Q&As: Our youth-led approach helps us stay close to young people

In the latest blog series with Restless Development’s young volunteers across our hubs s in Africa and Asia, US-based  Douglas Imaralu had a quick chat with Meena Kumari who lives in Raxual, East Champaran, Bihar, India. She is one of thousands of amazing young people leading development in Restless Development’s country programs in Africa and Asia. Here’s what she had to say:

“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck,” says the Dalai Lama. But in July 2011, 24-year old graduate Meena Kumari didn’t necessarily feel that way.

Her parents were in dire need. It was also arguably one of the toughest times living with two brothers, two sisters-in-law, and two nephews. But by the stroke of luck or youthful exuberance young Meena met with  Mr. Christo Das, Head Missionary of the Little Flower Missionary.

According to her, “everyone calls him Baba or Father.” One day he informed her about a vacancy in Restless Development. “Restless Development is an International NGO working with young people. “Do you want to work in this NGO? Take your time and decide,” Meena recalls.

According to her, “I felt happy that time because I was young and Restless Development is also working with young people on health. I felt very excited and I shared with him my decision because I wanted to learn something on health and about Restless Development’s work. He referred me to interview. I did well and was selected.”

What programs have you volunteered for? What groups did you work with?

I was volunteering for the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) program, and primarily working with adolescent and young girls and boys both in a school setting and out of school setting. Then when I became Programme Executive, my team started working directly with parents, teachers, community leaders and health workers.”

How is your work changing the lives of young people?

“Young people and communities are influenced by our work. Our youth-led development approach helped us to stay close to young people. With peer education methods, we were disseminating various learnings we received from other training. I was educating young people on life skills, livelihoods and Sexual Reproductive Health And Rights. They became more aware and this led to change in behaviour. We were doing intensive work with them by forming clubs. After our work, club members were showcasing their leadership skills in schools and communities and were identified as a role model among their peers and in communities.”

Do you feel young people are more effective in engaging with their peers/communities?

“Yes, I believe young people are more effective in engaging their peers and community members. I have seen young people work together for any sort of community issues. They spread awareness among their peers and all around communities.”

[But] if I could change something, I would conduct a weekly test for my volunteers, collect daily updates from volunteers about their work with stakeholders, and run sessions with volunteers on various topics by experts during the monthly review meeting.”

What have you gained personally from volunteering? What’s a typical day like for a volunteer?

I hardly knew anything about sexual reproductive health before joining Restless Development. I didn’t know anything about HIV & AIDS and STIs. But after joining Restless Development I got the opportunity to learn many things especially deep understanding of various SRHR topics.

“Before it was difficult for me to address 10 people but after working as a volunteer, I found my confidence to address and interact with a mass audience. I did volunteering with Restless Development for three years and after that, I got the opportunity to work as Programme Executive. I was really happy because I got the opportunity to engage in report writing, preparing case studies and enhance my digital skills during that time. I also learned how to manage a team of volunteers, control my aggression, and becoming a role model for them.”

“In a typical day, I work in communities or schools, where I run sessions with young people on sexual rights topics, by using different informal teaching methodologies. During my tenure as Programme Executive, I provided support for field level activities, planning, and execution with my team.”

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Q&As: Our youth-led approach helps us stay close to young people

by Douglas Imaralu Reading time: 3 min