SHILLONG: The Government of Meghalaya is spearheading a unique intervention aimed at empowering the youth of the State with confidence, soft skills, life coaching, cultural awareness and talent identification opportunities to help them break away from the chains of mental and emotional lockdown that the pandemic has instigated.
The State government has identified major gaps that hinder youth development in areas spanning communication, clarity of thought, wellbeing, aspiration levels and talent discovery.
In a bid to provide the tribal youths of the State the much-needed breakthrough and nudge them towards the right path, 'Aspire Meghalaya' was launched in 2019, sponsored by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, through the Department of Arts & Culture, Government of Meghalaya. The project is implemented by Meghalaya-based 'Avenues' a pioneering life coaching social enterprise of Northeast India.
In its maiden year of implementation, the programme reached out to 5,229 youths across 21 campuses in eight districts of Meghalaya. In its second year, the State government hopes that 'Aspire Meghalaya' will bring about more transformations among the youths across the State. Speaking at the West Garo Hills district commencement programme at Mount Dura Academy, Dakopgre in Tura, Deputy Commissioner Ram Singh cited the impact of the programme in the previous year and lauded the efforts of the implementation partner.
Stating that the State Government is focused on boosting the aspirations and potential of youths, Singh added that programmes like 'Aspire Meghalaya' will go a long way in building the collective aspirations of the youth of the districts. "This is the first time that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs is conducting such a programme across the country," he said, adding that the State is getting a rare opportunity in this aspects under Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, who is spearheading the move to formulate a new youth policy for the State. He emphasized the need to equip the young people with communication skills and give them the courage to express their opinions and ideas.
Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma believes in the collective power of youth action and active citizenship and is working towards institutionalising a radical youth policy that focuses on skills and passion for the young people of the State. He believes that 'Aspire Meghalaya' is a model of change that can be replicated across the country through the support of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
In his virtual address for this year's edition of the programme, Sangma said, "The modules impart soft skills needed to build meaningful lives and careers with passion and self-belief. I urge our students to take this wonderful opportunity during these difficult times to discover their strengths and prepare for the future."
Mark Laitflang Stone, founder and CEO of Avenues, the state implementation partner for the venture, has been running similar programmes across the region during the last 17 years.
Speaking at the inaugural programme in Williamnagar, he stressed the importance of holistic wellbeing to achieve success and reminded the students that, "Unless you have a strong base of human values – kindness, hard work, discipline, joy, and love – you will be heading towards life and a world of careers without any clarity or direction. That's what we're here to do – to ensure that you are equipped with the skills and the mindset to achieve what you aspire for."
Besides instilling the tribal youth of the State with communication skills, confidence and courage to achieve their aspirations, a huge part of the initiative this year is to provide a platform for the youth to showcase their talents across music, singing, performance arts, literary arts, cultural and indigenous practices along with unique opportunities to help propel their aspirations and open up alternative careers.
The programme also aims to build cultural awareness within the youth and awaken strong emotions of respect and pride so that they may not hide behind their roots but rather use them as a catalyst for their growth and development in all spheres of life – at home, within their communities and beyond.
While speaking at last year's graduation programme in Ri-Bhoi District, A. L. Hek, Minister of Arts & Culture stressed the importance of a programme that emanates from indigenous knowledge. "In Khasi, we call this 'KaJingsnengTymmen' (Teachings of our Elders). Avenues has created a beautiful platform through 'Aspire Meghalaya' for our youth to inculcate values and confidence."
Over the last two weeks, 'Aspire Meghalaya' has been kicked off in four districts – East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills, West Khasi Hills and South West Khasi Hills. It will span across select districts of the State till the end of March 2021.
Owing to the current pandemic, this year's edition is deploying a blended approach of virtual and onsite programmes with strict hygiene and social distancing protocols put in place.
The modules covering themes like 'Curiosity', 'Confidence', 'Wellbeing', 'Communication' and 'Human Values', are designed keeping in mind the youth aspirations of the State, the current restrictions for onsite sessions and the resources required for online and virtual training.
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