Thursday, July 23, 2009

Uppar Chadavo

Last weekend I attended a meeting hosted by Yuva ("Youth") Unstoppable, an org that claims "young people are not useless, but used less". They facilitate some unique service opportunities in many cities in India, all in the small acts of kindness paradigm. Last year I was blown away when I joined some of youngsters for a meet-and-greet at a nursing hospital in Ahmedabad. It was amazing to me how much love they put into the service; it wasn't something they were doing just so they could pad their college application. They were there to genuinely connect, which I didn't expect from teenagers. And the response from the elderly people there was tremendous.

Yuva is trying to start a movement with young people around the country by asking to give just 2 hours/week, focusing on serving underprivileged children. I really like two things about their setup: one, that they have people commit 2 hours regularly, which is small. But when you take 2 hours x 52 weeks/year x 3500 youth around the country, you've turned micro-actions into a tidal wave of impact. The other thing I like is that the service opportunities are off the beaten path. In Ahmedabad, there are a number of ongoing projects: give school lessons to slum kids, bring lassi's to police officers working on busy intersections, play with and do lessons with kids at construction sites (while their parents are working), pick up trash for street sweepers at busy intersections, etc. There is the act of service, there is the humble connection to the underprivileged, and there is the statement-through-action, made in busy public spaces.

At the meeting, Amitabh, the founder of Yuva, gave an impressive speech. He started with a great story of something that happened to him on his way to the meeting. He was stopped at a busy intersection when a street-seller boy came up to his car. Wanting to do something for him, Amitabh told the boy to put his hand over his A/C vent, to cool off from the hot day. He loved it! The boy's name was Papruj. As Papruj was enjoying to cool air, Amitabh had to move, but he didn't want to leave the little dude hanging. So he pulls his car over to let Papruj cool off for a little while longer! He'd be late for the meeting, but he was putting a smile on Papruj's face. When they were pulled over, Papruj called over some of his buddies and soon Amitabh had a bunch of little hands sticking into his car.

Yuva is all about energizing youth and trying to fire people up. In fact, Amitabh told the story of the origins of Obama's "Fired up, ready to go" slogan in South Carolina. And this after starting the meeting with everyone standing and yelling the Yuva anthem: We are young! We are productive! We are good-looking! We are dynamic! We are hard-working! AND we are creative!

Finally, I liked Amitabh's concept of a culture of "laddership", which means that Yuva members (Yuva-ites) should generate opportunities for others to achieve and to celebrate when they do. He also introduced the "Uppar Chadavo" ("lift others up") campaign as a way to foster this culture. Always be looking for ways to make others around you shine.

Unfortunately I didn't get to go out and serve that day, but hopefully soon. Fired up!

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