Thursday 31 December 2015

Explore Spiti, be a part of Solar Conservation Project 2016

Residential Project and Adventurous Journey for Gold Participants
10th - 25th June, 2016: Spiti, Northern Himalayas, India
Gold Award participants from around the globe are welcome to apply for the two-weeks Solar Conservation Project at Monastery, Spiti. Organised by Ecosphere in collaboration with IAYP India, the project is one of its kind, combining an Adventurous Journey and Gold Residential Project exclusively for Gold Award participants.  During this journey the Award participants will participate in the actual construction of the Solar Bath and the setup of a Solar Water Geyser (Evacuated Tube Condenser) or a Greenhouse and will be assisted by a dedicated team with a qualified mason and representative from Ecosphere. The construction period will be 7 to 8 days. The trip combines work and pleasure. During this trip the Award participants will also be visiting some of the highest villages in the world, going on a high-altitude trek, visiting some ancient monasteries dating back over 1000 years and taking a yak/horse safari and mountain bike. Traditional homestays further enrich the experience by giving an authentic understanding of the life and culture in a Spitian home. Detailed information and application form can be download from here or you can write

Registrations Open till 15th April 2016

Award Leader Training (YES) Workshop at Award Training Centre, New Delhi

The National Award Authority organized an Award Leader Training Workshop at the Award Training Centre, New Delhi on December 22-23, 2015. The participants included delegates from Vivek High School, Chandigarh; Saupin's School, Chandigarh; and Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior. Kapil Bhalla (National Director) started the workshop with an ice-breaking session and then introduced the Award to the participants. Over a span of two days the participants were given in-depth knowledge regarding the four domains of the programme i.e. Skills, Service, Physical Recreation and Adventurous Journey and also the Residential Project for the Gold Award Programme. The participants were also introduced to the technical aspect of the programme, which included Risk Management and Branding. Bivujit Mukhoty (Programme Manager), Priyank Kumar Gupta (Head IT and ORB), Ranjana Rai (Member NTP) and Pallavi Gill (Member NTP) lead the workshop for two days.  The trainers shared their own experience as trainers and Award Leaders and had an engaging discussion with the participants. Click for pictures 

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Walk for a Light

Bronze and Silver Award participants from Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys' Academy, Narendrapur did coastal trekking for their Adventurous Journey from 9th to 11th December 2015.  Chandan Majumder and Rupanjan Goswami (Award Leaders) sharing the details about this trek.

People who cannot see the light of the world due to their blindness, are always searching for a new light through which they can enlighten their lives and souls.

Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys' Academy, Narendrapur has been imparting education and vocational training to the visually challenged students through the International Award for Young People since 2002. To complete their Adventurous Journey, twenty-five visually challenged, Bronze and Silver aspirants took part in a Coastal Trek from Chandipur to Digha under the guidance of the Institute of Climbers and Nature Lovers.

The participants started walking for 17 kms from Chandipur on 9th Dec '15 along the beach and crossed Buri Balam river and Kasai river. They stayed at Kasafal in tents beside river Kasai first night. On the second day they set off for Dogara village, walking by the sea for 22 kms and in the last lap they walked 23 kms and crossed Subarnarekha river and finally reached Talsari on 11th Dec '15, walking a total of 62 kms. Four NAA interns, all Gold Award Holders, escorted the participants during this journey.

This costal trek helped the participants gauge their own capacity and develop self-confidence. Now each of the participant says "Yes I can, I am prepared for any tasks, I can see the new Light of Life". Click here for pictures

Charity Begins at Home

Award participants from Maa Anandmayee Memorial School, Raiwala took part in cleaning drive organised by the school authorities.  Here is a report from the participants.

On 5th Dec, 2015 as soon as we reached the school, we heard some exciting news. It was related to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and we were asked to get engaged and contribute in this very important movement which has been started by our honourable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi.

'Charity begins at home' -- following this very dictum, our Director Arpit Panjwani and our Principal motivated the children with their didactic words to start this very movement from their school.

