MUSSOORIE, Nov 18
With his father’s job as a security guard, there is only so much money that comes in for the family of seven. It is not unusual then, for the family members to not have a stomachful.
Something that gnawed at Dinesh Joshi’s being whenever he walked the treacherous hilly route to his school in Damadunga, considered one of the most backward areas in Nainital district.
A college student now, when Joshi read about Youth Foundation’s training camp in Ramnagar in a Newspaper, he knew he had found the answer to his family’s worries. Set up by Col Ajay Kothiyal, a retired army Colonel and the ex- principal of Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), Youth Foundation was set up after the 2013 flash floods that shook Uttarakhand.
One of the first ones to react to the catastrophe, Col Kothiyal and his team of NIM got busy with rescue operations. It was during this time shares Col Kothiyal that he came in close touch with several villagers. “Since there was this bond of faith and trust that got built, several villagers who had lost family members asked if I could help their children get into the army. Since I knew the requirements for army, with the help of an instructor, I trained about 32 youth for army recruitment. Out of this 28 got selected in Garhwal Rifles (one of the most decorated infantry regiments). And that was the birth of Youth Foundation,” says Col Kothiyal.
Formally set up in 2015, a non profit trust Youth foundation with its eight training camps in various districts of Uttarakhand has so far helped 7,600 youth from Uttarakhand join the Army. What is more, the ones who can’t make it get into police or even security agencies. And who better to train them than ex army personnel.
Interestingly though most youth from the state are physically very fit, thanks to the difficult terrain and life in the hills, what they lack most of the times are life skills like self confidence, interpersonal relationships as well as effective communication.
“The idea to set up Youth Foundation was to equip these young men and women to not just get into the army but also become more confident young citizens. And it is an overwhelming experience to see the transformation.” adds Col Kothiyal.
Yashwant Singh Rawat, a trainer with Youth Foundation echoes the same emotion when he says, “While these youngsters are better than most when it comes to physical fitness but thanks to them living in remote areas, their interpersonal skills and confidence, more often than not, mar them.”
The aim is to help them toughen up in all aspects, like Instructor Mangal Singh; currently training at Ramnagar camp puts it. So they are prepared not just for the physical but also the written exam and interview.
And who better to talk of the transition than the youth itself. Ask 19 year old Deepak Wariyal a farmer’s son from Okhalkanda village undergoing training for an upcoming army recruitment rally. “In the past few months I have seen myself transform completely. I was an introvert initially and was very conscious to speak in front of others. With simple activities like reading a newspaper in front of our entire group to sometimes even singing and speaking on a subject, we are put through all of this. The result is a completely new person. I barely feel like the same person,” says the young man confidently.
Pawan Singh Papola who always dreamt of being in the army is finally seeing his dream coming closer to him. “I feel so sure to make it” says, the young man from Bageshwar still panting from his 1600 km run, a victorious smile on his face.
In fact it has been close to a year since Youth Foundation also began training young women — between 19 to 21 years old — from the hill state to undergo intensive training to qualify in the recruitment process to induct women as jawans in its Corps of Military Police (CMP).
Impressed by a serving army officers role in motivating and preparing youth of Uttarakhand in joining the armed forces, defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier this year, asked Colonel Ajay Kothiyal to spread the concept of self-motivation across the country. “The good deeds done by Col Kothiyal inspire each one of us to do good”, the minister said.
Sitharaman also took to Twitter to praise the work done by the Youth Foundation, headed by Col Kothiyal.
And even though Col Kothiyal retired from NIM a few months back, the Kirti Chakra, Shaurya Chakra and Vishisht Sewa Medal recipient has not retired from his passion of creating confident young men and women out of simple village youth, ready to serve the nation with pride, much like him!.
The story is a part of OneWorld – Dream a Dream Media Fellowships on Life Skills, 2018