Experiential Tourism Gets a Heads-up with NGOs like Adarshila

Take a walk through the varied interventions from an NGO like Adarshila. Open to tourists coming on board and providing a helping hand.

The Experiential, Hands-on Traveller

Community-based tourism in India has shown an upward swing in the past few years, as more visitors are showing a significant inclination towards service-based tourism. Travel agents’ itineraries are increasingly offering experiential visits to urban and rural NGOs which support development of underprivileged communities. Also being incorporated are opportunities to assist marginalised animal, nature and ecological conservation.

Vishal Singh, Managing Director, Royal Expeditions, New Delhi, is committed to social tourism. He says, “As a company, it is our aim to support community and nature conservation. We always try and select reputed NGOs in the destinations to take our visitors to. During on-site visits, tourists interact with the students and the community, participating in various activities. Our mantra is, donate time for the NGO, not only funds and gifts. When they see the good work being done, they do contribute utilitarian items.”

A few points which Singh is clear about, “foremost, it must be a recognised NGO where our clients can see what is happening at grass roots level. Most importantly, they should not solicit donations during a visit. We let them see the work being doing and then it is up to them to decide support the NGO in any manner they like. It is important that the visit is mutually, and socially, beneficial to both parties.”   

One of the beneficiaries is New Delhi-based NGO, Adharshila Trust.

“Adharshila has been lucky to partner with Royal Expeditions as students coming from USA, Canada and Britain have been visiting us. Within our centres, they interact with our students, asking questions about their lifestyle and interests, and in turn are also asked questions by our children.

“The students have been fortunate to receive useful and practical gifts. These have in the past included 10 laptops, cash donation for buying tablets and even room coolers to combat the Delhi summers. Other items are stationery, books etc.

“Our students eagerly look forward to these visits and collaborative sessions. Especially when the foreign students spend an entire day with them, teaching as well as playing outdoor games together. At times Royal Expeditions has sponsored a community lunch or tea party for all.

Finally, to make it a cultural experience, we take the visitors around the neighbouring Bastis and introduce them to the community there,” says Geeta Arora, Co-founder, Adharshila Trust.

A Cornerstone of Self-reliance

“Adharshila works towards building strong and self-reliant communities at the grassroots level. We strive to empower and enable society’s weaker sections, primarily migrant women and youth of both genders, through diverse, multi-pronged programs to ensure sustainable development,” introduce the NGO’s Founder-Trustees, Geeta Arora and Neena Jolly.

Founded in 2004 by two like-minded alumni from the famed Lady Irwin College, New Delhi, “We wanted to set up our own NGO to bridge the gaps in development work. Being aware of the unsurmountable task ahead, and knowing our limitations, we focused on three verticals – education, skill development and health. Each further branching out, enriching and adding value to the core programs to create a significant impact by community development, awareness of social issues and navigation for the betterment of an individual and the family,” says Jolly. 

The initially single-staffed, one centre at Govindpuri, New Delhi has since grown to a team of 35 staff across 5 centres. Presently, Adharshila’s multi-pronged responsibilities encompass skill development, health care, remedial education and awareness workshops reaching out to communities in Adharshila’s over 10 centres in New Delhi, and Gwal Pahari in Gurugram.

Adharshila’s Women Health Centre (2011) with a stationary and mobile clinic conducts 3000 OPD’s per month. This sensitises women and adolescent girls towards their health needs and promotes preventive health care among urban migrants.

Says Dr Shella Duggal, “Miscarriage rates have been reduced by 4 to 6 percent due to ante-natal care and pre-term delivery tests for babies less than their gestation age. Safe and institutional deliveries have increased to 82 percent of pregnant women delivering babies in hospitals.”

The Little Scholars Education program has Adharshila’s in-house devised curriculum on the ideologies of Activity Based Learning (ABL) in a Multi-Grade Multi-Level (MGML) classroom structure. To counter clustered classrooms, the MGML methodology involves experiential, situational and peer learning and group activities.

Digital Literacy prepares youth to embrace digital interface with English to enhance employability. Programs comprise Basic Computers, Advanced Excel, Tally and DTP courses certified by NIIT. Graduates get hired by the retail sector, data entry sector and cash registers.

Established in 2015, MasterG one-year intensive Apparel Design and Fabrication program is conducted by Gayatri Jolly, a graduate from Parsons, New York. The trainees learn pattern making, cutting and sewing leading to remunerative mid-level jobs in the garment industry.

Contributing towards UN Sustainable Development Goals, Adharshila is combating climate change by distributing solar lights to illuminate 620 homes in Chilla Yamuna Khadar Village. For cooking, they were provided portable LPG gas stoves instead of using polluting fossil fuel.

To mark its 16th birthday in December 2020, Adharshila inaugurated a primary health center and launched a Mobile Medical Unit (MMU in Gwal Pahari, Gurugram. The MMU, equipped with doctors, support staff and medicines, visits construction sites and urban slums to provide health checkups and referrals to migrant workers and their families in Delhi and NCR.

Amidst the Covid pandemic, “Adharshila learnt how to remain focused while everything around us was crumbling. The communities we work with are the most affected, due to joblessness, lack of access to healthcare and inability to social distance by virtue of living in densely populated areas. Our multi-pronged approach during lockdown in the second quarter of 2020, included distributing rations facilitating online ration card registrations, offering tele health services/consultations and distribution of 7241 sanitation kits to 3291 beneficiaries, while 4000 beneficiaries were empowered as the only prevention to COVID-19. Over the year, we pivoted our operational and fundraising strategies, created a new brand identity, increased efficiencies, leveraged technology, digitized our records and strengthened internal systems,” affirms Jolly.

Adharshila upgraded branding has a new logo. “The two-way ladder signifies our step-by-step approach of hand holding our communities to enhance their rung-to-rung approach, to hold them long enough till they take their next step with a leap. The ladders also signify the interdependence/ lean in/on of all stakeholders – the communities, our organisation and our sponsors. These are critical in charting the path of success together despite our challenges. It also gives us a chance to step back and see how high we have really gone,” details Jolly.

Summing up, Arora says as she signs off, “While numbers serve as a benchmark of our commitment, ours is a story of passion, grit and determination to succeed against all odds. Looking forward, we would continue to enhance our programs in sync with the ever-changing demands of the industry rather than spreading ourselves farther to achieve random numbers. We will work towards our goal of upping our present 2,48,160 to 5,00,000 beneficiaries from migrant communities by 2030. Meanwhile, we lookback at each subsequent milestone achieved with commitment on conceptualising and implementation in the right direction.”

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