Recently I was given the opportunity to intern with Community the Youth Collective (CYC), in New Delhi, India for 5 weeks. CYC is an NGO that aim to challenge social stigmas and break down barriers regarding excluded groups in society. How do they do this? By harnessing the overwhelming and passionate power of the Indian youth!
My role, and the role of the 3 other University of Melbourne students I was working with, was to help plan, facilitate and improve the ‘Bas! Stop Discrimination Right Now’ campaign recently launched by CYC. While the name sounds complex, the idea behind it is simple- travel around Delhi in a brightly decorated bus and reach out to as many of India’s youth as possible. Bus journeys were daylong affairs, during which we would pick up a group of about 30 college students and run activities and discussions around social exclusion. After these initial activities it was time for everyone’s favourite activity, community interaction. Each bus journey visited an excluded community where participants were given the chance to interact and be guided by local community members. Communities ranged from ones of street children, to transgender communities and slums.
Throughout the journey the focus was on ‘’Me2We’’, a philosophy integral to all the work CYC does. The idea is that by encouraging the participants to reflect on and challenge their own views and prejudices a change in the ‘Me’ begins. This process is believed to empower the participants, usually youth, to bring about change in their own community- be it through social action projects or simply through dialogue.
This ‘Me2We’ journey isn’t as intangible as it may sound. Not only was I able to see changes in the participants of the bus journeys, I began to see changes within myself. In a country as big as India it can be easy to feel insignificant and powerless in the change process, especially when you’ve got a time period as short as 5 weeks. However, it became apparent to me that in order to make any real difference I was first going to have to have to change myself; to become a better leader, a better role model and a better advocate of the causes I was passionate in.
Real change takes time, in both the development sector and within oneself. India certainly taught me patience in many ways and made me realise the necessity of time, but more importantly it taught me to have faith in the amazing power of the youth and in the power that I, as an individual, can have.