Changing Lives and Making Friends
Sunil Kumar is merely 19 years old but he is already a role model in his community.
His parents are proud of him and revel in being identified as ‘Sunil’s parents’. Through his work among his peer group and his community Sunil has been able to carve out a niche for himself and enjoys his work of being a peer mentor. But it was not at all easy for him in the beginning.
It all started when MAMTA identified his village, Chaubeypur Khurd, in Cholapur block of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh as one of the intervention areas for the APPI funded nutrition project based on the data of nutrition and health indicators. The project structure is based on Peer Mentoring involving local adolescents. These adolescent were identified in consultation with the local community and the stakeholders. During such a meeting more than a year ago, the Pradhan of Chaubeypur Khurd had suggested the name of Sunil as he had good communication skills.
Sunil vividly remembers vividly those days and honestly admits that he was least interested and had expected it to be another boring engagement. But his interest grew gradually as he started attending meetings at the Youth Information Centre (YIC) and got to know new things which were of great benefit for him and his family. He also developed interest in sports due to the facilities provided at the YIC and he realised the importance of physical activity. He gained crucial knowledge on nutrition and well-being. He candidly admits that earlier he used to splurge his pocket money on ‘fast food’ but now he and his friends eat chana and gur and also have eggs. He tells that though his village had toilets but there was no awareness about using them, but now he knows how important it is in preventing spread of disease and hence he and his group of adolescents spread the message of using toilets.
He says that initially his parents had objected a lot in joining this project and thought it to be a waste of time and an excuse for loitering around but Sunil and his mentor had many rounds of discussion with the parents and finally they relented. At present, Sunil has around 60 adolescents under him and he too faces the same kind of challenges of objection from parents and disinterested adolescents. When asked how he handled these situations he confidently responds that he interacts with parents along with his group and tries to discuss with reason. As far as disinterested adolescents are concerned, he identifies such children and gives them individual attention and involves them through games and other activities.
Sunil closes this interaction by saying that he has learnt a lot from this project and have actually implemented the learnings in his life with visible benefits and hence he wants to spread this message to more adolescents but the biggest achievement according to him has been the friendship in the peer group. He says that in today’s world everyone is busy in his or her own priorities and there is hardly any camaraderie or sharing among peer groups but now he and his friends always find time for each other and participate in each other’s joy and sorrow.