Guest Blog: Journeys For Change
Journeys For Change take accomplished individuals and leaders on life-altering trips to meet Indian social entrepreneurs, people who have little and achieve so much with innovation and resourcefulness. Here’s a little insight into the background of this inspiring enterprise.
Choosing to “Do Good”
For a social entrepreneur, the decision to “do Good” in the world often comes at a crossroads in life. At Journeys for Change, we’ve learned that this decision can have huge impact on the world.
Here’s an example. Devendra Raj Mehta was a young Indian government officer on the fast track to success, until a terrible accident crushed his leg and left him bedridden for months. Because he could afford healthcare, Mehta pulled through – but doctors explained that most patients they saw in his condition had no money and ended up losing a leg, at least.
With this knowledge, Mehta launched Jaipur Foot, an organisation that provides custom-fitted prosthetic limbs to anyone who needs them – at no charge whatsoever. Since its founding in 1975, Jaipur Foot has helped more than a million people “reclaim their mobility, self-respect, and human dignity,” as stated in the organisation’s mission. Not a single patient has had to pay for a prosthetic.
Not too long ago, we at Journeys for Change had the honour of bringing a group of international leaders to the main Jaipur Foot center in Rajasthan, India. D. R. Mehta himself gave us a tour of the facilities. He told us his story as he introduced us to people from all over India who were about to receive the prosthetics that would change their lives.
In the factory, we witnessed the Jaipur Foot production process firsthand. Whereas in the U.K., it could cost more than £10,000 to produce a prosthetic foot, Jaipur Foot does it for about £20. Several of the technicians working in the factory were amputees themselves. They moved quickly and gracefully on their own prosthetic limbs.
For many of us, the experience of just being there was transformational.
The power of perspective
In our minds, Good happens when interesting people step outside of their comfort zones and into new perspectives. At Journeys for Change, we bring leaders from all over the world to India, where they connect face to face with the social entrepreneurs who are transforming society.
Our ‘learning journeys’ are immersive, intimate group travel experiences, offering participants from the private, public, and social sectors insight into how they can create greater impact in the world. Beyond inspiration, the experience yields learning, connections and opportunity for growth.
Each journey encompasses a series of site visits to a diverse group of social enterprises. Through sessions with the social entrepreneur and personal interaction with the community engaged by the project, our participants get a comprehensive picture of what’s happening on the ground.
In the words of one of our alumni, the visits provide “living, breathing insights into leadership, creativity and the spirit of entrepreneurship.”
VisionSpring: Through new eyes
In Hyderabad, a site visit to VisionSpring offers insight into the power of entrepreneurship at the base of the pyramid. This global social enterprise trains low-income villagers to become “Vision Entrepreneurs.” The Vision Entrepreneurs run mobile Eye Camps in rural communities, where they offer eyesight screening and sell eyeglasses at prices villagers can afford.
Not only does this model spread access to eye care, it is a scalable way to create opportunities for income generation where few existed before. Vision Entrepreneurs all over the world have sold a total of one million pairs of glasses.
When we take a group to visit VisionSpring, we’ll start at the company’s office in a bustling Hyderabad neighborhood. After a behind-the-scenes session with the team, we’ll take jeeps into the countryside to see an Eye Camp in action. There we’ll watch as Vision Entrepreneurs give villagers their first eyesight examinations (which are tailored to a low-literacy population).
Often, people who attend the Eye Camp have resigned to the fact that they will lose their eyesight eventually – and it’s moving to be there the moment when they put on their first pair of glasses and suddenly everything becomes clear again.
Our philosophy of travel
India offers a rich, diverse cultural heritage, and we believe that some of the most important learning on a journey happens outside of the site visits. We strive to help our participants explore the local culture in ways that are meaningful and responsible. For example, we prefer staying in boutique heritage hotels to big corporate chains. We also encourage participants to shop at stores owned by the local community that sell eco-friendly goods.
There are many ways to soak up the culture on a journey. After a site visit, you might sit cross-legged at a Sufi music concert, discover hidden alleyways on a walking tour, or eat with locals at an authentic restaurant. Or maybe you’d choose to walk along the beach, by yourself or with a new friend, reflecting on all that you’d seen that day.
Join your journey of a lifetime! Our next journeys are:
- Delhi and Rajasthan, 30 November – 8 December 2012
- Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, 22 February – 2 March 2013
Check out www.journeysforchange.org for more information.