First of all they told us the importance of cleanliness and they also told us how to clean our house, school and society and public places as part of our regular schedule. They showed us we can clean the places using proper dustbins. Principal Sir explained the importance of cleaning our rooms ourselves, and further put the waste into the dustbin. 

After the discussion we started our cleaning campaign. First of all we cleaned our school ground and also the classes. Afterwards, we went to the classes and told the students about cleanliness and took a promise from the students that they would use dustbins and also keep the school campus clean. They would themselves take care of the school campus and homes, thereby leading to a cleaner society. Click for more pictures

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Pangarchulla Expedition

Tabassum Akhtaer, Bronze Level aspirant from Future Hope School completed her Adventurous Journey in Garhwal region.  Tabassum sharing her this memorable journey experience with us.
One of my most lively and memorable experiences was the recent trek to Pangarchulla, a 14000 ft peak in the Garhwal region of Uttaranchal.
The long drive to Joshimath via the four prayags or confluences namely - Devaprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag and Nandaprayag was most amazing. At Joshimath we were lucky enough to be accommodated in one of the finest guest houses run by Birla that night and we left for Auli next morning where the trek originated. The windy trail from Auili to Gairson Bugiyali made the trek even more exciting. Our tents were already pitched on the lush green meadows of Garson Bugiyal, our first campsite. Tired after the long ascend from Auli, we soon curled up inside our sleeping bags inside the comfortable tents and fell asleep.
The next day was much brighter and we saw some of the surrounding peaks showing up, though not very prominently. With fresh energy and excitement we soon set out for our second campsite Khullara. The trail from Garson to Khullara is a part of the popular trail known as Lord Curzon trail. This particular terrain led us through beautiful landscapes of valleys, far stretching meadows, forests of oaks and ferns, their leaves glistening in the sun, the cacophony of birds chirping and many more of natures amazing events. Soon the surrounding peaks started showing up and made our journey memorable. As we gained height the towering peaks of Mt Abagamin, Dronagiri, Kamet, Nilkanth, covered in snow made their presence felt and left us speechless.
The following morning we scaled the pangarchulla peak. We celebrated our success, on the top of the cliff, took a lot of footages, and started counting the numerous peaks surrounding us trying to get their names accurately from the guides.
Back in Kolkata even when I think of the expedition to pangarchulla, I sometimes find it difficult to believe my good luck and pluck.

The Award allowed me the opportunities that fueled my passions in life

Canadian Gold Award holder Jessica Silva, one of eight new Emerging Leaders to sit on the International Council (IC) shared her Award Journey at the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Forum 2015 at Toronto

I remember dragging my father into the room as my Bronze ceremony commenced.  He was a bit confused as to why I was so in awe with the young gentleman who sat at our table. Mr. Craig Kielburger, the founder of Free the Children and Me to We, was our guest speaker for our Bronze Award Ceremony and who had the pleasure of sitting at his table? Myself and a few students from my High School. As my father casually made conversation with him, I kept nudging him so as to warn him that he was infringing on the "embarrassing" territory and he needed to simply "stop talking". My father was still confused as to what Mr. Kielburger's role was until he got up to the podium to speak.

Mr. Kielburger began with a story. He shared with us his adventures in Ecuador where he and his team of volunteers were attempting to finish building a school, however they had underestimated timing needed to complete their plans as they were unable to finish building the school in time. Concerned, Mr. Kielburger went to the chief of the village and in an apologetic tone, explained that he and his team were unable to finish the school they were attempting to build for the community. The chief simply explained that there was no need to worry. Mr. Kielburger was confused and thought that the chief had not understood what he was saying. The chief laughed and said he would call for a "minga". Mr. Kielburger left confused, however to his surprise he would learn the meaning of this word "minga" when he woke the next morning.  As villagers from surrounding villages pilled in to help with the school, Craig understood the power of "minga".

Mr. Kielburger explained that there was no direct translation for the work "minga"   however he roughly translated it to mean " the coming together of a community for the greater good". It was at my Bronze Award Ceremony where this very sentiment was engrained in my head. The idea of the power of a community to affect change came to be the very sentiment that fueled my passion and dedication to international development work and advocacy on behalf of the marginalized. Moreover, It was also the thread that held together my personal journey with the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award.

