Fast Forward India is an organization aiming to fasten the pace of India’s development by helping the underprivileged person. What makes this organization distinct is the involvement of youth in accomplishing its projects. Here we will have a talk with Mr. Durga Prasad, the founder of the organization.
VP: What has triggered the idea of Fast Forward India?
Mr. Durga: The initial motivation behind starting Fast Forward India (FFI) was to help college students gain valuable leadership skills during their stay in college. Our objective is to guide motivated college students to work on projects that address basic problems faced by the Indian society today.
VP: Is there any personal experience that motivated you?
Mr. Durga: Growing up in India, we were all exposed to the acute poverty and low quality of life that is a fact of life for so many of our citizens. What we’d usually do when looking at extreme poverty is either to look the other way, or perhaps to throw a coin and try to forget it. Which is really not a long term solution to the real problem of underdevelopment we have here. So we brainstormed over these issues, and decided that a way of helping people help themselves only can bring about long term change for such a large unprivileged population.
VP: How do you segregate the undeserved people from the deserved one in a particular area? Is there any special criterion that you follow?
Mr. Durga: Most of the children enrolled in the computer literacy project are from the neighboring locality around Indian School of Mines. It has a significant population from low-income groups. That was our primary target. We didn’t really have any rigorous background check on the people that were interested in enrolling for the project. We relied on them being truthful to us.
VP: Does your organization focus on a particular section of people among the undeserved ones, like, children, adults, aged, disabled etc.? If yes, whom?
Mr. Durga: Jagriti – our computer literacy project, was started primarily for children. We have recently been working with Jail authorities to expand it to the local prison, and enrolled prisoners in our courses. Career counseling is targeted mainly at people in schools. For blood donations, every life is priceless and we try to fulfill as many of the requests as we can.
VP: What kind of incentives or aids do you provide to this selected group of people?
Mr. Durga: Quality education in basic computer skills from students at one of the best engineering colleges in the country at no cost is a big incentive 🙂 So is availability of blood in urgency, or free career counseling.
VP: What kind of projects have you undertaken so far and what are the achievements?
Mr. Durga: We have started 3 projects so far – Jagriti, a computer literacy project; Bloodline, a blood donation project; and Disha, a career counseling project.
In Jagriti, our volunteers have taught 156 children since the project was started. In addition,we have imparted computer education to 21 Inmates of Dhanbad prison.
Jagriti, being our flagship project has been a huge success in terms of volunteer participation and student requests. We have seen our seats getting filled within one day of opening of enrollment.
As Part of our Bloodline initiative, we have catered to more than 300 blood requests. In partnership with Central hospital, Dhanbad we have adopted some thalesmeamia patients who have regular blood needs.
Disha, our career counselling project has seen more than 60 students getting proper guidance and motivation. Inspite of being the youngest of all the three projects Disha has gained widespread popularity among the volunteers and students alike.
VP: Indian School of Mines(ISM) was chosen for the first pilot projects, are you willing to extend this to other colleges as well? If yes, where? If no, why?
Mr. Durga: For Jagriti, we have established 2 robust centers at ISM, and also extended this project with the cooperation of government of Jharkhand to the local prison in Dhanbad for prisoners. That has been a major progress for us. Our next goal is to start similar computer literacy projects at different college locations in India. The way we would want to go about this is to first get in touch with students from other engineering colleges (IITs, NITs) through college festivals and then guide the willing students (through ideas and funds) to start a chapter of FFI in their location. Since we have been running this project in Dhanbad for 2 years now, our volunteers already have a wealth of experience that they can share as “best practices” with the new chapters. The biggest challenge at this point is the availability of funds, which directly impacts the expansion plans.
VP: Since it seems that most of the field activities are carried on by the youth, so what is your perspective of the youth of today?
Mr. Durga: Today’s youth have an incredible amount of restless energy and are passionate for change. This assumes great significance for a country like India where 65% of the population is less than the age of 35. Imagine if we use this incredible powerhouse of energy for problem-solving in some way or the other, the impact will be huge. They can make an impact on the society without working full-time on social projects. This is exactly what FFI is trying to achieve and That is the key vision of FFI – to help the society using this energy. Our hope is that, with sufficient scalability, this can reach a tipping point thereby engaging the youth from different parts of the country. This not only solves some of the basic problems faced by the society but also explores the leadership potential in the youth.
VP:What do you suggest, we need to do so as to motivate youth to undertake such tasks and contribute to a larger cause?
Mr. Durga: My personal belief is motivation comes from within. If someone has a passion to make a difference, she/he won’t need any pep-talk. However, at times, lack of any ground results from social projects can reduce the interest level among the volunteers. Therefore, it is very important to give them tasks that make them feel involved as if they ‘own’ the project. In addition, positive reinforcement can go a long way in enthusing them. This can come either from visible impact of their work or some recognition/appreciation or media coverage etc. That said, none of this would matter if deep inside, they dont have the drive to contribute.
VP: How have been your experiences so far with Fast Forward India and what are your future plans?
Mr. Durga: When we started, we didn’t have any significant experience in running a non-profit startup. Zilch. We didn’t really know what would work and what wouldn’t. We literally started from scratch and it was even frustrating at times to see things not moving the way we wanted them to. But once we got better in terms of setting realistic goals, and planning step-by-step to get there, we started getting better results. In hindsight, I can say that our persistence paid off. Needless to say, none of this would have been possible without our volunteers who are full-time engineering students doing all the ground work. Nothing succeeds like success. That’s why after our initial success, we have been able to expand Jagriti to the local prison. 5-6 years down the line, with enough funds and volunteers from different educational institutions in India, our vision is to have Jagriti centers all over India. This is just the beginning.