The Art of Living, Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP) for rural youth was established in August 1999 with a unique syllabus spread over 10 days. Not only does it focus on personal development and communication skills, but it also helps individuals find inner peace through stress-reducing breathing techniques and empowers them to channelize communities to come together in a spirit of service.

These local change agents then go back to their villages as stronger individuals. Some of them volunteer for rural projects and commit their time and energy for the betterment of the larger society around them. Their familiarity with the village culture and their knowledge of the local issues combined with the skills learned in the YLTP make them very effective in identifying the development needs of the villages around them and harnessing the energy of the community in bringing about sustainable change. A key asset here is high emotional capital i.e. the deep sense of belonging that they have with the local milieu.

The box below captures key highlights of the YLTP program and its outputs as of January 2018:

Trained over 2,03,220 rural youth Reached 40,212 villages in India 55 model villages (in progress) Planted over 2.3 million trees 2,138 homes, 16,550 toilets, 1,152 bore-wells, and 904 bio-gas plants built 49,500 hygiene camps and 25,950 medical camps conducted benefiting 5.6 million people

Smitha Murthy is vice president - AOL corporate programs and formerly, Principal for Organization Development, Infosys.