An Interview with Ujjwal, an NGO

You rarely see a 20 yr old student who is as filled with enthusiasm as Jeevesh here. And you are not surprised, therefore, when you hear what this lad from Lucknow has achieved at such a young age. Jeevesh Pandey is a BCA-3rd year student who is also the President of an NGO by the name of Ujjwal-The Light of Youth, in Lucknow.

The NGO was started some 2 years ago at a very small level, but thanks to Jeevesh’s persistent efforts that today it has grown by quite a large number, and now the NGO has more members (around 40 permanent and many more temporary volunteers) than ever before. The Viewspaper engages in conversation with this spirited youth because it is the age of the Y-generation, and therefore, it is important that we give youths like Jeevesh the correct exposure, so that he can act as a guiding light to other youth and encourage them to do something for the society of which they are also a part.

VP: Jeevesh, tell us something about your NGO, why and how it was started, the problems you faced ?
Jeevesh: I always wanted to give back something to the society. As a child, I used to feel very sad for beggars and poor people, like most of us, and even as I grew up, I realized that it was a grim reality which needed to be changed, and we cannot put the entire onus on the govt. Thanks to some very supportive parents, my wish to start an NGO was fulfilled when I entered into my graduation. I started out with 3 of my like minded friends. We had set some goals in our minds i.e., to protect the poor, fight for their rights, respect them, and do something to protect our environment. We initially had to do some running from pillar to post to make our NGO recognized but it wasn’t such a big hassle. Also, even if we did not get the approval, we knew we had to do something for our society and the planet.

VP: What was the response of your peers when you started the NGO?
Jeevesh: Some were quite supportive, but I don’t know why they didn’t join me. Maybe it was due to some family pressure, because parents still think that most NGOs are nothing but hogwash. I know that yes, there are some NGOs which are just money making machines, but that doesn’t mean you stop trusting NGOs. There are some good people and some bad in every industry! Besides this, some people tried to write our initiative off, saying that we lacked the skills & information needed to actually do some good for the society and environment. However, there was no dearth of support for our initiative as teachers and people hailed our effort which acted as a moral booster for us at Ujjwal.

VP: Could you tell something about your activities?
Jeevesh: Sure! We have been working in and around Lucknow. In the recent pasts, we have organized various campaigns such as “Recycle and reuse polythene” campaign which was a big hit. Then we also have been taking up causes of the poor in areas of Lucknow and adjoining villages. We have rallied to ensure that labourers are paid adequate wages, that they are able to avail of the free Govt. services available especially for them. We have also been working with various other organizations involved in this area. It’s been 2 years, and in spite of having a tight schedule, I can say that we have done considerable work, especially around our area. People come to us whenever they have any kind of problem, and it’s always a pleasure to help them. We also organize workshops at regular intervals for poor people and give them information regarding their rights. It brings in a sense of satisfaction. I hope in the future that more and more people join us and that we are able to do much more work than what we have been doing since 2007.

VP: What do you think is the role of the media towards sensitizing people, especially the youth, toward social & environmental causes?
Jeevesh: “Of course, the media has a very important role to play when it comes to waking up the youth. For example, see the effect of the media promotions on the Teach India Campaign and the Jaago Re campaign. Thanks to the media’s role in popularizing these campaigns, thousands of people registered themselves for these programs!!! I just imagine what all we could do if we had such huge number of members.”

VP: you started at such a young age, and as you just said, people had raised eyebrows about your young age and inexperience. What do you have to say on this?
Jeevesh: I have clear answers for these questions.
“First, for those who thought or think that youth between the age of 18-20 are incapable of doing something good for the society, they are wrong. In fact, it’s only when the youth knows from the beginning what is their role, how important a role they have to play so as to ensure that the whole society moves forward in a holistic way.”
“And regarding inexperience, well, one needs to do some work to get experienced, and the earlier you start, the better it is, right? I don’t mean to say that one should start right from standard 1st onwards. But yes, once a person reaches the age of 18 and can think with an open mind, be able to differentiate between what’s right and wrong, he is capable to enough to start something. He may have some setbacks, but aren’t setbacks a part of life? We learn from our mistakes only.”

VP: Do you have any message for the youth?
Jeevesh: “I have a very simple and clear cut message for the youth. I believe that it is the youth which has to bring change to India. It is us, who have to replace the negatives from our society and adopt changes which are really positive. We also have to make sure that we protect our environment or we too will cease to exist. All the power for change lies with the youth. Sop start right now and do something good! Don’t be afraid of the hurdles ahead, they are just there to strike fear into you. Think of them as the challenges and you’ll bring a positive change for all of us.”

Compiled by:
Zain Inhovi

[Image courtesy:]