As Ralph Waldo says, ‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail’. The 9th batch of SBI Youth For India Fellows, who lived and worked off the beaten path with India’s remotest rural communities and executed interventions addressing the communities’ unique developmental challenges, were felicitated over a three-day Valediction Ceremony upon completing the 13-month-long fellowship.Successful conclusion of the 9th batch of SBI Youth for India Fellowship at State Bank Academy, GurugramHeld at the State Bank Academy in Gurugram from November 2-4, the event brought together 71 Fellows, who worked with rural communities at 45 diverse geographic locations in 15 States. The event was also graced by dignitaries like Shri Om Prakash Mishra, DMD (HR) & CDO, SBI; Shri Govind Singh Rawat, Director, State Bank Academy, Gurgaon; Shri Sanjay Prakash, MD & CEO, SBI Foundation, Shri Lalit Mohan, President & COO, SBI Foundation, heads of our partner NGOs like Liby Johnson, Executive Director at Gram Vikas, and Badrish Mehra, Executive Director at CHIRAG, as well as representatives from over 40 other organisations from the impact sector.Every year, SBI Foundations SBI Youth for India Fellowship program selects around 100 passionate candidates from thousands of applicants to embark on the 13-month-long Fellowship program. Since the programs inception in 2011, more than 500 Fellows have contributed to rural development through the social sector. Undeterred by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and living in locations bereft of clean drinking water, electricity, sanitation, proper education, and livelihood opportunities, the fellows implemented projects across 12 thematic areas, spanning education, healthcare, self-governance, livelihood, women’s empowerment, water and sanitation, environmental protection, food security, traditional crafts, social entrepreneurship, technology, and alternate energy. On an average, every batch impacts roughly 10,000 beneficiaries through their diverse interventions.After the fellows made presentations showcasing their wide-ranging work, they were awarded their certificates, a key moment that concludes the challenging yet transformative journeys of the fellows. “I am sure this journey has made you mentally stronger, and more confident and practical than when you started out. Rural India still lacks basic facilities, let alone modern comforts. It is here that the role of SBI YFI Fellows becomes paramount, and it is truly heartening to feel the influence of this program on the development sector at large,” said Chief Guest – Shri Om Prakash Mishra, DMD (HR) & CDO, SBI.The Fellowship opens credible avenues for urban youth to understand and contribute to the development sector and experience rural realities, in turn providing quality resource persons with diverse educational and professional backgrounds to grassroots NGOs. “Over the years, SBI YFI has grown to become a platform for grassroots-level innovation with several Fellows building sustainable and scalable models. Over 70% of our alumni continue to work in the development space post their Fellowship, thus creating a grade of qualified professionals to help overcome the dearth of talent in the social sector,” said Shri Sanjay Prakash, MD and CEO, SBI Foundation.”The 2021-22 batch has demonstrated & implemented interventions focusing on exploring alternative & innovative approaches. We could witness the effectiveness of co-learning during their various in-person engagements,” said Shri Lalit Mohan, President and COO, SBI Foundation, on the occasion.The YFI Sahyog Fund was disbursed in over 12 states amongst 17 Fellows to financially support their innovations. Additionally, some fellows also mobilized public and private funds totaling Rs. 13 lakh, like YFI Fellow Binjal Shah, who was deployed to Gram Vikas and raised Rs. 9 lakhs in CSR funding to build a piped water supply system to overcome the water paucity in a tribal village in Odisha’s Kalahandi district, Fellow Ripal Desai, who raised Rs. 3 lakh through crowdfunding to construct a computer lab in Tamil Nadu and Fellow Ateen Das, who could successfully liaison with NABARD for his Watershed Development project in the Indo-Bhutan Borderland Forest Region.The Fellows who had worked on strengthening a range of social enterprises, aiding the production and promotion of various products to augment the livelihoods of the communities they lived and worked with, also exhibited their products at the State Bank Academy. Fellow Saras Kaushik displayed the ethnic wear line made by Madhya Pradesh-based Kumbaya Producer Company Limited. Fellow Suraj Dangi showcased the lemongrass tea and oil his Udaipur-based community had developed. Fellow Sanika Paranjape brought the petticoats, scrunchies, and kurtis made by the Assamese sex workers she provided stitching training to as a second income stream, while Fellow Srinithi Sripelly’s stall exhibited Aagor’s garments line, made by Bodo weavers from handmade fabric weaved with traditional Assamese and Bodo methods. Fellow Chetan Kate showcased the pickles developed by a Bihar-based women’s cooperative under the banner Let’s Pickle. Priyanka Sharma displayed utensils developed from Areca nut leaves under the brand GoGaro, led by a Meghalaya-based WSHG, whose marketing she made more robust during her fellowship.This year, the Valediction’s sessions also featured a novel new addition – a networking session that invited over 40 impact sector organisations spanning the development, social enterprise, and policy spaces, like Protsahan, Karo Sambhav, SauraMandala Foundation, MBA+, etc., to interact with the graduating fellows and explore synergies and avenues for collaboration.The outgoing fellows are set to join a thriving network of alumni who receive continued support from SBI Foundation through recognition, awards, grants, and other initiatives that enable seamless networking and strategic collaborations. SBI Foundation has also established an alumni support fund for early-stage enterprises initiated or led by alumni, which has nurtured eight aspiring social entrepreneurs.About SBI FoundationSBI Foundation is the CSR arm of the State Bank Group. True to its tradition of “Service Beyond Banking”, the Foundation recognises the importance of engaging with communities across key focus areas such as rural development, healthcare, empowerment of PwDs, education, sustainability & environment, livelihood & skill development, youth empowerment, promotion of sports, and more. In this pursuit, SBI Foundation works across 28 States and Union Territories of India, undertaking several initiatives to make resources available to the most vulnerable sections of society, directly and through strategic partnerships with impact-making entities in the social sector in the most transparent way to create inclusive, sustainable development. SBI Foundation believes in reflecting the ethos of the State Bank Group in running ethical interventions that promote growth and equality and create a positive impact on society.About SBI Youth for India FellowshipSBI Youth for India is a 13-month program where fellows relocate to remote locations across the country and lead projects covering twelve thematic areas. A network of 13 reputed NGOs supports their projects and ensures they have access to specialized expertise. Thousands of candidates apply for the fellowship each year, but only a hundred are selected after a rigorous application process. The program is not restricted to any specific thematic area and offers a wide variety of projects for fellows to choose from. It also provides flexibility for fellows to design a feasible project with the support of the partner NGO. Visit www.youthforindia.org for more details.