Volunteering in India

Christmas is just round the corner and I would like wish you all a Merry Xmas. Its time to let Yuletide sweep over and sing “Joy to the World”. Christmas is one of my favourite festivals too. Hope it brings load of joy for you all.

This issue also marks the first anniversary of the Volunteering in India newsletter. Wow! It’s been a year since I have been writing to you all. Time does fly!

In this newsletter we will be discussing about the World Aids Day, International Volunteer Day and World Human Rights Day. It is very important to be aware of the dangers of AIDS. Equally crucial is to promote the universal human right: to live and to do so peacefully.

You all must have heard about the recent inexplicable and unpardonable crime in Mumbai that shook us all. Let us all take a moment to think of those who lost their lives for no fault of theirs.

May peace prevail on our planet earth!

Till next time,
Vinod Meena
Project Coordinator,

World Aids Day- December 1, 2008
The number of people living with HIV is continuing to rise in every part of the world. It is estimated that there are now around 33 million people living with HIV worldwide.

The 1st of December, World AIDS Day, is the day when individuals and organisations from around the world come together to bring attention to the global AIDS epidemic. 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Whilst AIDS awareness has come a long way since 1988, there is still much more to be done.

The World AIDS Campaign (WAC) has been established to support, strengthen and connect campaigns that hold leaders accountable for their promises on HIV and AIDS.

Asia is on the verge of an AIDS crisis of pandemic proportions. With close to 4 billion people, Asia is home to 60% of the world's population. Although many countries in the region have yet to record significant levels of HIV infection, large populations and inadequate sexual education and health programs mean that the number of infections could dwarf anything we have yet seen in Africa.

Comprehensive sex education, health information and services are scarce. Often, the programs take a narrow approach tailored to specific concerns such as contraception or child health. Little attention is paid to social and cultural norms that deny young women health services.

Keeping in view the above facts, the theme for this year is "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise - Lead - Empower - Deliver". Leadership empowers everyone—individuals, organizations, governments—to lead in response to AIDS. The campaign highlights the political leadership needed to fulfil commitments made in response to the disease, particularly the promise of universal access to treatment, prevention, care and support.

Let us unite for a common mission - for solidarity, equality and acceptance. Together we can provide hope, knowledge, treatment and compassion to all people living with HIV/AIDS.

International Volunteer Day- December 5, 2008
Volunteers should be acknowledged for the important contribution they make to the community. Many not-for-profit organisations would find it impossible to carry out their work without volunteers. Recognition lets volunteers know that others appreciate what they do. It gives them a feeling of accomplishment and motivates them to continue volunteering.

International Volunteer Day (IVD) is the perfect time for an organisation to express gratitude to its volunteers. It is a chance for volunteer-involving organizations and individual volunteers to promote their contributions to development at local, national and international levels. Over the years, rallies, parades, community volunteering projects, environmental awareness, free medical care and advocacy campaigns have all featured prominently on IVD.

World Human Rights Day- December 10, 2008
Ban Ki-moon, the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations, says, “It is our duty to ensure that these rights are a living reality -- that they are known, understood and enjoyed by everyone, everywhere. It is often those who most need their human rights protected, who also need to be informed that the Declaration exists -- and that it exists for them.”

The theme for 2008, “Dignity and justice for all of us,” reinforces the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a commitment to universal dignity and justice. It is not a luxury or a wish-list. The UDHR and its core values, inherent human dignity, non-discrimination, equality, fairness and universality, apply to everyone, everywhere and always. The Declaration is universal, enduring and vibrant, and it concerns us all.

Since its adoption in 1948, the Declaration has been and continues to be a source of inspiration for national and international efforts to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In case you are interested read the declaration, follow this link-

Case history
In the series of the case histories of the children at Bal Ashram, this month Rajeev Kumar (name changed) shares his life with you:

I was five years old and was sent to a local school. I never liked school and bunked from school to indulge in bidi (tobacco wrapped in leaves), ganja (marijuana) and alcohol. Basically I was with the wrong kind of people doing the things I should never have done.

I used to go for school at 8am in the morning. I left my books at the school and then went to work. I spent all the money I earned in buying ganja. I never ever thought of giving the money to my parents. After school I cherished the ganja and smoked till 8pm or 9pm. When I used to go home needless to say I used to get chastised for my behaviour. I used to get really perturbed with my parents as to what are they trying to tell me. Most of the nights, I slept hungry as I was too angry with my parents.

I skipped school the days my father would go out before me. I would loiter with my cycle in the neighbourhood. I would take food from my friend’s parents. When my father came looking for me, I would hide from him from the fear of being chastised again.

One day some of my friends suggested that I should go to Bal Ashram. “There they don’t have books till the time we are ready for them”, said one my friends. I instantly took a liking to the Bal Ashram. Now I have an urge to learn. I want to learn cricket, do drama, and play football and study. This place has given me a new life.

That is all for this last month of 2008. Hope you had a great year and will have a wonderful 2009.

Till next year
Vinod Meena



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 Volunteer Stories

When I first arrived in India, it felt like every little thing was so different from back home- the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people, the animals; every moment was a new adventure, and I was always excited to see what would happen next! I volunteered teaching English to rescued child laborers in a rural village near Jaipur.

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