On National Youth Day, celebrating those who hold the future of the nation in their hands
SWAMI Vivekananda is one of India’s greatest thinkers. He is particularly remembered as the torchbearer for the youth, saying: “Youth is the future. My faith is in the younger generation.” Today, January 12, his birth anniversary, is celebrated as National Youth Day to honour him and encourage rational thinking among the youth of India.
Swamiji was a Hindu monk but much more than a spiritual mind. He was a great thinker, orator, and patriot. He took forward the free-thinking philosophy of his guru, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa to a new level.
Swami Vivekananda encouraged the youth to be strong in body, mind, and spirit and emphasized their role in nation-building. He saw India as a country with zealous young people, who could shape a modern nation on the foundations of Vedic spiritual ideals.
He also suggested that youth can learn much from the West while relying on India’s own spiritual heritage. His motto was – education for all, and upheld the importance of intellect and knowledge for the betterment of self and society. He believed that the greatest quest for the youth of India should be for a meaningful life – one that inspires the heart, liberates the mind and ignites the soul.
On this National Youth Day, we look at some non-profit organisations that follow the principles of Swami Vivekananda in their work to empower the less privileged youth of India:
1. Parivaar Educational Society
Parivaar is a humanitarian organization whose work is inspired by the spiritual and humanistic ideals of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. For the last 17 years, Parivaar has cared and worked for the overall development of children who are highly vulnerable to exploitation, victimization and trafficking. This includes children who were orphaned, abandoned or living on the streets as well extremely impoverished children from tribal areas.
Parivaar’s residential institutions in West Bengal are seen as model institutions and in 2011, have received the prestigious National Award for Child Welfare from the President of India. Parivaar is now also working with tribal children in Madhya Pradesh.
2. Youth Alliance
For the past nine years, the Youth Alliance has been creating leadership programmes for young people through participation and collaboration. Its programmes are experiential and aimed at giving exposure to social issues to the youth of India. The Youth Alliance community has become a support system for many young people to realise their potential. Through customized leadership programmes with other developmental organizations and corporates, Youth Alliance is seeding new thinking and supporting mindset shifts.
3. Salaam Bombay Foundation
With the belief that “An adolescent in school has a future”, Salaam Bombay Foundation (SBF) began its operations in 2002. At the core of all of its initiatives is the commitment to ensure that India’s most vulnerable adolescents continue their schooling and make the right choices for health, education and livelihood.
Since its inception, SBF has reached out to more than 550,000 adolescents aged 11 to 17 years in 300 public schools across Mumbai. The Foundation works by leveraging the existing government school infrastructure and combining it with alternate and innovative education tools. Today Salaam Bombay operates in the major cities of Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Bengaluru, and Jaipur.
4. Make a Difference
Many children end up in shelters, which struggle to address more than the basic needs. Make A Difference focuses on providing them with additional care and support systems to ensure that they flourish. It includes emotional support, career counselling and financial support to continue their education once they leave the shelter – where they can be till the age of 28. Their objective is to help the children and young adults become financially and emotionally capable of leading successful lives without falling back into the cycle of poverty.
Make A Difference’s highly efficient 3,800+ strong volunteer network has reached out to over 3,460 children in 67 shelters across 23 cities in India. Volunteers commit a year and spend between 2 and 10 hours every week mentoring, teaching and interacting with children in order to ensure that they get the support and care they need during childhood.
5. Youth4Jobs Foundation
Youth4Jobs was set up with a vision to help youth with disabilities have equal access to education and employment opportunities. The Founder, Meera Shenoy saw this as an opportunity to enable the most vulnerable youth of India to become pioneers by providing skills to youth with disabilities and low education levels from villages.
India is 69% rural and youth here are completely cut off from skilling, markets and employment. The training provided includes English language skills, soft skills, life skills and digital literacy. Orientation to markets depending on job vacancies is given and the trainees are placed in entry level jobs. Y4J has worked with 25,000 youth with disabilities who are now their alumni. The organisation’s work has won numerous prestigious national and international awards, the latest being the Asia winner of MIT’s Future of Work award.
Currently, India is home to the world’s largest population of youth and this demographic is likely to continue for the next two decades. Economists and researchers have opined that if youth of India can be provided with the necessary skills and absorbed in the workforce, the nation can achieve higher economic growth.
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