Ad‘venturing’ into Volunteering
With the changing times, the scope and definition of volunteering has expanded to cater to the varying needs of communities and volunteers. It may not always be in the garb of selfless service but can also be exciting and fun for volunteers while simultaneously working for the betterment of the community. For many years, adventure sports have provided the space to address this gap. India’s National Youth Policy 2014 stresses on the impact of sports, particularly adventure sports, in the development of youth. Activities like trekking, river rafting, mountaineering, etc. can bring young people together for their own as well as the community’s development.
- Adventure sports are a great way to reach out to young people and encourage to be active participants in their communities. The National Youth Policy 2014 recognizes the importance of the role of sports, including adventure sports in the development of young people.
- The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India has been working to reach out to young people in new and interesting ways.
- The Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) and National Service Scheme (NSS) are two of the largest youth volunteering schemes in the world and together reach out to more than 11 million young people in the country.
- NYKS and NSS run various adventure camps and programmes to encourage young people to volunteer and build a stronger relationship with their communities.
- Through the ‘Strengthening NYKS and NSS’ project, 29 UN Volunteers have been placed within NYKS structures across the 29 Indian states as UNV District Youth Coordinators (UNV DYC). These UNV DYCs are working to revitalize and encourage youth volunteering in India.
Two of the largest volunteer schemes in the world, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) and the National Service Scheme (NSS), are working towards this goal through their Adventure Camp programmes. While the NSS undertakes these programmes with youth in schools and colleges under the Rajiv Gandhi Adventure Scheme, the NYKS has adventure camps as a part of the National Programme on Youth and Adolescent Development scheme with out of school youth. These camps encourage youth to build their capacities in responding to challenging situations while inculcating a spirit of appreciation for nature and conservation of natural resources.
Not only do these programmes provide an opportunity for self-development, they also encourage youth to work for development. For example, under the ‘Strengthening NYKS and NSS’ project, while implementing the adventure programme in Nalbari, Assam, the young participants were also engaged in meaningful dialogues about community welfare. Daily cleanliness drive activities were undertaken by the participants and special sessions on national flagship programmes like Atal Pension Yojana, Swacch Bharat Campaign, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, and others were conducted.
Talking about the impact of these excursions for young people, a United Nations Volunteer District Youth Coordinator under the Strengthening NYKS and NSS project shares, “Through these camps, we can create an environment for the young participants to appreciate what nature can provide us and understand the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature. This also brings about the spirit of self-volunteerism for preserving the beauty of our surrounding and what nature can provide.”
While adventure sports allow for personal and community development, another interesting approach is to offer a combination of community volunteering with adventure tourism. Over the past few years, ‘Voluntourism’, or combining volunteering with tourism, sports, and adventure, is becoming a fast-growing avenue for volunteers looking to contribute to society while engaging in something thrilling. In India, organizations like the Global Himalayan Expedition and 17000ft Foundation are already tapping this potential. The impact of this kind of volunteering may be far greater than traditional volunteering and encourage more young people to participate in and work for social development.