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Gulmohar Days

With its umbrella-like canopy and a splash of orange-red flowers, a Gulmohar tree in full bloom is a sight to behold. Besides the stunning beauty, what it offers is shade from a blazing sun. It could be a coincidence, but when Afsal Mohammed started his NGO, powered by youths, for the needy and underprivileged, he decided to name it after the Gulmohar Tree. The Gulmohar Foundation aims to empower youth by providing a platform where young people can meet, share and work together to drive sustainable changes in different dimensions of society. In an interview to Team Fayz, Afsal Mohammed talks about the journey so far, and the way ahead.

If you want to volunteer, you may contact: Afsal Mohammed B (co-founder, The Gulmohar Foundation) -7025721225

Now I am on a travel – penniless, experimental volunteering journey to all over India, to meets volunteers over there, work with them and share their volunteering stories
- Afsal Mohammed

It is quite unusual for an engineering student to start a volunteer group, that too something on the lines of charity. What was the spark, rather trigger?

Volunteering has always been my passion. For the last 4 years, I was actively working in the field of volunteering with different organisations. It was only when I joined my graduation degree, I got more involved in issues and innumerable opportunities in the field of social service and volunteering. But soon I realised that one could participate in these kinds of activities only while being a student and this does not have a long term impact on anyone or anything. Then I met several like-minded individuals who voluntarily came up to support my views. Later, we started an NGO ‘The Gulmohar Foundation’. And we are not a charitable society or organisation, rather we work as a social enterprise.

What does your foundation exactly do? How has the journey been? What are your primary areas of focus?

Generally, young people have been perceived as learners, but considering their distinct spheres of action in terms of social, economic and educational aspects within society, they should be recognised as essential agents of change -- as leaders, educators, advocates, and learners. In this context, young men and women must assume active roles in the development process. The Gulmohar Foundation is committed to empowering youth by providing a platform where young people can meet, share and work together to drive sustainable changes in different dimensions of the society. We are looking forward to enhancing the capacity of Kerala’s youth leaders by facilitating dialogues, sharing good initiatives and practices, building communities and strengthening advocacy skills to build leaders who drive our society in the coming future. The Gulmohar Foundation is a youth-led organisation to create future leaders and social entrepreneurs to address the issues of society through social entrepreneurship and volunteering. Youth Empowerment and Capacity Development focusing on young bloods is the major area of working of the organization and it takes into consideration the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The journey of TGF India has started two years ago. A lot of young like-minded people joined our journey and now we have a family of socially committed volunteers in all parts across Kerala.

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shruthy_cake_20190708084120

Since you never deal with money, how do you carry out your work?

We don’t have an external funding source. All the activities of TGF are done voluntarily. We undertake a lot of campaigns. Fund-raising for all these campaigns are done by volunteers. They raise funds from their friend circles, family and well-wishers. We don’t ask them to donate the collected money to us, rather we motivate and guide them to identify the most deserving ones and connect the volunteers with the well-deserved. Thus we don’t direct deal with money.

It is increasingly said new-age students don’t have much of social responsibility and they live in a bubble. What has your experience been, since your organization mostly deals with students?

I don’t agree with that statement at all. Consider the case of #Kerala Floods, it was the youth of Kerala who undertook most relief and rehabilitation activities. They used social media as the best platform to co-ordinate for disaster management. They undertook different campaigns to help the flood-affected to recover their homes and resources. They have the potential to do great things, but they lack platforms and proper guidance. And TGF is creating such platforms for the youth. We connect them with opportunities, we create communities with them.

How many students/people are part of the organization?

500+ volunteers from all districts of Kerala and also from different states of India.

What is your next plan?

I have just completed my graduation. Now I am on a travel – penniless, experimental volunteering journey all over the country, meeting volunteers, work with them and share the volunteering stories. For the next one year, my focus will be on TGF. We have our chapters on all the districts. We have to make them more effective and are also planning to start our chapters in different states also. Currently, we are running BottlesUp Campaign and Donate-A-Toy Campaign. BottlesUp Campaign focuses on providing steel water bottles to underprivileged students creating awareness on reusable bottle consumption.100+ campaigns are still going on at different districts and 300+ bottles distributed to date. Donate-a-Toy Campaign focuses on providing toys, colour books etc to the children of the flood affected. More than 2500 toys, 1500 educational kits have been distributed so far.

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shruthy_cake_20190708084120

You recently got an international fellowship. Can you briefly explain about it and how does it benefit you?

One year ago, I had received the Millennium Fellowship. My project was done for the empowerment of differently-abled students of Perinad panchayath. Perinad Buds Rehabilitation Centre Incubation was selected for this fellowship by United Nations’ Academic Impact and Millennium Campus Network. I was among the 528 Millennium Fellows selected from 57 countries. This year TGF Project- School Intervention Programme was selected for Millennium Fellowship. 30 volunteers are working on it. This time my project – Journey of Awakening for Protecting Life Underwater – was selected as the award-winning project of Millennium Ocean Prize from 121 projects received from 35 countries. The Millennium Ocean Prize is an initiative to support and celebrate students who are passionate about conserving, protecting and sustainably using oceans, sea, and marine water and life and will receive $5000 Prize for implementation of the project.

How many people are part of the core team? And when and where do you meet to decide the next course of action?

We have a core team of 15, including three co-founders. The other co-founders are Muhammed Jaseel CK from Kozhikode and Hameem Muhammed A from Kollam. Since all the core team members are from different parts of Kerala, we meet online. Our most meetings are held in Kollam.

If you have similar stories, please reach out on
Whatsapp +919061207333 or email - info@fayz.in

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