Pulin Thakkar: Empowering Migrant Youth

Fellowship, Programs, Progress Reports

SEPT 15, 2008 – MAR 15, 2009

Pulin Thakkar, August 2008 Fellow
Aajeevika Bureau

pulin-blogBackground and Project Vision

There is a huge flow of migration from South Rajasthan and other states to Ahmedabad, of which a significant percentage are youth.  These youth face a variety of issues within the city including issues with health, ration, housing, identity, awareness of rights and law, recreation, skills/education, etc.  These youth have potential, but lack the platform and awareness to display that potential.

Aajeevika Bureau works with migrants within Ahemdabad city and at the major sources of migration in South Rajasthan.  The Bureau has a variety of services including registration and photo ID, skills training/placement, legal awareness and counseling, financial literacy/inclusion, collective formation, health, and youth empowerment.

My project vision is to help migrant youth to discover a destination they want to reach in life, build a map to reach that destination, and collectively embark on the journey of personal growth

Project Goals and Future Plans

•    Formation of a collective that strengthens the unity of migrant youth and creates environment in which migrants support each other both at the source and destination
•    Facilitate the personal growth and increased employability of migrant youth through developing skills (creativity, team-work, leadership, and self-confidence, etc).
•    Provide a platform for migrant youth to access the recreational, health, financial, career options, and other services they currently do not have access to
•    Involve Migrant Youth in activities in that help and support their peers who face similar issues
•    Provide a safe and open environment that fosters the learning and sharing of ideas

Short Term Goals:
•    Formation and Strengthening of Migrant Youth Groups across the city
•    Development of a Youth Resource Center within one community that will have night programs that will be fun and beneficial for migrant youth(Recreational, Employability, Health, Financial literacy, etc)
•    Create linkages with other NGO’, volunteers, other groups within community to facilitate youth center activities

•    Replication of youth groups and centers across the city
•    Increased involvement and leadership of youth in sustaining and planning center activities
•    Creating this environment of migrants helping other migrants is one the long term goals of this program.

Project Implementation Progress and Future Plans

Overall, I am very appreciative to have spent the last 6 months working with the migrant community in Ahmedabad.  Having the opportunity to meet some amazing people both in the office and in the community has definitely been a privilege.  In the past 6 months, I have learned a great about myself, my limitations, capabilities, and the environment around me.

In my first few months, I spend a significant time in the field to both in South Rajasthan and Ahmedabad to better understand and develop relationships with the community.  My time at the source helped me understand the causes of migration and the environment from which my community comes from.  Within the city, I visited and interacted with individuals at construction sites, cement factories, scrap/junk centers, spice markets, fruit markets, apparel factories, milk dairies, hotels, restaurants, canteens, roadside eateries, laborer homes in “Chalis”/open rooftops, namkeen shops, shopping malls, etc.  This time in the field exposed me to the issues and challenges of migration in this city.

While working in the field, I came to understand the issues of migrant youth and planned my project within the context of my learning.   In terms of implementing my project, I believe my project has progressed slower than I anticipated.  Some of this is due to my inability to overcome roadblocks along the way.  Currently 2 youth clubs have been formed and there have been some activities conducted with these youth groups.  However due to issues with space and limited availability of workers, these youth groups have not developed strongly.  Since the issues of migrant youth are complex, I have also been actively involved in opening bank accounts for workers, finding economical cooking fuel solutions, and starting health related activities.  In addition, I have been able to network with other NGO’s, Govt Departments, and other community stakeholders. Some of the mentioned roadblocks have slowly been overcome, and I am positive about the remainder of the year.

