Thiruvananthapuram: The Kanthari experience is a unique one. The organisation based at Vellayani on the outskirts of the state capital has trained 141 participants from 37 countries to become social-changers in the last seven years.
The volunteers, in turn, have taken up projects that changed the lives of thousands people belonging to marginalised communities across the globe.
Sabriye Tenberken, one of the founders of Kanthari, told Deccan Chronicle that over 60 to 70 per cent of those who have trained at Kanathari have successfully started their social initiatives. "We are not training social workers, but social changers who can question the status quo," she claimed.
There is no qualification for applying for the eight-month course the organisation conducts.
However, those who face disability, poverty, war, discrimination or exploitation and wanted to learn the tools with which they can make a positive difference locally and globally are encouraged to join it.
The requirements are that the participants should be at least 22-years old, must speak and write in English and should be familiar with computers. The course that helps individuals become change-agents is not an academic one.
“There are no lectures, only interactive sessions,” said Ms Tenberken. “Everyone is challenged to develop ideas and share knowledge. There are no teachers but catalysts that facilitate learning processes. Fellow participants are an important resource of learning, as everyone brings expertise in different areas. So you are encouraged to interact and help each other develop their dreams."
The eight-month course gives the participants the chance to make use of expertise of catalysts and fellow participants to learn what they need to start their own social projects.
Successful applicants will be provided with accommodation and scholarships from Kanthari's international donors. The next batch, which admits 25 participants, is scheduled to start in May.
“Kerala is like a springboard at the tip of India,” said Paul Kronenberg, the co-founder. “This was why we decided to start Kanthari in Kerala.”
The first phase of the training is in an imaginary country Tansalesea at Kanthari. It is like any other developing country; as most of the participants are from similar countries the challenges that may be faced by an NGO in Tansalesea will be similar to those in the country of their origin.
In this, phase covering two and a half months the participants will have to get familiar with the country, its rules and regulations, including the procedure of registering the initiatives.
The participants will be asked to deliver a 20-minute speech about the project and a 10-minutes question and answer session in front of a panel of international experts.
“After that phase, participants will be given an opportunity for a four-week internship in an NGO, a social enterprise, a company, a school, college or in a campaign together with social change makers within the country," Ms Tenberken said.
"After that participants are asked to set up projects within Kerala.” At the successful completion, the project will receive a seal that states that it is “Empowered by Kanthari.”