After Mr Kielburger's Speech, my father, an avid traveller, began to ask questions about Free the children's upcoming trip to China during the summer of 2007. About three months later, I was booked on a trip of a lifetime where I began to experience the meaning of community, non formal education, and most of all the importance of taking advantages of opportunities that present themselves when you least expect it.

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, was complimentary to those activities that I was so passionate about pursuing like community service with the homeless in Toronto or learning another language like French. However, I always found it challenging to meet the requirements for the adventurous journey as Toronto, which I am sure you have all realized by now, is not the most outdoorsy place. How could a young woman like myself pursue an adventurous journey when I live in an urban setting. Thankfully, the Award allowed for flexibility with the qualifications for an adventurous journey and my trip to China qualified for my Silver adventurous journey.

In keeping up with the momentum, I continued my Gold Award at the age of 17. However, I slowly began to lose not only my motivation for continuing the Award but also the reason for which I was doing the Award. I began to get tied down with school work, other personal aspirations, and most of all my passions lead my to pursue other opportunities that arose at that time. Before I knew it, I had stopped working on my Gold Award at the end of high school.

Throughout the years, I always worked towards saving up for a trip of a lifetime and for me that was during the Summer of 2011. In my second year at university, I was selected to attend as one of 10 students from my university on an international health field placement in Zambia. We lived in a compound outside of Lusaka and were fortunate enough to work alongside locals. My personal project was working with rural female gardeners and creating a social enterprise project to increase their livelihoods and hopefully, create more opportunities for a sustainable income. It was then where I realized my privilege of having experienced the Award programme. I knew that I had put that opportunity on hold for the moment and as life progressed, I forgot about the aspirations of that young girl who met Craig Kielburger. He challenged us to be that change we want to see in the world and the Award challenged me to push myself to my limits. It was not until I was living alongside those who were not as privileged as I, where I realized just how grateful and lucky I was to be afforded the opportunity of choosing to partake in such an Award programme.

From there, I decided that I would return to Canada and complete my Gold Award as an independent participant. Fortunately enough, my backpacking exploratory journey that I conducted after my health field placement qualified for my adventurous journey. I worked as quickly as I could and dedicated my time to completing my Award. I was so proud to have achieved my Gold. However, when I attended my Gold Award ceremony, I remember being a little taken aback at just how much judgment and lack of collaboration there was at the Award ceremony. As I am a friendly person, I tried to build relationships with those around me, however they were in no way, interested. Moreover, they shared with me stories that alluded to their privilege. I thought back to those whom I had worked with in Zambia and realized that from that point on, I wanted to provide the opportunity of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award to those who were less privileged in Canada. This was my plan then and is still my plan as I stand here today. 

Personally, I would like to thank the Award for allowing me the opportunity to not only gain useful life skills but to also pursue those opportunities that fueled my passions in life. The Award programme's flexibility allowed for me to take a break and pick right back up from where I started. I feel that without that, I may not have completed my Gold Award.

For the Award's future, it is my hope to see the Award flourish amongst the marginalized, of course giving careful definition to whom we define as marginalized. Personally, I think there is the opportunity to establish many partnerships with universities, community colleges, youth programs and even youth clubs where we can present the opportunity to create collaborative models to delivering the Award and more importantly creating a "minga" where youth feel supported throughout their Award experiences. If I may dream so big, I would also love to see more collaboration between countries to creating support for Award participants and Award holders in accomplishing their personal goals outside of the Award. I feel that through networking and creating partnerships, we can all do our part to ensuring the growth and longevity of the Award programme.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

From Toronto to Accra - John May, Secretary General

In Toronto, I likened our development as an Award family to making coffee. I spoke of the need to use percolators as well as cafetières -- to allow ideas room for discussion and consideration as well as driving down hard on the plunger of change. I believe that Forum 2015 gave us the opportunity to percolate a set of ideas and to begin to reach a common vision of our future.

