Wednesday 14 August 2013


(under the aegis of the Nilgiri Adivasi Welfare Association)

IAYP (Duke of Edinburgh) Gold Award aspirants from Good Shepherd International School, Ooty, India, narrate what they experienced during their five-day residential project as part of their Award Programme

To experience something we have never experienced before, to lead a life we have never led before and to plunge into a world unknown...that’s what IAYP was to us. We were twelve uniquely different Gold Award aspirants, twelve varied ideas but with one cause: taking a small step in the direction of service.

Just because they do not have Gucci or Prada in their wardrobe, or even a wardrobe, it does not make the Adivasi tribes any less fortunate than we are. Have you ever run around barefoot, feeling the mush of the tribal land? Have you ever had a bath in a cool stream, your only companion underwater being a snail? Have you ever taken a walk in pitch darkness, the only light guiding you being a small star? You would if you were part of the residential project for the IAYP.

When we arrived at the Nilgiris Adivasi Welfare Association (NAWA) compound on the 17th of March, 2013 we had no idea that the next five days, though filled with hardship and struggle, were going to be the best days of our lives. We realized the truth in the words of Gandhiji, the Father of our nation, "The best way to find yourselves is to lose yourselves in the service of others" when, with our own hands, we built a road for a destitute home, weeded a garden working under a scorching sun and broke all barriers of language through our body language and smiles. Staying with the poor and illiterate and being the cause of their smiles, we realized the value of our determination to do something worthwhile for them. The ecstasy of watching the children squeal and jump for joy when they won a game of volleyball was far greater than that experienced after a successful game of FIFA 13 on our laptops.

Talking to the villagers we were made aware of the universal needs of food, shelter, clothing, being accepted by our near and dear ones and improvement of standards of living. We all realized that all, whether rich or poor, had similar dreams and most would go all out to fulfil them. The only difference was the strong gender divide as a result of which the mother was seen preparing her daughter for her marriage and the father being the food-provider of the family.

We had only heard stories of places where there was only one tap (not providing distilled water, of course) for an entire village, and during this trip, we had to make do with merely one. A small adjustment like this made us proud. No doubt we felt triumphant that we had saved thousands of rupees for the orphanage by building a path. We took stones and water from the forest and assumed the role of road rollers. Further down, close to the forest, we built a road for the tribals, providing them with their only link to the world.
At a nearby farm owned by a tribal, we created a pumping system to water plants with the help of a pipe using our knowledge and life experiences. The joy on the face of the family members was worth much more than any prize that we won in inter-school competitions. Our satisfaction did not end with this. A long trek took us to a poverty-stricken tribal village. Gone was our fatigue when the children and adults there showed their happiness at receiving stationery and clothes that we had carried for them. We came away learning a lot from them though it was we who had acted as teachers to the children of the village: tackling the travails of life without a complaint, taking life one day at a time, trusting all without a question, were what we learnt from this experience. Besides this, we learnt the benefits of teamwork and had the fruit of perseveracnce and 'loving our neighbour as ourselves', thus making us feel privileged and blessed. 

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