Rashtriya Seva Bharati

via Shyam Parande published on March 7, 2010

Passion for Training Activists & Building Organizations

A bright but shy looking young boy of 9, I walked into while I was visiting Shanti Niketan- a free hostel run by Seva Bharati Himachal Pradesh in the panoramic Dagsai, some 100 kms off Shimla, stunned me when he revealed that it was his first bus ride of life and that he had never seen a bus before he boarded one for Dadsai. He had to walk some 20 kms down the hills to hit the road for boarding a bus. “Am I living in 1908 or am I in 2008,” I pinched myself before I believed the boy. How the hell this young boy missed the buzz of modernity, leave alone missing the first look at a ‘bus‘.

However, for a change, the boy had arrived in the hostel and was admitted to the nearby school and that assured me of his future. That brought me to some more prodding on my part. How does someone reach the remotest village to pick up this boy? Who did the job and how did this person convince the villagers that the boy would be taken care of and get educated? Why the parents of the boy did trust this person?

My probe led me to some consoling and convincing responses. But for the motivation, and the training of the activist, that he received from Rashtriya Seva Bharati, this would not have happened. Without the motivation he would not have walked up the 20 kms “uphill task” to reach the village! Without the training the activist could have failed in impressing and influencing the minds of the boy’s parents and the villagers who trusted his words!

I started looking into more such experiences and was astonished to find that this did not happen only in the picturesque Himachal Pradesh but is happening across all the states of Bharat. The more I try to probe the more revealing it is.

I was listening to the experience of a lady full timer “ Seva Vrati as they are known- from Tamil Nadu. She narrated the action in one of the Self Help groups in Kanya Kumari district wherein more than 3000 SHGs are being managed by women under Seva Bharati. In a village called Thirparappu the SHG comprised of 18 women members belonging to one particular caste and two members from another caste. Caste divisions in rural areas are distinct and divide society many a times. The caste association wanted the less represented caste women to be removed from the SHG. The activists who were running the SHG refused bluntly to budge. The caste association tried to play the other card of tempting them with an interest-free loan of Rs.1 Lac against removal of the two women belonging to the other caste. The SHG members turned down this offer and defied any discrimination in the name of caste among them. This is something unheard of otherwise in that part of the country in a village.

I was visiting Assam last May and had an opportunity to talk to a group of youth working as “Arogya Rakshaks” in the North Eastern states of Bharat. This was probably the most convincing experience for me. A young lady “Arogya Rakshak” who had completed the training of 21 days duration saved a patient’s life who had a severe health problem. She first tried to treat the patient with what ever medicine was available to her in the kit and then decided to take the patient to the district center to an expert Doctor. The timely action saved the life as the problem might have been fatal, informed the expert Doctor.

The case of Manjunath, a paraplegic boy whose parents, relatives and neighbors had lost hope on, is today a guide to many other handicapped or differently able children. The transmutation was possible because of the sustained efforts of dedicated women Seva Vratis in Bengaluru and the experts who involved Manjunath’s family as well as school teachers from the village. Everyone around was bleak about the future of this young kid when the Seva-in-Action, an associate organization of RSB, started working with the kid to rehabilitate him. And lo, the boy is up and moving and working and encouraging many others with physical disabilities.

Why did the Seva-in-Action activists and the Seva Vratis at all go to the village to find out Manjunath through a survey? When everyone around including his own parents was hopeless why did they accept the challenge? Obviously, they were fired with the idea of serving selflessly. Obviously, they are inspired by the lives of some famous personalities. Obviously, they were motivated. Obviously, they were trained for the job unlike others. Obviously, they continue to work tirelessly for the society for decades.

The job of picking up the raw volunteers from the society, orienting and motivating them to serve the society, providing the training for the required jobs, developing the skill sets of the person to suit the tasks, utilizing the best in a person towards social service and that too voluntarily, is being carried out by the organization called Rashtriya Seva Bharati.

