21 Jun Why youth & youth leadership ?
Bhumi is a platform for the citizens of the country, who want to take an active role in contributing to civic issues around them.
|Programme||People||Age of Bhumians at Entry Level (When attending orientation)||Age of Leads at Entry Level (At selection to Lead)|
|Ignite Schools / Bhumi Fellowship||Paid Fellows||<30||NA|
|Ignite Communities||Paid community Volunteers||NA||NA|
While the demographics of India are constantly shifting, roughly a third of our population are children (<15), youth (16-30) and older adults (31+) respectively. Bhumi was founded by a group of young people who were passionate about contributing to society. While the contemporary view of older people in society then was youth were not responsible enough, the idea of Bhumi attracted several hundred young people who thought alike. (We now have several hundred people joining us every day!)
This video, made a few years back, explains our thought process about how we believe the youth can change themselves and change the future
Why youth Volunteers in the Ignite Shelters programme?
While working with children at orphanages, our model evolved and adapted to the needs of the children, as we understood them better and better. Our classes were during their free time after school, hence they had to be interactive and activity-based. We wanted our classes to have greater attention on each child, hence we insist on volunteers sitting on the floor with a small group of children in circles. We did not want children to identify our volunteers with their teachers at school (the average teacher is ~40), hence we restricted the age of teaching volunteers at 30. The lack of relationships and positive role models who could be an elder brother or sister reinforced our decision to limit the age of teaching volunteers at 30.
Why the age 30?
Data showed volunteers below the age of 25 were twice as committed in terms of regularity to classes compared to those above 30. We also understood the value of the friendships the volunteers of the same cohort were developing. Inspired by examples like Leo clubs, Rotaract clubs whose age limit was 30, we decided to follow a similar culture at Bhumi.
Why the focus on youth leadership?
We started teaching at a shelter home and we slowly, but steadily grew to reach more centres in the education programme and added more programmes like Think Green (now a part of Catalyse). Early on, we realised that we could grow only as many leaders we had/developed; we were forced to temporarily discontinue programmes like Think Green while we built Ignite. While the culture of the organisation was evolving, we had several instances of older volunteers struggling to work with younger volunteer coordinators and vice versa. Over the years this value of promoting and nurturing youth leadership became ingrained in our DNA.
Since 2012 we have had several ‘ChangeDrivers’ joining Bhumi full time to play pivotal roles in the Ignite Shelters programme. Based on our experiences and volunteer feedback, we now prefer those who have had volunteer experiences (Bhumi volunteering is a big plus) and those under the age of 30 for such responsibilities.
What happens to volunteers at 30?
With an average Bhumian journeying with Bhumi for a year and a half, we now have several who have completed a decade with Bhumi. We had people worrying at 29 not because they were hitting their 30s but whether they could continue volunteering with Bhumi. We understand 30 is an artificial boundary, though it defines Bhumi’s model and is part of our culture; at the same time, we did not want to exclude someone who was a Bhumian. Hence, we decided, those volunteers who were able to continue teaching regularly/leadership responsibilities could Voluntarily decide about their continued commitment.
What happens to leaders at 30?
Bhumi is committed to developing more youth leaders, we also believe leadership is ubiquitous and everyone can lead. Often, we choose to give opportunities to new volunteers while there are other more experienced coordinators. Experienced coordinators also frequently chose to step up to mentor and develop younger leaders.
In 2018, during a discussion among the National leadership of Bhumi (the Bhumi Support Team) we realised we were not of the appropriate age profile to be leading the Ignite Shelters programme. We decided to walk the talk and handed over responsibility of managing the Ignite Shelters programme to a younger more age appropriate team.
While we continue to strive to have more young leaders at the National and Chapter Support team levels to lead the organisation’s volunteer programmes from the front; many of us have now found strategic areas for us to make meaningful contributions and play the roles of volunteer multipliers. I believe the way Bhumi is growing, Bhumi will be able to offer a similar platform to others seeking the same.
What about those joining Bhumi after 30?
We listened to our volunteers and understood three things – older volunteers, especially those who were married did not want to spend every weekend volunteering; volunteers also wanted to contribute to causes other than education; Volunteers were also looking for one-off opportunities. Hence, when we created the Catalyse programme to promote volunteering as a national habit. We designed it to encourage people of all ages to volunteer.
We understand there are always exceptions to some of these statements i.e. older volunteers willing to commit to regular teaching, being great friends with our children and/or young volunteers. But this is Bhumi’s model and culture, while we are open to learning and evolving, this is how things stand now.
Change Today … Change Tomorrow
We believe volunteering and contributing to society is not something you should start after you retire, we want to inspire every young Indian to volunteer and through that process encourage them to be better citizens and maybe even take up full-time social work. We are proud to have inspired a generation of educators, social workers, civil servants, military personnel and everyday change makers. We are excited to launch the Bhumi Fellowship, which will encourage young people to step into full-time careers in the education ecosystem. Our fellows will impact the lives of one million children in the next five years furthering Bhumi’s snowball effect of youth nurturing children. We believe the future is bright, we believe the future is ours, we want to be active citizens, we Change Today … Change Tomorrow!
– Dr.Prahalathan KK