With the constraint to be virtual and wanting to be helpful in a cross-cultural context, the Yale Alumni Service Corps (YASC) recently participated in a youth leadership program led by Creatnet.org, a nonprofit based in Delhi, India, with a mission to cultivate and support self-driven learning communities to strengthen education and institutions.
YASC participants were eager to have a project in India because two YASC delegations of alumni, family, and friends have worked with the community of Kakelao in Rajasthan in 2014 and 2015. Raman Gulati, a primary planning partner for those trips, is now part of the Creatnet team. From our first discussion, it was clear that working with Creatnet would be an opportunity to delve into a deeper service community.
The goal of the Creatnet’s Youth Leadership Program (YLP) is for young adults to learn about leadership, learning, and teamwork, then become facilitators supporting high school student groups in their local communities. Creatnet asked YASC for volunteers interested in being facilitators to train the young adults in leadership and teamwork.
For the YASC volunteers, the YLP training and participation was a six-month journey of self-awareness and facilitation.
Four representatives of YASC – Andrew Garling, Patty Locuratolo, Ricky Schneider, and I – joined six additional volunteer participants in India for the first international adaption of the program. The program was led by Creatnet founder Darshan Bhat with support from Pavan Sood and Malavika Prasad.
For the first five sessions, the 10 of us learned about each other and about ourselves through three-hour sessions every Sunday (carefully timed to accommodate the 10-½ hour time difference between India and the eastern U.S.). Darshan immersed us in the Creatnet methodology of self-awareness, questions, and goal setting as an approach to leadership and life. The curriculum covered types of learning, types of listening, establishing trust, and the learning cycle of reflection-action-silence.
These sessions brought us together as a group and gave us the opportunity to get to know each other despite the great distance that divides us. Everyone was eager to hear the perspective of the other participants and to be supportive of each other, especially as India faced the worst of the pandemic.
After the initial training, the participants were divided into pairs to facilitate a cohort of 10 young adults who had volunteered for YLP. This part of the program consisted of 20 weekly sessions that alternated between the recently trained facilitators (us) working with the young people and alternately returning to our original group for review, assessment, and prep for the next week.
Each of the five groups of young people progressed through the sessions based on the interests and needs of the participants. For example, in the group that I facilitated along with the very capable and inspiring Vijay Sankaran, the concepts of intentional listening, ikigai, and S.M.A.R.T goals resonated as applicable to the pursuits and stage of life of the young people. Burhan, a young man studying biochemistry, commented that “this program is so helpful for working with my lab team. Everyone should have the chance to learn these concepts in high school.”
After the completion of the initial phase of the program, the young adults will spend an additional six weeks learning to be facilitators. Once they complete that step of the program, they will work in pairs to lead high school groups of 10 teenagers to help them better understand teamwork, leadership, and learning so they can help others. In this way, YASC, through its four participants, will help more than 200 young people throughout India.
Throughout the process, our group of 10 facilitators has developed a mutual respect and caring for each other, and we plan to continue to meet monthly to support each other. The session at the end of September will include a discussion of how to integrate some of these lifelong learning and program delivery concepts into YASC in the future.
Learn more about the Yale Alumni Service Corps, upcoming trips, and virtual service opportunities at yalealumniservicecorps.org.