SWAMI Vivekananda is revered across the country as one of the foremost youth icons and thought leaders of the early modern era. He is often credited with catapulting Indian spiritual philosophy onto the world stage at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. Such was the enigma of young Swami Vivekananda that he left the world spellbound by his oratory and his philosophy. Poverty alleviation is central to India’s rise as envisioned by Swami Vivekananda, and that cannot be achieved as long as the youth of India remain under-educated or without enough opportunities to succeed.
It is no coincidence that the number of poor people in India is equal to the number of illiterate. While 270 million people live below the poverty line, around 272 million are uneducated. And a majority of this chunk of the population comprises the youth.
There have been very few leaders in Indian history more fitting to be a guiding light to the youth of India than Swami Vivekananda. He embodied the eternal, youthful energy and the quest for truth. In acknowledgement of his position as a thought leader, the Government of India in 1985 declared January 12, Vivekananda’s birth anniversary as National Youth Day.
This National Youth Day we take a look at the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are working for the welfare of the youth of India and taking Swami Vivekananda’s work forward.
Akshara Centre provides education, skills training, and job opportunities for young women from disadvantaged sections of society. It empowers them and encourages them to be financially independent. The NGO has worked tirelessly to give young girls the confidence to fight discrimination and violence and to build their vision of a more equitable society.
Swami Vivekananda said, “Soul has no sex, it is neither male nor female. It is only in the body that sex exists, and the man who desires to reach the spirit cannot at the same time hold sex distinctions,”. Following the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, Akshara works to empower women and envisions a world free of gender-based discrimination.
PRADAN which stands for Professional Assistance for Development Action was set up in 1983 by two young professionals Deep Joshi and Vijay Mahajan. They took a novel approach to poverty eradication and empowerment of the youth of India. They came up with the idea of engaging educated youth in rural development activities thus creating the framework for a symbiotic relationship between young in urban and rural India.
PRADAN with its vision to see a society free from poverty embodies Swami Vivekananda’s teaching “So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them.”
This Uttarakhand-based NGO focuses on educating underprivileged children and youth of India, predominantly from remote and underdeveloped areas. The NGO is ensuring that underprivileged youth get the required support and guidance for their career and beyond. The NGO’s founder GK Swamy saw the rural area of Purkal in Uttarakhand being swallowed up by poverty, unemployment and addiction and decided to set up the initiative to give children a future different from their parents.
In consonance with Swami Vivekananda’s teaching, Swamy began an after-school programme for students from cowsheds in the village. The movement grew and in 2008, a fully equipped school was established to impart quality education to youth. It provides quality education and holistic care from Grade I to XII to children (predominantly girls) with potential, from underprivileged families in the region. The NGO has taught and trained hundreds of children and youth enabling them to pursue their dreams.
With targeted intervention in education and skill development, Udayan Care has provided support to thousands of youth. It provides them an opportunity to pursue their dreams. The NGO has also played a pivotal role in advocating the rights of the youth of India through various interventions.
Udayan has enriched the lives of over 25,000 youth from underprivileged and disadvantaged backgrounds. What started from a small home for abandoned and orphaned children in Delhi, the NGO has spread its footprint across the country with multiple interventions operational in several states. One of its programmes is focused on providing IT and vocational training to the youth of underprivileged sections. It empowers them through digital literacy and job-oriented skill training. The program was developed with the core belief that skills improve employability.
With its focus on helping disadvantaged youth complete their education, Salam Bombay Foundation has ushered in a bright future for countless adolescents. Set up in 2002, this NGO has been playing a vital role in reducing the rate of school dropouts through various school leadership and after-school programmes.
The Salaam Bombay Foundation specifically focuses on educating vulnerable youth who are prone to dropping out of school to support their family income. And in doing so, the NGO has played a significant role in protecting the youth of India from the clutches of illiteracy. The foundation’s programmes started from 230 schools in Mumbai and grew to over 15,000 schools in Maharashtra alone training over 60,000 teachers.
Milaan Foundation stands as one of the most significant organisations working for the empowerment of young girls in India. The NGO has impacted the lives of over 40,000 girl students in over a decade and continues to expand its programmes across the country.
The NGO believes in ensuring education for girls as a catalyst that will enable women to become agents of social change. This will also lead to their development and economic growth. Milaan focuses on educating adolescent girls from marginalized communities as the cornerstone of its ‘Girl Icon’ programme. The organisation truly believes in Swami Vivekananda’s quote “Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached,” And it is on its way to providing young girls with education, leadership and skill development until it reaches its goal.
Bhumi, founded in 2006, envisions a poverty-free India and it plans to fulfil this vision by providing quality education to the underprivileged youth of India so they can go on to become contributing members of society.
The NGO, with the help of its vast volunteer network, aims at providing holistic education and livelihood to over 5,000 underprivileged youth. Bhumi, in a way following Swami Vivekananda’s tenets of inclusion and equality, has engineered a framework where people from different walks of life can come together for the betterment of the less privileged.
Pratham Education Foundation
Set up in 1995, Pratham stands as one of the most prominent NGOs working in the field of education and skill development. The NGO focuses primarily on improving the quality of education through high-quality, but low-cost interventions. Although it was set up to provide quality education to children living in the slums of Mumbai, the NGO has metamorphosed into a pan-India organisation and touches the lives of thousands of children and youth.
The NGO’s Pratham Institute provides vocational training to youth from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The Pratham Institute programmes are spread across the country enabling the youth of India to access entry-level positions and placements in several vocations.
Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences
Odisha-based Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences works for the betterment of underprivileged tribal children and youth through education. The NGO is home to over 30,000 students who receive the highest standard of education, nutrition and health care at their residential school.
Swami Vivekananda throughout his life stressed the importance of holistic education and in this line with that vision, Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences has ensured that they provide their students’ all-around development. The institution has focused heavily on giving students state-of-the-art facilities for sports, music and the arts.
The NGO has a wide array of interventions focused on providing education and healthcare to underprivileged children and youth. Vivekananda Youth Forum, in the last 35 years since its inception, has touched the lives of thousands. The NGO has made the teachings of Swami Vivekananda its founding principles.
May it be its flagship Soup Kitchen programme or project Srujan, the NGO has strived to ensure that young India receives all the support it needs to flourish. From skill development and non-formal education to its efforts in providing vulnerable street children quality education, the NGO has supported youth throughout their development journey.
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Choosing to tread the proverbial road less travelled, Ramon embarked upon a career in journalism and spent over 8 years working for various media organisations. A deeper calling to create a sustainable impact in the lives of the less fortunate compelled him to join the social sector. Ramon is a minimalist at heart and an explorer in spirit.