The district of Vellore is a major medical and industrial district of Tamil Nadu. Home to the Christian Medical College and Vellore Institute of Technology, the district is the largest exporter of finished leather goods in the country and also got a place in the next round of smart cities project list, released by The Government of India. These pieces of information clearly showcase, a rising – almost cosmopolitan – district, that is inclusively home to a flurry of sustainable development practices. But, just about 30 kilometres from the district centre, lies Gudiyattam – a small township where many are yearning to graze the aspired possibilities that the district holds. Mostly coming from rural backgrounds, the families living in the town work as daily wage labourers to manage some incomes and support the crumbling aspirations of their ambitious children.
Dinesh Gajendran decided to counteract this seeming aberration – the lack of opportunities for young people in the region – and this culminated into the Audacious Dreams Foundation (ADF). ADF – a member of Commutiny The Youth Collective – aims to inspire, inform, engage, enable and empower youth for global understanding and sustainable development. Utilising massive participation from the underserved youth population around the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu, ADF has been instrumental in utilising awareness on civic education to help the youth dream some and live more.
Increasing their ambit of youth participation, Audacious Dreams Foundation implemented Be a Jagrik – Samvidhan LIVE!… Live the SDGs! In its primary district. The initiative aims to enable young, aware, and active citizens or Jagriks live and experience the SDGs and also rights and duties enshrined in the Indian Constitution. As the Jagriks undertake exciting self and community action projects on-ground, they also take their powerful voice for change into the world.
Audacious Dreams Foundation has been a part of the Be a Jagrik campaign since that past 3 years and has been able to directly engage more than 500 young people and impact 6000 lives. 120 young women Jagriks – are a part of this year’s cycle. And their tasks are protruding to be a stellar example of the youth’s participation in realising the value of our constitution. Take the example of the 18-year old students from the local Hospital Administration college. They started visiting and volunteering at the nearby school for people with visual impairment. Almost 40 Jagriks participated in the process of volunteering for 4 hours every day. Out of these girls, more than 15 are now part of the organisation’s Winter leadership program.
Along with this, many Jagriks also visited various religious places including a mosque, a Hindu temple, and a Jain Temple. Coming from essentially conservative backgrounds, this proved to be revelatory for many. Almost 20 Jagriks cooked organic food, fed underprivileged individuals and also did a collection drive to accumulate clothes for them. 18-year old Amina, who was interning at a local hospital and had received remuneration of Rupees 500, donated it to the same hospital for the treatment of a patient on constant dialysis. Along with this, numerous girls are fulfilling their role as Jagriks by organising awareness campaigns for Dengue prevention, initiating tree plantations, and conducting collection drives to accumulate resources for those who don’t have enough.
“I was never interested in politics. But, the road that connects our neighbourhood to the village centre has been dilapidated all my life. It would practically disappear during rains, and even 2 bicycles couldn’t go together at the same time. There are almost 50 girls in my neighbourhood and most stay at home – afraid to go to the village – just because the road is so bad. I have seen big delays in treatment for pregnant women in our neighbourhood because there was no road. I heard Dinesh sir’s story and while doing the tasks I got to know about my rights, duties. I was inspired by the brim. Although my family doesn’t endorse my action, I am incessantly trying to run for a set in the upcoming Panchayat elections. I know if I can become part of the Panchayat, I can mend the road and help so many.” said a determined 19-year old Priya Subramaniam of Anpoondi village, about her experience of Be A Jagrik and associated tasks.
“We went to diverse sites of religious worship – from churches to mosques as part of our tasks. We might have learnt a little bit about other religions, but I feel it has opened up a wide dialogue with our friends of different faiths. As part of one of the tasks, we also helped our neighbour get admitted to Christian Medical College Hospital and cared for her for a week. The blessings I received from her, is what I cherish the most in my experience as a Jagrik,” added an enthusiastic 17-year old Mythili about her experiential journey of the initiative.
120 girls were on board to broaden constitutional relevance in their lives. More than, 60 girls have done 5-10 tasks and almost 25 girls have completed more than 20 tasks – directly engaging and impacting almost 2000 individuals. This is unprecedented, given geographical, economic, and cultural impediments the girls had to face. This has been a chance for the girls to come out of their constrained boundaries and volunteer for a larger social cause – going above and beyond from what the society expects of them. “I vividly remember Priya’s story. She had to walk almost a kilometre on a muddy road, every day. She was frustrated. After being a part of Be a Jagrik and our 7-day leadership program, she decided to contest for the upcoming Panchayat elections. This is what I feel has been the impact of understanding our self through duties and rights. We become aware, understand our volitions, and then take measure to change the existing conditions – even if the measures are something we never would have imagined in our wildest dreams” added proud Dinesh.