NEW YORK CITY, New York — A whopping 25% of India’s population remains illiterate. While this percentage has gradually decreased for many years, 25% remains a large percentage. Although school is usually the formal solution, in India, it is not a pathway for all. Due to the cost, duration and distance of schools, many of India’s youth remain uneducated and lack the potential to get a high-paying job.
Recently, there have been remedies to this issue. While not conventional schooling, many Indian non-profits have been opening in attempts to produce education for India’s youth. There have been many contemporary NGOs circulating the news. One with particular influence is Yuva Pragati, a non-profit organization aiming to educate the underprivileged youth of Gujarat, India, specifically through wellness camps and projects.
About Yuva Pragati
Starting as a program in 2006, Yuva Pragati has ever since helped over 25,000 children gain an education. Specifically, children of the Scheduled Tribe, which is one of the lower castes in India that includes people from disadvantaged demographics. Yuva Pragati’s team includes tremendous support from over 150 volunteers and donors. The NGO’s programs consist of youth wellness camps, infrastructure programs, scholarship programs and other general education programs.
The Borgen Project had the pleasure of interviewing the founding couple of the Youth Wellness Center that partners with Yuva Pragati.
The Origin Story
About 15 years ago, after frequently seeing the conditions of living in Gujarat, the couple and their friends decided to create a team of doctors and volunteers to catalyze their goal. Their goal was simple, to better the living conditions for children in Gujarat, specifically regarding their health. However, the team could not simply go to Gujarat and begin, they needed a basis point and help from locals who are familiar with the customs of the state. Due to this, the team partnered with the existing NGO Yuva Pragati, creating their own branch, the youth wellness center.
What Did Their Health Work Look Like?
The Youth Wellness Center team would go to residential schools in Gujarat, and with a team of doctors, examine each of the children. Each week, they managed to visit six or seven residential schools, aiding over 1,100 children. The examination would typically be a standard physical as well as dental care. The couple noted that the children tend to have several teeth problems due to the lack of hygiene and proper nutrients. The team also supplied years of vitamins and supplements as many of the children were iron-deficient. To aid with the process of supplying medication and supplements, the team brought pharmacies to visit the schools with them. This was crucial as some of the children needed stronger medication that the team did not have with them, and could not prescribe.
Infrastructure Work & Aiding the Schools
Due to their partnership with Yuva Pragati, the team also worked on fixing the residential schools as the children were living in them. Alongside the doctors, the team also consisted of volunteers who could help with the infrastructure of the schools. The team was determined to support the children’s education, but to do that, making the climate more habitable was the first step.
The couple stated that many aspects of the buildings were nonfunctional, including broken lights, dysfunctional fans, broken bunk beds and a lack of benches and desks to do schoolwork. The team would collect donations and other funding to make sure these projects were seen through. By fixing the infrastructure of these schools, these children can focus more on their education rather than broken seats and lack of lighting, which previously made school work almost impossible.
Looking to the Future
The couple stated that the team, as well as themselves, are getting old as the team was all recruited 15 years ago. Due to this, I asked what they saw for their charity in the next few 10 years. While they acknowledge that they’ve made a significant contribution to society, they understand that the reality is that India is changing; thankfully, the resources in India are improving and becoming more accessible.
Due to their dedication and work, younger doctors in the local medical community have gained interest in their charity and are looking to help out. Originally, the team consisted of doctors primarily from the US or the UK, but now there is local interest. Their main goal for the future is to increase the number of local doctors and pharmacies that participate.
Additionally, the needs of the children have changed. Their health has fortunately improved and there are now more medical resources accessible in more dire situations. Due to this, the Youth Wellness Center claims that it will need to modify its approach to meet these needs.
By gaining new doctors, even straight from medical school, they can continue with the charity and help it prosper. Additionally, with the help of young volunteers, the infrastructure aiding can continue, as it is becoming increasingly difficult for older volunteers to engage in building and other infrastructure-related tasks.
– Samsara Shrivastava