Rural Development Practitioner, Vaibhav Vimal Ganesh Sonone, 26, while an undergraduate at Fergusson College, Pune, heard about Dr Ravindra Kolhe and visited Melghat in 2013.
“Upon meeting the Kolhe family and seeing their work, I voluntarily joined them. Soon felt it was important to bring more youth into India’s underdeveloped parts to help elevate the local society. With this in mind, I invited Drs. Ravindra and Smita Kolhe, or Amma and Baba as I call them, to Fergusson to speak to the students,” introduces Vaibhav.
In 2014 Vaibhav and two friends, Abhishek Akotkar and Vaibhav Nimgire started the Tarunaai Youth Camp volunteering program. Held twice a year for 10 days each in May-June and again after Diwali, it drew 150 volunteers each time. A year later 17-year-old Snehal Janabai Kundalik joined and soon became a Camp Coordinator.
Vaibhav continues, “The involvement of Tarunaai’s volunteering youth with the local tribals in Melghat has improved sanitation, farming, education, and in turn volunteers learn basic medical skills. Back home, they become mini-ambassadors and spread the word about Dr Kolhe’s work and updates on Melghat. Due to covid, the Youth Camp was stopped in March 2020. Planning to resume in February 2022.”
Then adds, “Many volunteers, wanting to give back to society, now successful in their respective professions, have taken inspiration from Amma and Baba and work for the upliftment of the underprivileged in various parts of the country. I go back twice a year for 20 days each time. Besides on the spot involvement, I also handle all external work for Amma and Baba.”
During his post-graduation in Azim Premji University, Bangalore, Vaibhav completed two study researches on Melghat – first, the Public Distribution System (PDS), and secondly on “why people are still not using toilets even though these now exist”.
Vaibhav moved to Mandla, Madhya Pradesh in July 2018 working with the Gond Tribals. “Initially, I was a victim of a rumour with villagers thinking I was a ‘Kidney Chor’ and attacked me. Today, the same people trust me seeing the developmental work done. Many officials from different districts visit us to understand the processes we have employed,” concludes the present Executive, PRADAN (Professional Assistance for Development Action).
Snehal, 22, is working in MP’s Khargone district. Having lost her father at a very young age, Snehal and her elder sister worked with their mother to fund their education. After graduating from Fergusson College, she did her Masters in Education at Azim Premji Foundation where she continues as a Practitioner. She recalls her experience, “I was stunned how Amma, Baba and their family could devote their whole life doing such noble work to bring about societal change. They continuously tell us that it is not about doing social work, but it is our responsibility towards those less fortunate than us. I remember Gandhiji’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. This has become my life’s mission, and hopefully, I will be able to achieve more with Amma and Baba’s blessings.”
“Sometimes we do think of returning to Melghat but Amma and Baba keep reminding us that “presently all is well there. Go to places where you are needed”. It is with their blessings that Snehal and I have decided to dedicate our lives to working for those whose life we can make a difference to,” concludes Drs. Kolhe’s Manasputra.
Snehal Janabai Kundalik Tel: +91 8815831165