SAIIER 2019:Auroville Gap Year Programme
|Auroville Gap Year Programme|
A project of Auroville Campus Initiative
The Auroville Gap Year Programme was created by Auroville Campus Initiative (ACI) team members (Sophie, Manoj, Lalit, Valentine) to respond to the need for a programme for Auroville youth between 18 and 30 on a quest for direction and experiential learning within Auroville. The programme aimed at helping its participants find their domain of interest and explore it, as well as providing a better understanding of Auroville’s values, purpose, and functioning.
Description of project:
Participants in this program were 9 Auroville youth: Arpana, Ahilya, Ganga, Mahana, Jonas, Ganesh D., Kalai, Jeeva, Aswini.
The programme was divided in two main parts: (1) Foundation, two months of sessions common to all participants, and (2) Apprenceship, 5 months of individual apprenticeship/experiential learning, with weekly meetings.
The first week of the programme was focused on exploring oneself, with activities such as creating a vision board, finding one’s Ikigai and core Values, and participating in a Deep Listening workshop. We visited Solitude Farm where Krishna shared about the importance of eating locally and consciously, which left a strong impression on the participants.
Four participants and one facilitator were selected to take part in the Auroville Peer Educator Training organised by Juan Andres (clinical psychologist and Y-PEER educator) and Youthlink. This workshop’s aim was to educate and train youth about issues typically found in their age group, such as safe sex, responsible partying, basic first aid, being assertive in risky situations, etc. The training gave participants tools and knowledge to convey these notions to their peers, supporting each other in maintaining healthy behaviours.
We then moved on to the next phase, getting the youth to know more about Auroville. Meetings were organised with members of working groups, who were extremely cooperative and welcoming. The youth met with Housing Service, Financial Service, Town Development Council, the Working Committee, the Residents' Assembly Service and SAIIER. They learnt a lot through these encounters, as they were not aware of this aspect of Auroville.
The youth felt particularly inspired by the Master Plan, which they had not seen before. We feel that this part of the programme was particularly beneficial to the youth as after those sessions, they shared that they felt proud and lucky to live here, having a new understanding of Auroville and its greater purpose.
They each chose a working group as case study and gave a presentation to the rest of the group.
We observed that most of the participants had an inclination towards Design or Art, so a Design Module was created and organised by Lalit and Jitesh, consisting in 6 sessions covering different aspects of the subject. This included Architecture with a visit to Nandanam Kindergarten and a conversation with its architect, Shailaja, a session on designing a book with Jitesh, a session on Kolam with Grace, a session in UpCycling, a session in Handmade Papers, and a session in Last School.
They also had Creative Writing sessions with Francesca, which they all enjoyed.
Then came the time for the participants to choose an apprenticeship to commit to. For some this was a clear and easy decision: Arpana was studying education and for her it was obvious that the next step would be volunteering in a school. She chose to volunteer at NESS. Ganesh, who was interested in Mechanical Engineering, joined Aureka. Awsini, interested in Interior Design, took drawing classes with architect Ganesh Bala. Kalai, interested in agriculture and inspired by Solitude, is experimenting in his own garden, planting various vegetables, growing mushrooms, and attempting to create a beehive, with the project of having his own farm. Jonas, interested in studying design, is working with Ram on creating a chair using recycled materials and learning baking with Daniel from Bread & Chocolate. Ahilya is currently working at the Visitors' Center selling Gelato and she is planning on joining Youthlink.
For others, things were more difficult. One participant quit the programme in December to take care of herself, sharing that she was not ready to commit to anything due to personal issues. She joined the Youth Center and helped them out in their activities. Another felt confused and tried a few things, like an online course to master the Office pack, before trying to learn tattooing and giving up. She ended up investing her time creating artwork for the Youth Center Love-a-Fair t-shirts and helping them out with their activities. A third showed interest in learning from Jorge, then Thalam and Solitude Farm, but financial issues changed his priorities and he is now looking for a job while finishing his studies in engineering.
This programme gave these 9 young people insights into the functioning of Auroville while providing them with a structure in a slightly challenging moment of their lives. They have expressed their gratitude for this programme as for one it helped them take time to think and explore, for others it gave them something to look forward to, and for some it was just the push they needed to embrace their path.
The most meaningful aspects of this programme were:
- Giving confused youth something to do: they all told us that they were grateful for this programme, since they would have spent their year drifting around if it did not exist. Even those who dropped out thanked us for the experience, and they now know that we are there to help them if they need support.
- Educating the youth of Auroville about their home and its resources, innovations, and vision.
- Making the youth of Auroville more visible to the rest of Auroville, as well as getting a clearer idea of the needs of our youth.
- Helping youth find their direction: through their exposure to certain activities or learning labs, some of the participants gained clarity as to what they want to do with their future.
The challenges were:
- Lack of a proper setup: we suffered from the lack of a ‘classroom setup’ with tables, computers, and a reliable internet connection.
- Lack of apprenticeship maintenances: the deal we had with HRT/BCC did not materialise, and we made the mistake of telling our participants they would be eligible for financial support. When in the end they could only receive a regular child maintenance (which some of them were receiving anyway since it is given to AV children by principle) it was a huge disappointment for some and caused them to change their plans to make ends meet. This is a point of major concern as it is obvious that for the participants to dedicate their attention to learning they should not have to worry about money, so we hope that this can evolve in the future.
- Difficulty in keeping the youth engaged: the biggest challenge came in the second part of the programme, where the participants were all doing different things and we were supposed to meet them once a week to hear their latest achievements. The momentum disappeared and only two participants stayed consistently in touch. This needs to be worked on and improved before the next programme starts.
We have learned a lot from this first edition of the programme, and we are currently redesigning it to make it more efficient: a longer structured period, more content, and motivating projects such as travelling in India. We believe that it is crucial for such a programme to exist in Auroville and we hope for more support this year. We are also planning to open our programme to youth from the bioregion.