Detailed Goal-setting & Implementation Planning

Months 8-10:  Development of 2 Formed Youth Groups and Establishment of Youth Center
•    Youth Center Established
o    Help create a space that offers a variety of programs that can guide and develop youth
o    Ensure the center is innovative, well maintained, and utilized
o    Involve youth in maintenance and planning of center

•    Development of 2 Formed Groups
o    Offer 2-3 regular activities and programs with groups
o    Formally select leadership and roles within group

•    Involve youth in community
o    Ahmedabad:  Active in investing in the new community which they belong to
o    Peers:  Mentor and help their peers who are newer to the community
o    Ration:  Operation of Ration Shop
o    Health: Awareness and counseling
o    Financial:  Opening bank accounts for youth

Months 11:  Sustainment Mode
•    Determine and Implement a sustainability plan
•    Staff Capacity Building and Training
•    Youth leadership
•    Plan  Involvement of other NGO’s and partners


Before, I attempt to answer this question, I have learned that my understandings this year have evolved, changed, or have been completely wrong.  So the statements listed below are based on what I understand as of this point and might not be conclusions that I have made.

Why does migration happen?
I have understood that migration is a reality and huge phenomenon going on in this country (70% in some villages).  A key learning is that migration is a near-term areas with poor agricultural output and no other livelihood options. I have learned the sacrifices that women and children are asked to make due to so many men migrating, especially lonliness.  I learned that migration flow is based on an informal network created in one’s village, therefore streams usually begin at a particular village, within a particular caste.    I have witnessed the challenges of migrants when adjusting to a modern city, due to the vast differences from villages.

Complexities of Migration
Migration is a complex issue and involves a variety factors including health/sanitation, skills, rights, identity, housing, food, gender, financial inclusion, worker exploitation,etc.  Community building with an untrusting migrant community is an extremely difficult task.  Intense working schedules, frequent mobility, and the geographic spread within the city, makes repo building and planning activities.  The magnitude of migration in Ahmedbad took me by surprise along with the lack of visibility of migrants within the community, government, and NGO sector.

Interacting with Community
I have began to learn how to interact and build repo within the migrant community.  I have learned the challenges of connecting and communicating with migrant “youth”.  Many migrant youth are between ages of 18-25, but have been working for over 6-7 years, so are very mature and experienced.  Many youth work and live in intimidating environments, and it is difficult for them to trust and communicate with new people.  However, as relationships are starting to form, I have been able to talk about deeper issues that the community face either back home or at the destination.  The level of comfort of both the migrant and myself has gradually increased and this has made it easier for me to approach them and vice versa.

There have been some subtle understandings of this country that have accumulated to make me feel more comfortable and at peace here.  I really can’t put words on what these understandings are, but something has been revealed in which has enabled to feel more connected to the country.

Although I have been to India before and have learned about development, Indicorps orientation and workshops was where I was able to gain perspective on many things.  I gained an understanding of the importance of having a collective supporting each other for each other’s growth.  I have understood the power of questioning and reflection.  I learned that the definition of “development” is not so clear cut.  I have gained insight to many of the beauties and complexities present within India.    I have also learned that what may seem like issues to us, may not be issues to the community.  An important understanding has been the importance of having strong values and living by them.  I have felt values such as love, truth, etc from staff, fellows, guests and have learned the importance of living by strong values to guide positive change within communities and myself.

Maybe some of these understandings were things I already knew before coming here, but I believe these understandings have been deepened.   Although orientation and workshops have left me with more questions than answers, I believe through that process I have gained some understandings.  That being said, maybe what I believe to be an understanding, may still need some further questioning and strengthening.

Personal Growth

I feel like this country and Indicorps has provoked me in both good and bad ways, such that I am forced to think about myself, my capabilities, my limitations, and my environment.  I feel like it is difficult to make this self-assessment of personal growth.  I think there have times where I have seen myself take positive strides in the right direction in terms of leadership, confidence, awareness etc, other times I see myself taking a step in the wrong direction.  The key thing I have learned is to start thinking about things more and questioning myself more.  Trying to understand how I feel about certain things, why I feel that why, why I behaved a certain way, why a certain situation is the way it is, how my behaviors affect others, am I living by my values, etc.    This is one area I want to focus more on for the remainder of the year.

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