I will be taking part in a panel discussion in Chennai on the 29th of October on: 'Youth, Volunteeering And Sustainability'. This will have a post 2015 focus with the Millenium Development Goals as its agenda.
The first question is: why is volunteering important as an youth focussed aspect? Is it sensitizing the youth towards holistic development with an eye to banish poverty?
Forty percent of the country's population are the youth. We have to see how many of them are capable of training, sensitizing others on voluntary help. In other words the youth who themselves are impoverished need help from the better off ones. And again volunteering denotes help in various forms, to the poor, help in hospitals, help for the disabled, the infirm and the sick. There is no end to it, especially in a country having all these symptoms at different levels, and also at multifarious levels, from the Blocks, villages, district headquarters to towns and cities. And who will help? The youth we say.
But firstly comes their problems. They are fighting against all odds in the rat race machine competition. How do they get the space for it, inner and outer for philanthropic service?
The first step is to make them sensitive through a culture of peace, if I have the temerity to say so- Peace Education - I know I am treading the beaten track. You will say oh, studying for it, and getting high marks, to boost overall percentage?
I say no, peace as a way of life, right from school as thematic and practical work, obsession with peace, feeling for violence affected areas and then visting these places, to experience realities and feel for victims of violence and disasters, floods for example.
This should begin in school and go right through college days, when maturity ripens. Then they will feel the need to do, act, think and be sensitive to human beings, with the passion of love and not irrational despicability or indifference.
Volunteering has a basis in genuine feelings, not a mere ostentation. It involves commitment. It is founded on the cornerstone of concern and empathy. It reqiures a collective spirit, and deep down sensitivities.
It could be vocational training, it could be caring for the poor, it could be environmental activism, it Icould be activating the cause of street chidren, anything of social and human primacy. It could be education with missionary zeal. It could be fighting for domestic workers, and children affected by floods.
And we can sustain such endeavours only through rigorous education on this theme, making inter linkages between volunteering, education and peace.