Indian Americans donate time for India's development

Thursday, 29 January 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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AHMEDABAD: It's payback time for Indian diaspora's Gen-Next settled in the US, with young Indian American students and professionals coming 'home' to donate time and know-how for the development of the land of their ancestors.

And the force behind this unique concept is Anand Shah, founder of Indicorps, a not-for-profit organisation that ensures time donation of one-year for the development of India.

Indicorps selects students and professionals and sends them to India to work with different NGOs, working in various development fields, for a year.

Founded in 2000, Indicorps has sent two teams of 25 people to India since 2002.

"In 2002-2003 we sent a 14-member-team. This year, 11 members have come to India," said Shah, who has recently been honoured with the Gujarat Garima Award-2004.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee presented Shah with the prestigious award, constituted by the Gujarat government, at the World Gujarati Family Festival organised for non resident Gujaratis (NRGs) from January 12-14.

Born to Gujarati parents Rameshbhai and Kokilaben Shah, Shah's love for India grew when he visited Mumbai in the mid 1990s.

"My visit to Mumbai changed my perception towards India and instilled a new love for the country that my father has always cherished and told us stories about," Shah told IANS during a visit to this Gujarat city.

In Mumbai, Shah came in touch with Pandurang Shastri Athavale, a social reformer who died in October last year.

Athavale was a famous scholar familiar with the Vedas, the Upanishads, logic and philosophy. He set up the 'Swadhyaya', or introspection, movement in the 1950s to bring about social transformation through the values propagated in the Hindu treatise Bhagvad Gita.

"Athavale's philosophy created love for India in my heart. I realised that our (Indian) culture is the oldest one and thus we, no matter where we are settled in the world, owe a lot to our motherland," Shah said.

Referring to his idea about donating a year to developmental work in India, Shah said: "The word donation is generally taken for financial charity. I wanted to change its connotation. So I decided to donate the world's most valuable thing to India 'time'."

He said his idea of time donation evoked tremendous response, resulting in the founding of Indicorps.

Under the one-year Indicorps programme, selected fellows are given individual responsibility to execute and complete projects that are created and defined by local developmental experts.

"We, at Indicorps, strongly believe that experiencing India will help Indians around the world better understand our heritage, explore ways to strengthen our community, and encourage civic responsibility at home in our respective countries," reads the official website of Indicorps.

"We have concentrated largely on grassroots development and strengthening non-profit organisations in India by encouraging highly motivated and qualified individuals to apply their human capital through service," explained Shah.

In 2003-2004, Indicorps programmes include total village development in Manchal Mandal (Andhra Pradesh), land-based learning in Pune (Maharashtra), public health and education in Aurangabad (Maharashtra), improvement of slum life in Ahmedabad (Gujarat).

The other major highlights of this year include the "hands on science" programme in which Indicorps fellow Roshni Kasad will spend the 2003-2004 fellowship year with Class 8 and 9 students in Gujarat's Patan town.

Apart from this, Indicorps programmes in Gujarat include educational programmes for village schools in Saurashtra, fund raising for NGOs of south Gujarat in Surat and helping craftswomen of Kutch develop a cooperative society in Ludia village.

For the first three years, Indicorps programmes were open only to US citizens, Canadian citizens, and US/Canadian permanent residents. For the upcoming fellowship year (2004-2005), Indicorps will continue to follow this policy.

But, said Shah: "We are strongly looking at ways to open the programmes to non-resident Indians and persons of Indian origin around the world (with the exception of resident Indian citizens) in 2005."

Source: IANS
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