AVI – Adventures and Volunteering in India was founded in kind co-operation with two Swedish former volunteers – Signhild Örnberg and Gunilla Hillergren in early 2008. Signhild and Gunilla have worked as volunteers with various volunteer organizations in India and Thailand. And, AVI’s staff has extensive experience of working with international volunteers on various volunteer projects in India since 2003.
Before founding AVI, we could experience that many volunteer organizations in India charge heavy fee but not providing enough support and services to their participants. Also, many of their volunteer projects are not need based. As such, we decided to form AVI with a reasonable fee, quality volunteering and better services to its participants. Also, we decided to work with the neediest communities of India in our region.
AVI started working in an impoverished area called “Banjara Basti” in the town Sikar in early 2008. Banjara Basti is inhabited purely by nomadic groups of people where there is no facility of child care, schooling, health care and sanitation. As such, AVI endeavored to start a preparatory school with an aim to give their children basic education while teaching them good social behavior so that they can be accepted in regular schools and also by the other societies.
AVI works with children, adolescents and disables on the issues relating to their education, health, social behavior, family planning and skill development. Their children are in greater need of help who don’t get opportunity to attend schools, who do not receive any medical attention and who are treated rather badly by rest of the societies as they belong to the “untouchables”.
Also, we started working in another impoverished locality called “Hathi Tiba” in the same town from February 2014 where these nomadic groups have been rehabilitated in smaller houses made by the local government. So, we try to work in both the localities of “Banjara Basti” and “Hathi Tiba” depending upon our resources.
People of Hathi Tiba also lack the very basic facilities of water, electricity, education, employment and a hygienic way of living. They too don’t have access to schools, day care centers, primary health centers and skill development workshops. Most of them lack skills, knowledge and training to earn enough money for their livelihood.
AVI has initiated an endeavor to support children as well as grownups of these communities by imparting them basic education, providing facilities of primary health and hygiene and skill development workshops to improve their knowledge as well as living conditions to make them self reliant step by step.
This is done primarily by strengthening a good social behavior as the so-called Untouchables have a reputation of having a bad behavior. As such, they are not accepted by rest of the societies. And, their children are not accepted in regular schools even. We focus on preparing their children to join regular schools, giving them a solid education so that they can be accepted in the other societies.
Around 100 children from these communities have already joined regular schools after learning basic education and social behavior from the AVI’s Preparatory Schools and lot more are getting ready to join regular schools every year. Many of the grown up girls and young women have also learned basic education with practical skills of sewing, embroidery, jewelry making etc. Elders and younger kids have also been benefitted immensely from our other social development projects.
We hope that soon these children will become role models in their communities and will be able to promote education, health and hygiene and all other issues that they are lacking behind since generations. Also, they will be able to get better jobs and will be able to contribute considerably in the development of their families and the communities they belong to. This will not only bring them economic independence but also gain self respect and dignity.