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Planning to volunteer or intern this summer? Skip the regular jobs for these sustainable rural development projects

Shruti Kedia
11th May 2018
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While on a break for summer, many students look for opportunities to volunteer and intern across various sectors. Rural development is one such option.

Be it teaching, communication, building toilets, assisting in healthcare facilities, building infrastructure or even helping teenagers fight online abuse — youth today can actively engage in help communities and contribute to bring about change in India.
Image Credit: Haji Public School, Facebook

Here is a list a few internships and volunteer opportunities available for young adults.

1. Eco-Architecture

Established by veteran eco-architect Didi Contractor, from Himachal Pradesh, in collaboration with the Dharmalaya Institute, this internship offers students an opportunity to contribute to the preservation and revival of vernacular traditions for sustainable living.

Image Credit: Dharmalaya Institute

Eighty-four-year-old Didi, renowned for her technique to build sustainable houses with mud and stone, has been training young artisans to inculcate ecological values and revive local skills. Her technique has a few special characteristics: the houses self-regulate temperature (warm during winters and cool during summers), they are earthquake-proof, and are made from materials available locally. Mud houses are not structures built for scale in the plains but are suited for hilly terrain where cement houses are incongruous.

The internship in ‘Vernacular Eco-Architecture’ aims to deepen the understanding of the art and practices of sustainable architecture, keeping in mind the social and ecological context. It hopes to contribute to the preservation and revival of vernacular traditions for sustainable living.

Interns have the opportunity to gain practical experience working with trained earthen builders and artisans at the Dharmalaya Institute in Bir, and other sites in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh. They can also explore the cultural context and philosophical foundations of vernacular eco-architecture, and of sustainable and compassionate living. The internship is supervised by the faculty of the Dharmalaya Institute.

2. Teaching

In a remote village of Jammu and Kashmir lies the Haji Public School in Breswana, Doda district. The school is built on the ancestral property of its founding members, the Haji family. The uniqueness of this school lies in the fact that the teachers here are volunteers. Located above 7,500 feet, the village does not have access to motor-able roads while having limited education resources.

The school began its operations on May 2009, with two classes, lower and upper kindergarten, two teachers and 35 students studying in rooms of the Haji Cottage. Today, those same students have reached Grade 8, and the school grows with them each year. Haji Public School now has over 450 students on its rolls, a permanent local staff of more than 20 teachers, and a running roster of dozens of Indian and international teaching volunteers.

Image Credit: Haji Public School, Facebook
The volunteers are expected to teach regular classes, follow school schedule and syllabus, train teachers in spoken English, help in building the curriculum while holding discussions with the school management on regular basis to improve quality of classes.

They are provided free boarding and meals. Along with studies, volunteers will also engage students with a fun learning experience that involves activities with music, movies, dramatics, public speaking, and sports and games.

The volunteers are required to live in the village for three months or more, while they teach and learn about the village, its culture and people.

3. Swachh Bharat

Rural Organisation for Social Elevation (ROSE), a small self-help group based in Sunargoan, a remote village in Uttarakhand’s Kanda region, offers volunteer opportunities and projects which provide a window to the "realities of the rural environment,” according to seasons.

Supported by the Jeevan Paying Guest Unit (JPGU) the organisation works at grassroots level with an aim to improve the health, education and quality of life of the rural poor in this region while maintaining cultural integrity and ecological balance.
Image Credit: ROSE

This goal is realised through a programme which brings tourist volunteers to Kanda to live with the Verma family, the founders of this initiative, and experience local Kumaoni culture, while assisting in the rural development activities of ROSE and JPGU.

Presently, the volunteering opportunity includes building multiple twin-tank composting toilets. Conceptualised and developed by ROSE, this toilet is easy to build and maintain; it also yields a nutrient-rich compost that can be safely used in the fields. Earlier a grant received in the 80s allowed the team to construct 40 of these toilets in the Kanda community which was, and continue to be, a great success. In addition to sanitation, these toilets offer privacy to women who otherwise have to wait until the cover of night to relieve themselves.

4. Rural development

Founded by Oona Sharma and Dr Sushil Sharma, a rural manager and a doctor respectively in 1992, Aarohi was formed to support development of self-sustaining and independent mountain communities. Their aim was to empower the ordinary mountain-based families in Satoli village, nestled in Kumaon, Uttarakhand, in as many ways as possible.

Over the past two decades, Satoli has transformed into “a buzzing node of positive grassroots action.” Their work extends through Nainital, Almora, and Bageshwar districts with activities primarily relating to health care, education, livelihoods, energy, and forest management.

Image Credit: Aarohi, Facebook
“Aarohi has reached out to thousands of people in the remote mountains of Uttarakhand, to see that children and mothers don’t die needlessly; that they are not subjected to diseases bred by poverty and ignorance; that people,” the team shares.

The organisation is presently open for volunteers from across professions— doctors (general physicians and specialists), community health managers, nurses, physiotherapists, teachers, art & craft and theatre persons, sports people, musicians, rural development professionals, administrators, managers and marketing persons. The organisation believes that all skills and professionals have the ability to bring about change in the society.

The organisation has touched the lives of over 50, 000 people till date. Today, the organisation employs 68 full-time staff, and is supported by 295 members from all over the world. It operates actively in 57 villages, containing a population of 35,000.

5. Visual storytelling

Instagram India in collaboration with Youth Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC) launched the counter speech fellowship (CSF), in Delhi and Mumbai, with the aim to equip young fellows and school children with the safety tools and resources to talk about acceptance, empathy, and knowledge.

The fellows are encouraged to engage in positive storytelling and running campaigns on Instagram on the following topics:

  1. Body positivity - To counter the concept of the ideal body type and fat shaming;
  2. Mental wellbeing - To nudge teens to think of wholesome wellbeing, the CSF fellow began #BetterThanBefore campaign, encouraging their peers to share inspiring and uplifting anecdotes on self-care as well as stories and poetry by teens who have fought battles with their minds.
  3. Bullying - The fellows are addressing this menace through powerful imagery, photographs and strong captions, where kindness is promoted and differences are celebrated.
  4. Safe spaces online- To combat online stalking, trolling and bullying and in an attempt to make the internet a safer space, young fellows started #SafeSpace and #kinderinternet campaigns in an attempt to promote a multitude of opinions and encourage communication.
  5. Countering violent extremism (CVE): Through videos on CVE, stories of survivors of violent extremism, cartoon strips and strong visual elements, CSF fellows are working to make the internet a more tolerant space.

Presently, the fellowship is open to young students from Kolkata and Delhi.

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