Continuing on our trip down the memory lane, this blog from PRAVAH fondly remembers Parul Sachdeva, a social work student from Delhi School of Social Work.
In the summer of 2000, Parul and a friend decided to explore and experience the rural Himalayas in Uttarakhand (erstwhile Northern Uttar Pradesh). PRAVAH’s SMILE In-turn-ship program offered her the chance, in her own words, “to see how work goes on in a rural setting and also the fact that there is a need for decentralization of services.” She volunteered with AAROHI, a nonprofit society in the beautiful town of Nainital.
For Parul, her tryst with learning from life experiences started with the Orientation Camp itself, organized by PRAVAH as a starting point for acquainting the volunteers with the SMILE program. On reaching AAROHI, Parul was pleasantly surprised at the warm welcome she received from Dr. Sushil Sharma, founder of AAROHI, and his family, along with Preeti, Co-ordinator, Income Generation activities. The first few days of her internship were spent “marveling at the beauty of the magic mountains, Himalayas, and knowing the organization”, as Parul candidly shares.
As Parul focused attention on the various issues the villagers were grappling with and got familiar with issues AAROHI was addressing, she shared,
“People are largely and directly dependent on forest for their basic needs like water fodder, fuel and medicinal herbs. The rapidly dwindling natural resources put the pressure on women, who have the singular responsibility of organizing these resources.”
Soon Parul was involved in collecting information on the potential and extent of organic farming in the area from 19 villages in the area. Her personal interactions with the villagers revealed stories of joy, sorrow, exploitation and hope. , each village showering her with warmth and affection, some even extracting a promise of a second visit out of her!
The survey helped Parul prepare a seed register for AAROHI as well as develop an action plan to market the organic grains grown by the rural farmers in the urban market with good profits. These plans helped motivate the farmers to persevere with organic farming. Parul’s learning journey did not end with the internship – she continued to be actively involved in the marketing work for AAROHI even after returning home,
“…the entire experience was an important episode of my life, an immense learning opportunity…and fulfillment of a dream to be amidst the magic mountains…each day in the hills was a new experience, a new rhapsody of colors in the sky, knowing newer aspects of people’s life, walking thirty kilometers a day exploring the forest, the hidden streams of water, beautiful butterflies and many more.”
Parul, Pravah is looking for you to share your experiences and inspire others to take up the Smile challenge!
 (Students Mobilization Initiative for Learning through Exposure), is a national program which was started by the Indo Global Social Service Society (IGCSS). Pravah facilitates SMILE journeys for youth across India as a way to engage young people to create their own 5th Space and become learners from life.