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Yuva Pragati USA / Volunteer Experiences  / Youth Wellness Camps – Reflections

Youth Wellness Camps – Reflections

As I Reflect – by Radhika Shroff Seth
I am sitting at Mumbai airport reflecting on my last few days in Rajkot, Gujarat. I was there with Yuva
Pragati’s annual Youth Wellness Camps project, which has taken place for the last 13 years at the end of
January. I am a board member and donor to Yuva Pragati, but this is the first time I have actually gone
to meet the recipients of YP’s work, observed the dedicated doctors in action, and truly understood the
grassroots dedication of a relatively small group of people who treat over 1,000 children in rural Gujarat
over the course of 5 days – every single year.
The Work:
My sister and my mother are both doctors – so in high demand as volunteers for the wellness camps.
Working with these children (I visited 2 camps, with boys and girls ages 12 to 17) is a mix of gratifying,
hectic and grueling, as well as heroic. Most of the doctors travel from the US and are supported by a
team of nurses and dedicated professionals from Sister Nivedita School in Rajkot. First – the doctors.
They rise at 6AM every morning for a 2 hour ride to small villages outside of Rajkot and immediately get
to work on seeing hundreds of kids for physicals and wellness exams. The schools are well prepared and
organized, thanks to the pre-work of Sister Nivedita’s amazing team members. My mother, a pathologist
by practice, caught a heart murmur, a very rare condition in high school students. A learning lesson for
diagnosis for the medical students, young doctors and even the experienced ones. The case will be
referred to a local cardiologist for further action. The expenses will be paid for by Yuva Pragati. My
sister, a dermatologist, cured girls and boys itchy skin, as they spend most of their days outside in the
hot sun, barefoot and exposed to the elements. Every year, this group of doctors takes time out of their
busy lives to save the lives of those who are less fortunate. It is the most noblest of work.

The Kids
The kids are amazing. They are warm, full of life, inquisitive, attentive, so eager to learn and so eager to
please. I have never met a group of teenagers who had such a fun mix of being both well behaved and
exuberant. The students are the children of migrant workers – parents, who out of necessity and
concern, have sent their children away to school for a chance at a better life. Tuition is Rs 2000 per
month or around $30, however, most families cannot afford even this meager amount and the children
receive subsidies and scholarships from YP, Sister Nivedita and others.
The kids’ spirits have soared at these schools, and Yuva Pragati, in addition to medical exams, works to
keep their spirits high and alive. We met with girls and boys in small and big groups and chatted with
them. In the midst of jokes and giggles, Yuva Pragati’s guidance counselor drove home three basic

  1. You can do anything you want to do. Go to college. Become an astronaut. Or a doctor. Own your own
    business. Don’t let your life be defined by limitations;
  2. Keep healthy – brush your teeth (this is not a given!), don’t drink, don’t do tobacco, don’t smoke (like
    your parents, like your uncles and aunts – break the cycle);
  3. Ask for help. Always ask for help.
    Our group discussions were met with great delight. The boys were shy and the girls were inquisitive.
    But they all asked questions – how can I improve my memory? Why do I fall asleep when I am reading?
    Will you teach me Spanish? What should I study if I want to do fashion design? Who are you? Why don’t
    you speak Gujarati? They giggled. They practiced their English. But most importantly, they showed a
    sense of hope for the future, and what they could do with their lives and what they could accomplish.

The Funds
For the cost of a dress, you can change a child’s life. Truly. I’ve seen it in action and Im a believer:
For just $200, you can educate a child for a year. These children would otherwise be living in poverty
with their migrant worker parents, working menial jobs in rural areas – with little chance of elevating
themselves and their families out of poverty. For supporting a girl through high school, you have to
donate $800/- over a period of four years.
For just $500, you can pay for a critical annual physical for 100 children– one that could save their lives.
These kids can go years without ever seeing a doctor. How are they to study if they are not feeling well?
How are they to understand how to take care of themselves if there is no one to explain this to them?
The annual physicals are critical, not just for the medical check-up itself, but also for the exposure to
dedicated doctors who talk to the children about healthy habits and lifestyles.
There are more opportunities to support the education of the first generation learners and be a part of
this permanent transformation:
Bunk beds for 100 kids –
One toilet and a bathroom –
One basic Library – $500/-
Play equipment per school – $250/-
One annual YWC (three schools and 1000 kids) – $5000/-
Furnishing clean water (a bore well) – $3000/-

100% of your funds go to the benefit of the kids. Yuva Pragati is run solely by volunteers. Click here to
donate. Or email me at I’ll make you a believer too.