Promoting voluntarism in the days of “professionalism” is a huge challenge, one might think, but RSB can state proudly that the youth of Bharat are eager to volunteer their time and talent, given an opportunity and orientation. Good number of youths has joined and is devoting their time despite the professional pressure on them, despite the educational challenges they face. Well, one can not also negate that the corporate sector is encouraging their personnel to volunteer, the colleges and the universities wish their students serve the society.

Every Voluntary Organization or NGO faces certain problems which can be foreseen and yet for the individual organization, tackling these is most difficult. RSB has a pool of experts who can help out in such situations and provide the consultation. To enlist a few common problems here will be worth. Preparing project proposals, building resources- both human, financial and expertise, training and orienting volunteers, assessing the projects, analyzing the challenges, involving communities, preparing flyers & brochures & handouts and such public relations activity, are some of the problems and challenges that every social service organization faces, irrespective of the size of the organization.

A Malaysian author has defined this concept aptly. He says, “When we look at a ‘problem’ and take ourselves out of it, the problem becomes a ‘situation’. If we were to analyze this ‘situation’ and think how we can rise to it, the ‘situation’ becomes a ‘challenge’. And when we think of our ability to overcome the challenge, it becomes an opportunity.” Pertinently, RSB develops the mindset that converts problems into opportunities.

The task of RSB is almost like a parent to some 400 odd organizations drawn from all states of Bharat. Identifying a problem and analyzing the challenges is the first step that RSB treads. This is done for an affiliate member organization. Drawing the right strategy and suggesting solutions, comes next. Effective implementation program and generating the funds from within the society is also guided by RSB. The beauty of the organizations associated with RSB is that the local society supports the whole activity whether it is a slum based tuition class with little expenditure or it is a huge blood bank with big investment. For RSB, the small donors who unswervingly support the activity are precious, and this is encouraged while big donors are also taken care of.

A pool of experts to guide the training is in place with RSB. Preparing project proposals to be submitted to any governmental body or non-governmental body

Periodical assessment is another dimension that comes handy for the affiliate organizations from RSB for the objective growth and tangible development.

“Seva Sadhana” the annual publication of RSB provides a window for the organizations to present their achievements. Every issue of “Seva Sadhana” highlights one dimension or the other. Urban slum programs, some inspiring experiences in serving society, rural development were certain issues that Seva Sadhana had presented in last couple of years. These issues have been received by many with admiration. They are published in both Hindi and English for maximum outreach.

“Seva Sangam” is an endeavor to bring all the affiliated and associate organizations together to generate a common strategy for facing the challenges faced by the underdeveloped, underprivileged classes and the suffering people within our country. More than 1000 delegates representing some 400 odd organizations from all the states of Bharat are expected to participate. They would be sharing their experiences and achievements, understand the size of the effort being put up by all these organizations together, device the best way to generate more and more volunteers, connect to the experts who would be present with them, and like that.

Local organizations from Bengaluru and surrounding districts are also invited to join on the 2ndday of the Sangam i.e. 7thFebruary, which will have a public program. An impressive and extensive exhibition to show case the All India activity is being organized by RSB during the “Seva Sangam”.

“Seva Sangam” will help the participatory organizations in many ways while generating the influence of serving the society selflessly “ the seva way and this might be the best achievement of the Sangam being organized.

As stated earlier, youth in large numbers are eager to serve the society but are clueless on “how to serve & where to serve?” When “Youth for Seva” in Bengaluru started reaching out to the educational institutions, the common question they had to answer was, “why don’t you come right away and engage our students?”

Organizations on the other hand were asking, hey, we need volunteers and how many of them you can send to us?” There is a need at both ends but both ends are not aware of the opportunities available.

Corporate companies in some other cities had a problem of connecting to local organizations and RSB provided them a link through some of its platforms.

The rule here is “more the merrier”. The society is facing diverse problems. Greater voluntary effort is most welcome. Rather every volunteer desiring to serve the society selflessly is most cherished.

The common comment after every orientation and training sessions that comes to RSB is, “why did you arrive so belated, we needed this much earlier!”

Do not hang around for the ”right moment”to serve the society. The “right moment” is right here!

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