyan Prakash: “Yes, we all did”, Chandrakala Malik says proudly. A rare accomplishment of ‘open defecation free village’ has been achieved in Mandapathar where Chandrakala resides. Mandapathar is a small hamlet in the Gayaganda Panchayat of Ganjam district in Odisha, a state which is infamous for open defecation."
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Gyan Prakash: "A year ago, if somebody had told me that I could happily live on INR 16,000 rupees per month, I would have laughed in disbelief. But living in the mountains, surrounded by people who refuse to take part in any rat race, or succumb to the pressures of ‘modern’ lifestyles, I have realised how content I could be with a lot less."
A guy who had never experienced life in a rural area, who had never seen a village, what was he supposed to think of a village? A place full of uncivilised, rustic people leading a simple life, a place in the lap of nature, with very little advancements.
A small village with a population of 1500, Karachka is located in the interior-most part of the district of Surat (the diamond cutting-polishing hub, and one of the fastest growing cities in the world) in southern Gujarat. Away from the glamour of the city and the glitter of diamonds , away from the lights, lurks the lives of more than a thousand people who are not the so-called ‘beneficiaries’ of the socio-economic development of our times.
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Nishan Nazer: I am an architect by profession and I am proud to be one. I am proud because as an architect I am able to observe problems from different angles and create innovative and pragmatic solutions to the problem. But immediately after my course, I moved to rural Orissa instead of practicing as a professional architect in the city. Many questioned my decision to work in Orissa, that too
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Deepshi Arya: "For Kamla, reveling in the little moments of her 3-year-old first step or her first utterance is not as important. She has other priorities to take care of."
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Sharbani Chattoraj: Students at the school are not merely the object of attention; rather, they are active stakeholders and responsible members of the school community.
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Dibyajyoti: Have you ever imagined your life devoid of basic necessities like food, clothes, money, electricity, water, education etc? You might not even dare to think of such a thing, as it seems quite impossible. In fact, in the twenty-first century, one can’t sustain himself without these.
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Sharbani Chattoraj: Moving into a residential school in the middle of an academic term is a daunting task. No matter how old you are, the feeling of being the new kid floods back with almost a laughable ease. You can almost sense others looking at you as if you belong to some exotic species.
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Dibyajyoti: Kotda is a remote place in Udaipur district of Rajasthan which is also known as ‘Kalapani’. Government officials who are sent here are regarded as having ‘punishment posting’. The place is one of the largest blocks of Udaipur, located 120 km south of Udaipur city, bordered in the north by the Pali and Sirohi districts of Rajasthan.
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Sharbani Chattoraj: There’s something really special going on at Gram Vikas Residential School, Kankia. Schools usually are arenas of controlled chaos, sometimes not so controlled. This school, with over five hundred children of the ages six to fifteen, all of whom live on campus, is quietly doing something really spectacular. So wondrous, and yet so unobtrusive that it’s almost too easy to miss.
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Satwik Mishra: I hail from Purnea, Bihar. I hold a B.Tech degree from VIT University, Vellore, and a DEBM degree from EDI, India. When I resigned from a lucrative job, the sole motive was to find my life’s meaning.
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Dibyajyoti: We are proud of our country. We have diverse cultures, religions, traditions and belief systems. India comprises of twenty-nine states and seven union territories. India is a blend of cultures and languages, making it an incredible nation.
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Swetcha Poladi: Jawhar is an agro-biodiversity hotspot populated with many rare species of plants, seeds, crops, etc. But the younger generation there is not aware about traditional facts related to respecting and preserving nature, farming, fishing, art, and more.
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Ruchinilo Kemp: Farmers in Kotra Tehsil, however, have been breathing easy for the last few months. They have all the information they need to deal with each of these situations right at their fingertips.”
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Sai Rath: As dawn breaks in the tiny district of Samastipur, its light illuminating the winding, dusty streets and modest houses, children gleefully prepare for a day of fun learning. Tightly clutching their school supplies in their tiny hands, they make their way to the Bherokhara Middle School. Winds of change have been blowing through the school.
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Suriya Ansari: A former engineer, is helping improve the health and sanitation conditions of rural India with a simple, cost-effective toilet solution.
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Krishna Thiruvengadam: What happens when children are given the freedom to explore their creativity and designs things they need on their own? Krishna Thiruvengadam went to a village in Maharashtra to find out.
From the diaries of SBI YFI Fellow Roopa Sharma: During her survey as a SBI Youth for India Fellow in Zhirnia block of Khargone district in Madhya Pradesh, 26-year-old Roopa Sharma came across a shocking reality. “I found there were many people in the region who had been waiting for their pensions for the last 10 months. Initially, I thought only a few people in some villages might be facing this problem, but on further questioning I realised it was an issue in the entire block,” she says.
