In a unique and innovative initiative, UNICEF will join hands with Bastar district administration in Chhattisgarh to create a cadre of 6,000 youth volunteers to fight COVID and its impact on people.
The initiative known as ‘Yuvodaya’ (means rise of youth), aims to channelize the power of youth and adolescents to support government programmes in villages to improve livelihood, health, nutrition, education, sanitation and agriculture. Volunteers will promote health seeking behaviour, create awareness on prevention of COVID in families and ensure learning of students at community level for 1-2 hours daily. ‘Yuvodaya’ volunteers will also help the front line workers in full immunization of children and in-take of Iron tablets by all women and students to reduce anaemia. Besides, volunteers will help in conducting surveys and in monitoring government programmes. It is also proposed to open a “village information centre” in villages by volunteers and to help villagers to access government schemes.
There will be 5-10 volunteers in every village, urban ward and slum under ‘Yuvodaya’ initiative, in the Left-Wing Extremist (LWE) affected Bastar district of Chhattisgarh, to assist frontline workers in villages like teachers, mitanins and anganwadi workers. These volunteers would be drawn from sports clubs of Nehru Yuva Kendra (NYK), volunteers of National Service scheme (NSS), young members of self-help groups and others. Bastar district already has 3,000 ‘Seekh Mitras’ who are volunteers to ensure learning of students in the community.
Job Zachariah, Chief of UNICEF in Chhattisgarh says that adverse impact of COVID could wipe-out all gains achieved in various sections in last 50 years – especially in education, health, nutrition and protection of children.
The programme is designed on the lines of Total Literacy Campaign (TLC) of 1990s. Mr. Job Zachariah says that volunteerism works best when there is an urgency for action and when the situation is grave. “Both these two elements are present now in villages, due to COVID, and hence this initiative” he adds.
Mr. Rajat Bansal, IAS, District Collector of Bastar district says ‘Yuvodaya’ initiative will be led by the district with support of UNICEF, volunteers and NGOs. Nodal officers will be appointed at district block and gram panchayat levels to monitor and guide Yuvodaya. He added “Volunteers under the initiative will provide training for skill development and the experience gained by volunteers from this initiative would improve their employability. Besides, all volunteers will be given certificates for community services and will be honoured in the community”.
An MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) will be entered between UNICEF and Bastar administration on 23 September in Jagdalpur. The MoU will be for 2 years. The Yuvodaya initiative will have its logo, theme song and uniform for volunteers.