The Optimist Citizen

How a company in Tirunelveli is changing the fate of rural youngsters by pulling them out of the desolation of drugs, diseases, and unemployment, with the help of International volunteers

13-year-old Suman from Nanjankulam Village has weak bone density and growing up as a healthy individual is extremely challenging for him.

17 year old Kannan from Therkupatti, studying in Industrial Training Institute (ITI), is 148cm tall with a BMI of 11.41, has scores of grey hair and by July 2017 wants to enter the job market to support his family.

20 year old Raja, an ITI certificate holder, is from one of the notorious villages in Tirunelveli district known for machete culture and wonders whether his dreams of living a cool life and getting a decent job will ever come true?

How would you feel as a reader to know that these difficulties occur to every one in 5 individuals you meet in the countryside of Tirunelveli?

“It imposes large economic costs on the society as a whole. I have been observing this since my childhood”, says Raisa from Tirunelveli district of South Tamil Nadu. Right from living as a child in a rural beedi making community to her first job as a farming and conservation program manager, Raisa saw atrocities and difficulties with the lives of children, regardless of the place where they lived. Be it orphanages, villages, rural schools or rural colleges, the condition was the same for all the 3 districts of Tamil Nadu in which she had worked.

For the parents, it’s a struggle every day to make both ends meet and hence they often do not get the time and seldom have the resources to focus on their child’s upbringing and education. This, in turn, leaves their kids weak, malnourished and even aggressive. There is also a dearth of opportunities for these children and youth to develop skills or even complete their basic school education. As adults, they usually face an increased risk of vulnerability to drugs, disease and crime. The statistics show a picture that is worse. Only about 25% of engineering graduates and 10-15% of other graduates secure a job. This led to an intense rise in unemployment for the rural youth which becomes a cause of marginalization and exclusion.

Observing this on a regular basis, Raisa started a partnership company called SiloIndia in 2012 along with her friend Swathi and her husband, Johnson, to fulfil their wish of working around child welfare. In 2014, one of Raisa’s ex-volunteers, Jo Clay, linked SiloIndia with a UK–based Social enterprise, Vi-ability that wanted to send its young volunteers to work in volunteering projects in a developing country. SiloIndia became the host organization for Viability’s volunteers.

Focusing on adolescent children and youth in 2 different government aided schools and in an ITI, SiloIndia has since been organizing projects in the fields of teaching spoken English, Sports and Ecology with supporting projects. SiloIndia received 17 volunteers from Wales who worked on these projects covering almost 350+ school children and about 90 ITI students. The projects are aimed at fostering their physical, social and intellectual development. The turning up of volunteers funded the malt drink of 78 semi-orphan boys for 1 whole year and about 50 boys were given martial arts training in addition to the soft skill training.

 

In August 2016, Raisa, as a major impact of her fellowship course at SSE India, changed her legal structure from being a for-profit model to a hybrid model under the name, ‘Child and Youth development Foundation’ (CYDF). CYDF realizes that quality education, good life skills, knowledge on good health and a good environment to live in are the fundamental rights of a child and invites international volunteers to participate in this mission.

Today, Raja, the ITI graduate and a beneficiary of CYDF, who earlier did part time work in building demolition, is working in Goa in organic agriculture. And his story is not the only one. Many youngsters from rural areas have been benefitted by the programs of CYDF and are carving their niche in the world to become the frontiers of a better future.

The article has been written in collaboration with SSE INDIA supported by PWC INDIA. For more information visit HERE
KRITIKA VIDYARTHI | TOC
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