Harnessing youth power for change

Harnessing youth power for change

Harnessing youth power for change

Her organisation, Video Volunteers, works towards empowering  people by getting them to participate in the global media revolution. Communities are taught critical-thinking and creative skills. They are also taught how to create locally-owned and managed community media units. 

Today, Jessica and her team of Video Volunteers have a notable presence within small communities in India and have actively strengthened a community journalism movement.
Jessica was introduced to India through the AIF-Clinton Fellowship for Service in India.  
“The fellowship provided a platform to understand developmental issues in India. It put me in touch with many  organisations, and that inspired me,” says Jessica.

An initiative of the American India Foundation (aif.org), the AIF-Clinton Fellowship for Service in India sends young Americans for a year to India and places them with credible NGOs.  Talented young students bring their technical expertise and intellectual resources to Indian NGOs, while developing a deep understanding of, and commitment to, India.
Behzad Larry grew up in Indore, Madhya Pradesh and immigrated to the United States when he was 15 years old.  He has always been concerned about the environment and has been working on sustainable-living methods for marginalised communities.  He chose to work with safai mitras in Bihar. 

As an AIF-Clinton Fellow in 2009-10 at the organisation Nidan, Behzad was primarily involved with Nidan’s waste management operation.

He set up the Kabad Se Jugad (wealth from waste) project that links rag-picking women with end-market processors of recyclable material and cuts out the  middle men.
Behzad has also helped establish, structure and develop waste management operations in Muzaffarpur, Bihar.

“I derive great satisfaction from the long process of breaking down caste  barriers and gaining the trust of the safai mitras and rag-pickers whom I deal with routinely,” says a proud Behzad. 

Joy Mischley was placed with Deep Griha Society as part of the fellowship, in Pune, Maharashtra.  But her association with India did not conclude with her stint at Deep Griha. She is back, and through the organisation SevaYatra,  will  create voluntary job opportunities for Americans as well as Indians. 

She takes many young individuals and families on visits to inspiring organisations to help them develop a greater appreciation of the service work that is going on. 

Dr Sanjay Sinha,  CEO of the American India Foundation, feels that the fellowship will encourage students to make a lifetime commitment towards issues of social justice.

“We are increasing our focus on leadership development. We want to tap their abilities to drive systemic change and be the voices of the less fortunate,” he says.

Graduated Fellows are beginning to occupy strategic decision-making positions in corporate, business and social sectors in the US and India, thereby sharing and spreading their experiences widely amongst colleagues in both countries.

Tarun Vij, Country Director of AIF, lists the key ingredients needed for Fellows to succeed: “They should be willing to work in under-resourced settings, they should be  highly adaptable and they should be willing to learn.”

The ‘AIF - Clinton Fellowship for Service’ also helps to dispel myths about the two cultures.  It serves as a powerful channel to enhance contact and understanding between young people of two nations.

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