The unique feature about the Award is its ability to engage youth in meaningful activities that contribute towards the development of civil society. Participating in activities such as literacy programs for adults or weaker sections, volunteering at an old home, soup kitchens not only reinvent the community but also shows people become better human beings by building environments makes the effects that built environment has on making better human beings through active community involvement.
India is a developing economy with a large percentage of the youth from the rural and disadvantaged sector. The Award Programme through the India Special Projects allow such youth to realize their potential by giving them an opportunity to break economic and psychological barriers with the India Special Project. Since its first pilot project in 1999 the award has come a long way with the establishment of 25 various project centres, in partnership with NGOs and schools, across the country. Sri Sarada Math in West Bengal is one such Special Project that has successfully empowered many young women through the Award Programme. Dolly Jha, Silver Award Participant from the Math shares her story with us.
Being from a middle class family where the ultimate fate of a girl is to get married, I always thought different. I wanted to be self- reliant and do something valuable.
In school, I read that Swami Vivekananda believed that without feminine power the world could not be regenerated and he had faith in the potential of women to transform society in a relatively shorter period of time. He said, ‘Educate the women of India and let them solve their own problems.’
In 1954, a number of educated women, inspired with his ideals of renunciation and service formed the Sri Sarada Math to dedicate their lives for their own spiritual growth as well as for the uplift of their sisters. The Math emphasizes spiritual development combined with the aim of the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission to serve the society, especially women and children. The Math runs 13 centres dedicated to education, medical service, rural empowerment and relief projects, vocational training, cultural and spiritual exchange of ideas, etc.
Inspired and focussed by the ideals, I associated myself with The Sri Sarada Math after my Class 10 examination in March 2008. It was here that I got to know about the Award and enrolled to participate in the Bronze level. Service inspired me to serve others by engaging in regular service to cleaning the surrounding around us, particularly cleaning the Ganges river bank near the Math. The skills section motivated me to become proficient in the English Language and learn Classical dance. The physical recreation encourages participation in sport. I got to fulfil my long cherished desire of becoming a cricketer by joining PGH Shah Sports Club where girls are taught cricket.
Expedition is the area which I like the most. I have been a part of two expeditions to Purulia and Shantiniketan. Purulia is most memorable. On 25th September 2008, about 30 girls from The Math and some students of APJ School, Saltlake set out for Purulia. The first thing we learnt was to adjust with each other. On arriving at the camp site, we learnt to pitch a tent, tie a rope around the belly for climbing up, i.e. Reef knot among many other things. Climbing and rappelling at the Mathaburu Hills was a turning point in my life as I finally started to believe in myself to overcome all hurdles through self-belief.
Today, I have completed my bronze and need to complete the adventurous journey for the silver level. IAYP has made me realise my strengths, has taught me to take up challenges, to shoulder responsibilities, to lead a disciplined life and to turn my dreams into reality. I am indebted to Sri Sarada Math for providing me the opportunity to engage in the Award, and grateful to my mother for her unwavering support. I am convinced that I will reach my goals with the blessings of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sri Maa and my elders.