Starting this month, almost 100 American high school and college students from all over the U.S. will travel 8500 miles to the Indian cities of Hyderabad, Vadodara and Indore to provide their at-risk peers, mostly juvenile delinquents and orphans, basic life skills – in the hope that a focus on values such as honesty, kindness and self-esteem will help incarcerated youth assimilate back into their societies.
Following the One Step Forward curriculum, a handbook developed by the non-profit organization Uplift Humanity India, the American millennials embarking on this life-altering journey will teach their Indian counterparts the importance of proper communication and leadership. Now in its fourth year of operations, Uplift Humanity’s summer programs are starting to create the impact they were designed to make.
- "Uplift Humanity is the first U.S. non-profit to send American teenagers directly to India to work in orphanages and juvenile detention centers,” said founder Anish Patel, a business student at New York University. “I created the organization, while a student myself, to give orphans and juveniles in India a second chance.”
Students who have attended the program in the past say the results have been transformational, both for them and their Indian peers.
- "At Uplift Humanity India, I learned that the people who seem to be the most insignificant are, in fact, the ones with the most potential and desire to grow as individuals. Through our program, I hope the juveniles and orphans learned that they DO have the power to change the course of their lives and achieve bigger and better things.” – Krishna Dosapati, Vadodara Alumnus – 2013.
However, after three successful cycles of executing the summer program, educators realized that there was too much of a gap between the instruction periods, given that students only travel to India once a year. Therefore, to increase its impact, Uplift Humanity launched The Continuation Program, an initiative that uses local Indian students and teachers, whom Uplift hire, to provide instruction throughout the entire year in India.
- “The Continuation Program not only stresses the previously learned life-skills, but also educates juveniles and orphans in skills like English and Computer Literacy, in order to better equip and prepare them once they are released from the facility,” said Neil Shah, the organization’s Director of Public Relations. “The technology curriculum is especially important in India, given that the country has been undergoing a tech revolution since the introduction of outsourcing in huge American back-offices and call centers.”
To highlight that tech revolution, students attending one of Uplift’s summer sessions in 2014 have been challenged to capture their experience within the juvenile detention centers and orphanages by creating an original 2-3 minute I-pad or cell phone video, which will be judged by a celebrity and shared through social media. “The reason we are hosting this contest is to illustrate to America what life inside juvenile detention centers and orphanages in India is really like; we want to leverage the technology that privileged Americans own and use every day to spread Uplift Humanity’s mission,” said Patel. The director of the winning video will receive a $2000 scholarship for further education from the organization.
- Indian-American actor Sunkrish Bala, the brand ambassador for the organization, noted: “I love the direct, tangible, observable improvements Uplift has been able to make on the lives of these children. Uplift isn't simply throwing money at a problem. Rather, it's affecting change on a personal, human level.”
About Uplift Humanity India:
Uplift Humanity India is a non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of juvenile inmates in South Asia. Its motto, “Bring the World Forward,” epitomizes the method by which it seeks to empower youth through hands-on education, mentoring, and technology training. Uplift Humanity’s goal is to spread its specialized curriculum throughout the continent to give youth opportunities to flourish once they reenter society. For more information, visit www.uplifthumanityindia.org.