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Mar 4, 2014

Seeds of Peace India program director helps 450 youth engage in social change

MUMBAI | To gain a better understanding of how to engage Seeds in social change, Seeds of Peace India Programs Director Sagar Gangurde recently joined 450 Indian youth for an 8,000 kilometer train journey across India.

The 15-day Jagriti Yatra experience focused on social enterprise, an area of increasing focus for Seeds of Peace, which aims to empower Seeds to pursue their own social change projects after Camp.

Sagar helped participants aboard the train gain inspiration for building India through social entrepreneurship, and plans to incorporate the lessons he learned on the 15-day journey into his work with Seeds.

“It was a journey for awakening,” Sagar said. “It was about understanding the root causes of social issues, about taking ownership of change.”

Sagar has always been interested in the social development sector, specifically education. Before joining Seeds of Peace, he taught underprivileged children through Teach for India.

“Through my work, I have the opportunity to keep working with youth, growing as an individual, learning and teaching skills, and being helpful as a young leader in my community,” he said.

Sagar was selected through a competitive application process to be one of 45 facilitators on the yatra (which in Hindi means “journey”). Along with the other travelers, Sagar experienced the diversity of India in new ways.

“It was intense, adventurous. As a facilitator, I was in charge of motivating the group, making the most of the collective experience by making sure nobody feels left out and everyone’s voice is heard, and ensuring everyone was having fun but also learning.”

This year marked the 6th edition of Jagriti Yatra. Its model is unique: 650 individuals, including participants, facilitators, and the logistics teams, travel through India on a chartered train. They eat, sleep, and host discussions and workshops on the moving train.

The Jagriti Yatra organizing team identified specific change-makers across the country to serve as inspirational role models to the participants, and every day, these change-makers introduced a new project to the participants.

The group also made stops to visit projects related to agriculture, education, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, water and sanitation, and arts and culture. Two such projects included Barefoot College, an educational center focused on mastering skills through experiential learning, and working towards self-reliance in rural villages, and Aravind Eye Hospital, the largest eye care center in the world whose business model has been lauded for standardizing surgery processes and providing the poor with otherwise-unattainable eye care.

One of the goals of the experience is to adapt and replicate these successful enterprise models. By encouraging and empowering Indian youth to start their own enterprises and become job creators instead of job seekers, the group aims to tackle India’s youth unemployment and development issues.

Reflecting on the most meaningful moments on the journey, Sagar said that he encountered hardship in rural areas that is unimaginable in the cities.

“Of course I had heard about this,” he said. “But to experience it was different.”

“Learning from the experience and knowledge of people from the most remote areas of India was incredibly enriching, but the Yatra was also an inner journey for me. It allowed me to understand myself better, to reflect, and to think deeply about the change I want to make.”

Entrepreneurship for social change is increasingly an area of focus for Seeds of Peace, through small grants competitions and a partnership with Ashoka Youth Ventures, which empower Seeds to pursue their own social change projects after Camp.


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