It is not every day or every summer that one gets the ‘opportunity of a lifetime to know more about the world’…and when you do, do you shirk away or go with the flow? For Richa Dhanju, a IIIrd year graduate student at the Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi, the second option seemed more attractive and she let herself flow. Richa, along with friend, Ruchita, together went for an month-long exposure visit to SCRIA, Haryana, as volunteers of PRAVAH’s SMILE In-turn-ship program.
“I finally decided to make some good use of my time in hand during the summer vacations” – shared Richa, candidly, when asked what motivated her to step out of her comfort zone. At a deeper level of understanding, the above statement, coupled with the urge inside this young mind to “learn more about the real India, know its people, their culture, share their problems and actually feel human by helping them in any way I can”, egged her on to join the In-turn-ship. And, as she recollected later, she came out of the exposure with a better and clearer view of the ‘world around me’.
The immensely caring and comforting attitude and behavior of the local people was, at times, overwhelming for Richa who took some time settling down to being taken care of before she took on more serious tasks of the organization. Her action project on the in-turn-ship involved compiling case studies on 15 women from the community there. Instructions were clearly laid out for them and hence, for Richa, it was just about completing the task, which she did quite diligently, enjoying herself thoroughly – “believe me, it was a lot of fun!” – was how she described her work experience.
From being offered lifts on ‘rickety, shaky tractors or cycles’, which Richa availed of whole heartedly to adding on to her list of friends from among the villagers, from surviving on salty water, inadequate food to living without electricity for days on end, yet taking an avid interest and actively participating in discussion with villagers and the representatives of the organization, this SMILE-er fondly remembers each moment spent in that dry, arid region of North India, that too, at the peak of summer. Above all, what struck her most was the fact that “that place seemed to be full of genuine hearted people…”
On a parting note, Richa admits, “at first, I was skeptical as to how much of a real exposure this would be for me…but, I was so wrong. I know nothing! Right from the sweaty but exciting journey to Khori to the various other thrilling jeep rides and not so great dhaba food, I can say that I lived Haryana every minute!!”
Richa, PRAVAH is looking for you to share your experiences and inspire others to take up the SMILE challenge! Come and relive those days again and help others SMILE J
 SCRIA is non-profit grassroots organization working out of Khori village, Rewari district, Haryana. Perceiving and pursuing a goal of organizing rural communities, especially women, for a meaningful relationship as partners in progress, SCRIA has also promoted local groups in Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Assam who have initiated development work in the rural areas of their region. For more information, visit, www.scria.org
 SMILE (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.