I’ve heard this phrase “Be part of the system to change the system” many a times before. I witnessed the people (volunteers of AID ) who became part of the system in an effort to bring the change, during the 3 day conference hosted by AID-INDIA ( Association for All India Development ). I interacted with volunteers , some of who quit their full time jobs; gave up everything ( their comforts, luxuries and their life style ) to work at the grass root levels with the real people living in the real India i.e, the rural India where more than 70% of the population lives and yet are the most neglected and most deprived. They are all young, energetic, passionate, sincere and most of all are persistent with their efforts.
The volunteers are working along side the people and the government on issues ranging from health care ; to sustainable livelihood ; to sustainable farming; to basic education. Their approach involves educating them about the issues, about their rights, about fighting for their rights and most importantly about finding sustainable solutions for themselves. This became very evident in the programs they were coordinating and exeucting at the grass root levels.
One such program is Eureka , an educational program implemented in a large number of schools across Tamil Nadu is aimed at improving the basic reading and basic mathematic skills. The premise of this program is not to alienate itself from the government schools but to be a part of it and try to help both the students and as well as the teachers. Although the program has a long way to go, the fact that the government expressed it’s interest in this program is a testimony to it’s effectiveness.
The other unique aspect of AID is it’s penchant for activism , their willingness to stand up for what is their right and fight for what is wrong. From Salva-Judum to the Bihar floods to the NREGA Act to the Bhopal Gas Campaign, they are involved in everything.
It gets more interesting. I came across some AID volunteers who were born and brought up in the US, who decided to join the people in India in their fight to survival , fight to livelihood, fight for their basic rights.
To help is one thing, to help someone to help themselves so that they become independent is something else. The volunteers of AID have put in their mind and soul together in doing so. Sometimes they come up with simple but effective ways to solve some of the basic problems. Haybox, for example is an innovative way to cook that not only saves fuel , their by saving money but also saves time. The haybox is priced @ Rs70/-. And sometimes they patrner with other organizations and groups. The thinking is whatever works for the general good of the community. And sometimes they would run campaigns to create awareness about the basic rights of the people (NREGA Act).
To sum up , AID is a great bunch of volunteers, a great bunch of optimists, a great bunch of activists, a great bunch of critics, a great bunch of enthusiasts. Hopefully there would be more such individuals, groups, organizations who think and act for the overall sustainable development of the society.