Umang was beaten by a group of his classmates outside the college because he was not copying in exams as all others were doing. Umang had made a resolution to follow the path of truth and never cheat in exams at the end of a one-week leadership training which he attended in Universal Solidarity Movement while he was in high school. He kept up the practice of keeping silence for a few minutes in the evening to review the day and plan the next day’s activities. “This practice which learned in USM helped me to keep up my resolutions despite adverse situations,” said Umang.
Umag shared his experience in a meeting of 16 ex-students of St. Francis School, Agra, who had participated in the leadership training in USM in different years. “After the training I became more sensitive towards my surroundings. I started reflecting on the social issues and started getting involved in them,” said Shubh Jain. Mihir Keswani, another student, explained his experience in these words, “Before joining USM I cheated in exams and did not believe in hard work. But after my training in USM, I learnt to achieve success by hard work.”
Ashish Dubey explained his growth after joining USM in these words, “USM has played a significant role in my life. My firm resolution was that whatever happens I have to remain loyal and honest towards myself. I will admit my mistakes and appreciate the goodness in others.” “The most important lesson I received from USM training was to be aware of everything happening around. Because of this training I enrolled myself in Robin Hood Army to do social work in my town along with my studies,” said Prachi Verma. Inspired by the training in USM, Vatsalya Vajpayee was able to influence his mother and other relatives to do social work for the marginalized and started a registered NGO for the same. He mobilized 60 members for this work.
Ayan Jaiswal resolved to celebrate birthdays by helping the poor instead of wasting money to organize party for friends. For Muskan Verma, the days spent in USM were a “life changing experience. I developed confidence to meet all kinds of people and express my opinion in front of any group,” said Muskan.
It is to be noted that all these young people shared their personal experience after four to five years of their visit to USM community at Indore to participate in one week enlightened leadership training. These young people gathered themselves in the school when they heard of my visit to the school to conduct a seminar for parents. Mr. Manish Seghal, the teacher who had accompanied students to USM for training had been in touch with all of them and been encouraging them to practice the resolutions they had made at the end of the training.
The meeting with these young people and listening to their personal testimonies in the presence of Sr. Abha, the principal, Mr. Manish and a few teachers made me very emotional. These young people affirmed my conviction that the youth can transform the society. My trust in the goodness and power of the youth became stronger. The purpose with which we had launched the Universal Solidarity Movement and the seven days of enlightened leadership training for groups of student leaders in USM community at Indore once again proved effective.
Every time I met and interacted with young people in different cities, towns and villages my belief in the goodness and power of youth only increased. My dream of building a civilization of love with young people got more and more confirmed. The need of the hour is mentors with credibility and authentic role models.
It is a miracle that without any financial support from government or any agencies God has made it possible not only to sustain this unique Movement in a rented premise over the last 26 years but reached out to influence thousands of young students, teachers and parents through hundreds of schools across the country with life changing experiences. Week after week groups of students arrive at USM community at Indore with their principals and teachers for the life changing training programme. During the last 12 years 7403 students in 370 groups from 22 states of India came to USM community for one week enlightened leadership training till 31st March, 2019.
The support and co-operation from schools and parents encouraged us always. The enthusiasm of sixty students who travelled with five teachers of St. James school from Binnaguri in West Bengal in two different trains and 12 hours by bus to reach Indore and the indomitable spirit of another group of 60 students of Notre Dame school, Gumla travelling by train to Delhi and by two buses from Delhi to Indore only increased our trust. Despite the adversity and inconvenience of travelling these schools did not stop coming for the programme. The parents of St. Mary’s School, Allahabad, who did not want to cancel the training when reservation in train was not available, instead arranged a bus for 35 students and teachers to travel 28 hours to reach Indore motivated us to go ahead with this mission. The bus stayed at Indore for a week to take the students back after the training. Since the school principals and parents knew the impact of the residential training in USM community at Indore they took such trouble and risk.
Seeing the transformation and its sustainability on these young students from different parts of India we have formulated our dream with the title ‘VISION 2040’. It is not just a wishful thinking but article of faith in the goodness and power of the youth:
By 2040 we dream of having 500 members in the parliament, 2500 MLAs in different states, who are trained in USM and live the USM way of life. We dream of having 600 IAS and IPS officers trained by USM who would be administering 600 districts of India. We dream of 100 IFS officers from USM who would be ambassadors of India in different countries working for global peace. We also dream of having USM members as judges, heads of educational institutions, editors of newspapers, heads of other organizations and businessmen with ethics and philanthropy to build a civilization of love.
While pessimistic people make sarcastic expression after reading this statement, many intelligent people join us and say ‘why not?’
I always believe that nothing is impossible. The more the problems, the greater should be out determination; the more the darkness, the greater the need for us to be the light; the more the indifference, the greater the need for us to be sensitive.
VISION 2040 can easily be realized if the teachers and principals who run the schools believe in the goodness of the youth and take up their role as mentors. School management and teachers need a paradigm shift in their thinking, policies and priorities. Education should be made a mission, a sacred mission. It should be a mission with a vision. It should be an article of faith in God and trust in youth. It is an investment, investing in youth power!
(Published on 8th April 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 15)