Over the coming months we will be following up on this work: sharing with you further results from the discussions that were facilitated by Group Partners, and suggesting how those discussions might continue and transfer into action. We have further work to do on developing the memorandum of understanding and we look forward to working with members of the International Council on this task in the first instance. And we hope that, in planning for regional conferences and other meetings over the coming three years, we can capitalise on the amazing spirit of co-operation and collaboration that we created in the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

None of this could have happened without the hard work of everyone: our amazing Canadian hosts, Foundation staff, volunteer facilitators, members of review groups, delegates and guests. Thank you for making Forum 2015 the success that it undoubtedly was.

Before Forum 2015 I wrote to you about the 'road to Toronto'. We have now begun our adventurous journey along the 'road to Accra'. It'll be quite a journey and I have no doubt there will be twists, turns and the occasional exploration in what turns out to be the wrong direction. As Robin Sieger said in his speech, "let's concentrate on the 'where' and not worry too much about the 'how.'" If the Award really is the wonderful thing that so many of us believe it to be, then it is nothing short of our duty to bring it within the reach of as many young people as we possibly can; and to do that with rigour, with skill and with urgency.

My IAYP Experience

Surya Govindaswaami, Silver Award participant from Hiranandani Upscale School, Chennai shares his Award experience with us.
Now most people writing this article would start out with something like "the IAYP has been a revolutionizing experience that changed my life". But I'm going to be honest. As a teenager, the IAYP is not something that is going to change your life or shed new light for you. But what it will do is provide you with the motivation and incentive to divulge in new experiences. The saying goes that "experience is the best teacher", and I don't deny that for a second. The various experiences I have been exposed to due to the IAYP have allowed me to mature as a person, become more disciplined in nature, and understand the complexity and intricacy of the world around me. Before IAYP began, I was almost never involved in community and did very little community service, if any. This is expected, as most adolescents are not going to be thrilled to get out into the world and do some real work.

But that changed after I began the IAYP programme; I started becoming more involved in the community and participated in service related activities such as tree-planting, beach cleanups, and teaching under-privileged and orphaned children. These experiences did actually have a huge impact on me, as I began to realize "our world" is a shell, and we are a small dot or point in an otherwise huge painting. In conclusion, the International Award for Young People had a resounding effect on me, and I owe a big thanks to the founders for giving me this opportunity to become more involved in the community and discover reality via a variety of immense first-hand experiences. 
Click for more pictures

Forum 2015 - Asia Pacific Regional Board Meeting

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Orientations and Workshops - A report on Programme Manager's visit

Bivujit Mukhoty (Programme Manager) visited the schools of Karnataka between 16th and 18th November 2015. Bivujit organised a one-day workshop for Award Leaders of Green Valley National School and P U College, Shiroor, which was attended by 11 participants. The workshop detailed the Award Philosophy and Framework, the four sections and residential projects. Mr. John Mathew (Principal) and Mrs. Whilhelmina Anna Swyney Mathew (Chief coordinator) also attended the workshop. This was followed the next day by an Award orientation session for the students of Green Valley National School and P U College. Over 110 students attended the orientation session, after which 86 participants enrolled in different levels of the Award.On 24th Bivujit Mukhoty delivered an Orientation session to the Award participants of Samsara World School, Greater Noida, where over 60 Award participants were present. The session was aimed at briefing the students on the sections of the Award and resolving the different queries of participants related to their Award Journey.Programme Manager also visited Punjab schools on 26th and 27th November 2015. On the 26th there was an Orientation session at Saupin's School, Chandigarh for 160 students. On the 27th there was an orientation session at Yadavindra Public School, Mohali with the Award Leaders and Principal and discussion of the progress of the Award Programme. This was followed by a meeting at The Millennium School, Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar, Punjab with the Principal and staff about the opportunities to start the Programme at the school.Mr. Mukhoty also met Ms. Snehlata, Dy Director Primary Education and Coordinator Award Programme, Govt. of Punjab and discussed the progress of the Award programme in the Government Schools of Bhatinda and Muktsar District. The meeting concluded with an agreement to extend the Programme to other Govt. schools in the near future.

Forum 2015 - Inaugural Session at Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame

The Indian Delegation led by Himmat Kalsia (Chairman), included
Dr Sanat Kaul (Managing Trustee) and Kapil Bhalla (National Director)