During my stay in Odisha, I got a deep insight into the ways of tribal farmers in the region. Since their villages are situated deep in the interiors of the forest and the markets are far away, conditions are rife for ‘middlemen’ to procure produce at throwaway prices, and then resell it for a substantial profit. The tribal people I encountered are generally polite, and negotiation is not their strong point. From what I could tell, despite their best efforts, the farmers are unable to derive maximum returns for themselves. Yet, I felt there was great potential to change all this.
After quitting his job as an engineer, Shashank Singh decided to take up a development project in rural Rajasthan. Today, he is living in a village, helping rejuvenate a pond that will help generations to come.
During my first two months in Barama in Baksa District, part of the autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in Assam, I uncovered a strange truth about the handloom sector in India. The reservoir of handloom skills is concentrated in the north-eastern states of India, which together account for 16.83 lakh (60.5%) handloom households of the total of 27.83 lakh units engaged in the country. Yet, the north-eastern states haven’t been able to leverage this resource as a viable source of income and employment.
Farmers are more self-reliant and empowered, village kids are more hygienic - all thanks to one man's intervention. Learn about this chemical engineer who quit his job to bring about change in a remote village in Tamil Nadu.
He had a dream job with IBM in London, owned high-tech gadgets, went on foreign trips and had all the luxuries a 27-year-old could possibly imagine. But after working for four years, Shuvajit Payne decided that this was not what he wanted to live for. He wanted to do something meaningful in life rather than making a multinational company richer!
Shriya Rangarajan has come a long way from the comforts of the western world to a remote village in Maharashtra where people struggle to make both ends meet and live in sub-human conditions. Struck by the poverty and desolation of the villagers in Jawhar in Thane district -- many of whom are really talented in arts and craft -- Shriya is now training them to create beautiful pieces of paper-quilled jewellery as a better source of income.
For the Malayalar community of farmers in the remote Kolli Hills region of Tamil Nadu, 26-year-old Anirudh Prasadh has been a catalyst for change. He has been able to push the humble millet crop they have been cultivating for years together without significant profits into a much sought-after value-added natural health product.
An alumnus of the National Institute of Design (Ahmedabad), a computer science graduate, a trained Bharatanatyam dancer and a yoga enthusiast; Shalini Krishnan dons many hats. What makes her profile remarkable is her passion and resolve to transform the destiny of tribal children in the remote village of Kankia in Ganjam district of Odisha.
For 35 poor families of the Musahar community from Gangapur village in Samastipur district of Bihar, Ajay and Somil are visionaries who literally shed light into their lives. Till these youngsters arrived in Gangapur with their out-of–the-box solar-powered electrification project, the villagers were forced to live in an era of darkness, their children were afflicted with eye sight problems due to the stress and strain caused by long exposure to the flickering kerosene lamps.
To the people of Jawhar, a rural tribal hamlet in Thane, situated around 150 kilometers away from Mumbai, she is their own ‘Nagli Madam’, who has found an indigenous solution for infant malnutrition that has plagued the area for the last 50 years. In the last nine months, after Vandana Maurya shifted from New Delhi, quitting a flourishing career in a multinational law firm to the impoverished Jawahar, she has been attempting to bring in radical changes in the unhealthy food habits amongst the tribals here, one of the main reasons for the rise in malnutrition cases.
The farmers in remote villages of Madhya Pradesh, who for years have been exploited by middlemen have to thank to their wives for transforming their lives. In a unique initiative - led by Parth Gupta - that could well serve as a model for villages across the country, womenfolk of villages have come together to form a co-operative society, which has found profitable retail markets to sell the farm produce cultivated by their husbands and relatives.
It has been a paradigm shift for Pratibha Krishnaiah, who till last year was cozily placed, working as a software engineer in a multinational firm in Bangalore.But these days she takes a grinding two-hour trek to reach her work place that is nestled in the Uttarakhand valley and has been trying to bring about a positive change amongst the rural women folk spread across three villages.
Having just finished her B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from NIT Jaipur, Anneka Majhi wanted to contribute more actively and get some grassroot experience of working in a village with perhaps an NGO, that could make her more aware of the problems that plague rural India. A chance came in the form of the SBI Youth for India Fellowship, something she describes as akin to “winning a lottery“, because it gave her the chance to get the genuine and rigorous experience she was looking for, as she tells Youth Ki Awaaz of her experience…
These were some of the responses last year, when I decided to take a break from my college education and take up something quite offbeat and little heard of – the chance to work with a tribal community. But let me tell you, the decision to do this wasn’t a random one.
Rural Gujarat –An abundance of bamboo –A set bamboo trade – And some amazing handiwork; looks like a good enough setting? Definitely does. On picturing this village and its people involved in making artefacts, the raw material for which is naturally available – things appear to be going well. It equates to the perfect use of available bamboo by a community which had the required skills. How and why then, would one think that there is a need for any improvement here!
