A lack of funding is a constant struggle for NGOs attempting to meet long-term and time-sensitive transformative goals. In the pursuit of continuing their work towards grassroots development, a small-scale NGO from Uttarakhand’s Champawat region has opened up its Pahadi Center to anyone wanting to escape city life. The goal is to make the NGO’s programs self-reliant and donor-independent by combining volunteering experience with tourism.
Volunteer tourism as a concept is a niche designed to raise capital for programmes and communities in need as well as to accommodate travellers seeking meaningful experiences through volunteering. Volunteer tourism, if practised responsibly with nuance, can be a sustainable alternative to otherwise indulgent vacations that the masses tend to splurge on. It addresses accountability towards one’s environment by making travelling a much more worthwhile experience.
A lot of city folk sign up for volunteer tourism programs with a saviour complex of wanting to make a change and modernise the spaces they are welcomed into but volunteering is a two-way process. You change the space but the space also changes you.
HaiJalo, in Kumaoni, translates to, “It shall happen.” They believe, that “...wonderful things are not only possible, but they’re also around the corner.” With the vision of seeing Pahadi communities live in peace with pride, Haijalo is an NGO experimenting with a different notion of development, where volunteers give a little of themselves through volunteering and in turn receive community care, self-discovery, and love and compassion.
The idea of different volunteering programs under and structured around Haijalo is that social work is not a transaction. It aims not just to raise capital for its groundwork but also to welcome and invite donors into the volunteering process, something which is a lot more rewarding.
Ruth D’Costa, who is a part of multiple projects like Matu Matu Matha, Understanding The Forest, Sisterhood and Healing and Mountains Are Calling notes that a lot of volunteers sign up for these programs thinking that they have life figured out, only to be shocked by what the slow pace of village life has to offer.
Krutika, a volunteer at Haijalo has this to say in a blog she wrote recently.
“Sometimes the ideas of freedom, development and modern life that we carry with us are not just unnecessary in a place like this but also downright harmful.
Mental health issues are not a very common thing here, and in the rare cases of someone having one, it is almost always caused by a traumatic incident. Unlike Mumbai, or any other city for that matter, almost every other person I know there is going through something or the other, and you cannot tell me that it has no connection to the lifestyle we live there. We are all stuck in this rat race of things that we don’t need, even the apparently anti-capitalist, smart ones of us who understand that it’s a rat race because we just can’t help it.”
Learn more about Haijalo here.
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