“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 when she didn’t get what she wanted.
Meena’s parents were in dire need. It was also one of the toughest times living with two brothers, two sisters-in-law, and two nephews. But by a stroke of luck young Meena met with Mr. Christo Das, Head Missionary of the Little Flower Missionary. “Everyone calls him Baba or Father,” she says. 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 remembers Baba’s word.
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 for interview. I did well and was selected.” In the latest of my Q&A series with Restless Development’s young volunteers across country programs in Africa and Asia, I had a quick chat with Meena Kumari who lives in Raxual, East Champaran, Bihar, India and 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:
What programs have you volunteered for? What groups did you work with?
“I was volunteering for the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) programme, and primarily working with adolescent and young girls and boys both in 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 learning 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 behavior. 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 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 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 monthly review meeting.”
What have you gained personally from volunteering? What’s a typical like for a volunteer?
“I hardly knew anything about on sexual reproductive health before joining Restless Development. I didn’t know anything about HIV/AIDS and STIs. But after joining Restless Development I got opportunity to learn many things especially deep understanding on various SRHR topics. Before, it was difficult for me to address 10 people but after working as volunteer, I found my confidence to address and interact with mass audience. I did volunteering with Restless Development for three years and after that I got opportunity to work as Program Executive. I was really happy because I got opportunity to engage in report writing, preparing case studies and enhance my digital skills during that time. I also learned how to manage team of volunteers, control my aggression, and becoming 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 Program Executive, I provided support for field level activities, planning, and execution with my team.”