It was the library period for class 5. The children were all lined up as the librarian distributed books from a pile. I happened to notice Santosh who kept sending others ahead and falling back in the line. When he got his book, he jumped up and cheered! Aah! He was waiting for the only colourful book in the pile of books and he got it! That’s when I realized the importance of attractive, colourful books for children – be it children from the cities or children from tribal hinterlands with whom I currently work. “Where are all the tinkle digests or Amar chitra katha books we read as children?” I thought.
After her post-graduation, Diksha could have joined any big organization. But she chose to go to a remote and nondescript tribal village in Gujarat to solve the plight of the women there. She has effectively installed smokeless chulhas in the village which are not only improving the women's health but also giving them an alternate source of income.
Nupur Ghuliani gave up a lucrative career to work in rural India. Making a cheaper and environment friendly alternative to firewood from waste materials is now her only mission. Like many city-bred youngsters, 22-year-old Nupur Ghuliani had never visited a village. A western rock singer, Nupur was one of the most popular students in her college.
When I was a child, we used to have Art and Craft classes in school. I was quite terrible at it – In fact, I was one of the very few kids in the history of mankind who managed to flunk drawing in kindergarten. There was no hope for me to develop any artistic talent at all. Years later, when I went to teach children at a shelter home, the first gift I received from a student was a paper frog. I was really fascinated by how something made of paper folded fancifully, can catch one’s attention so strongly. Later, while continuing as a teacher in the same shelter home, I saw paper-quilling being taught to the kids as a part of life skills. I often wondered how something like that can help kids to earn their livelihoods on growing up. It was just a hobby, after all. And then, after years of reeling under this confusion, I finally met Shriya.
Sonam had never stepped out of Mumbai. But when she did she not only changed her life, but of hundreds of salt pan workers in Tamil Nadu. Here is her story of change and how she is giving them access to much needed toilets.
While pursuing his degree from Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), Somil spent most of his days volunteering for various social causes. He could not see himself working at a multinational, being one of those people who want to pursue a career that makes an impact on the lives of others. He then decided to give up his job offers after college and instead, chose to head towards rural India. Soon, he found himself in Gangapur, a village that was yet to see electricity at that time, and to help provide lighting solutions there. The returns? To quote Somil – “The smiles on the faces of people in whose lives you are bringing some change”.
Ninoshka's love for teaching took her to a remote village in Odisha where kids can't have enough of this new teacher. Know more about her journey and how it changed her life along with others' around her!
Nupur Ghuliani left her chartered accountant degree midway and shifted base to a remote village in Rajasthan where she is making biomass briquettes to provide the villagers with an alternative, cost-effective and eco-friendly fuel. Know more about why and how she took the plunge.
Imagine a perfect life – settled in Bangalore, well educated, working as a researcher in IISC. Now, imagine giving it all up to settle in rural Karnataka to work on a developmental program for the residents of an interior village. Sounds crazy, right? This is exactly what one girl did, and much more. Her name is Shruti, and she is an SBI Youth for India Fellow for the year 2014-15.
As human beings, we are capable of being part of amazing stories; stories which we ourselves create, abounding in hope, miracles and awe-inspiring moments. Stories which involved taking that one big decision, that one big leap of faith. I had the good fortune of coming across one such incredible story of a girl, who amidst societal taboos and stigmatization, has taken it up on her to raise awareness about women’s health in rural Rajasthan. Not only that, she has gone a step ahead and started working on the production of sanitary napkins using the local cloth for women of that area. Meet Simren Singh, a graduate of International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University, an SBI Youth for India Fellow 2014, a believer, a change-maker.
Villagers are mostly dependent on farming for their livelihood. What happens when that doesn’t yield the desired result? Should they starve in poverty? Bharath Vineeth didn’t think so! Read how he went about creating alternative income opportunities for villagers by converting available resources into successful businesses.
From a reluctant family to lack of knowledge about the sector, nothing stopped Shuvajit Payne from quitting his well-paying job in London and settling down in a village to teach the villagers English. What is it that drove him to take such a drastic step? And how does he feel about it now? Read more to find out.
Real life heroes are not born, they are made by their own grit and determination. Giving up on a comfortable life for life in a village with hardly any basic resources is by no means an easy decision. But this man had it in him to embark on such a journey. Sourabh Potdar is a real life hero in a true sense. This article talks about his journey which began as an SBI fellow and terminated as a change-maker.
While working as an SBI Youth for India fellow, Sandeep Viswanath was almost thrown out of a school for disturbing their regular activities. But this did not break his morale. He continued working with the tribal students, teaching them photography and making five documentaries with them. Read more about his journey and why he left his well-paying IT job to work in the development sector.
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