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Yuva Pragati USA / Yuva Pragati History  / Birth of Youth Wellness Camps

Birth of Youth Wellness Camps

Birth of Youth Wellness Camps

By: Jayant Shroff

In the fall of 2005, Bharatiben, Yogini and I were having a casual dinner on our patio. As many times in the past, our dinner conversation took a turn to Share and Care activities. We discussed among other things, the lack of hygienic habits, proper nutrition and general health of the students in rural municipal schools. How a 10 year old looks like a 6 year old here! How the high school students have a habit of “Gutka”! Why are the girls not continuing their education in high school? Why are students not able to carry on even simple conversations?   And the many more issues we observed and identified during our regular annual visits over a period of more than 20 years.

Yogini and I have been visiting annually the Share and Care program popularly known as School-on-Wheels (SOW). The objective of SOW is to provide opportunity of quality education to students in rural municipal schools while improving the rate of enrollment and retention. All three of us also talked about how we can further enhance the SOW program by providing a healthy, happy and hygienic environment for students to explore their full potential. The preliminary concept of Youth Wellness Camp (YWC) was born!

Separately, Bharatiben had indicated a desire to donate her medical expertise to needy people in some other developing countries such as Costa Rica. Based on this idea, we talked about the availability of such expertise amongst our friends and the community and the possibility of starting a group for this type of hands-on community work. For the next couple months we validated this idea by talking to several friends who can contribute.  Based on the tremendous positive response from all, we concluded that this experiment is worth conducting on a pilot scale.  I then talked to our partner, Sister Nivedita Foundation, India. Sister Nivedita  Foundation was very enthusiastic in giving us their full support. The concept of YWC was further strengthened.

After these initial successes in the concept validation and support, we met again to discuss and dialogue this idea further to shape it and develop parameters.  We started brainstorming scope, logistics, roles, initial schedule, travel, living arrangements, need for equipment among other things. We also estimated out-of-pocket expenses for this work even though we were counting on all personal expenses for each the participants to be borne individually. We were thus convinced that this initial hands-on pilot of YWC will not cost us more than a $1/student. We felt that this is a small price to pay if we can increase the chances of students to succeed in exploring their full potential!  These economic estimates proved that this whole concept is economically feasible.

The rest is history! The first 5 days YWC was held in January 2007 with 12 volunteers from USA and a few local nurses in the Bhimora Ashramshala in Bhimora, Saurashtra, India. 900 students were covered during this first visit. In 2010, based on the success of this first site, Ashwinbhai took on the leadership role in starting a second YWC in Dang area of S. Gujarat. In 2011, based on the request from Maharashtra Foundation, I replicated this YWC activity in a group of schools managed by Jnana Prabodhini in the village of Harali near Latur, Maharashtra. Today we have a group of 40 physicians, dentists, nurses and other volunteers participating in this annual YWC in three different areas covering more than 9000 students in rural India. After 5 years of this Yagna, we have noticed remarkable positive changes in these students in their habits, general hygiene and overall health impacting their education and potential for progress!

We are extremely gratified for dreaming these promises and delivering them!