GHAC- Volunteers make the difference
Although Hyderabad is home to some of the top names in Indian sports like Mohammad Azharuddin, Sania Mirza, P. Gopichand, Saina Nehwal, the city is still known for its Nizami culture and laid back attitude. The idea of action for a typical Hyderabadi is to go and climb the stairs of Charminar or Charminaran as the locals call it, and when feeling a bit more adventurous visit the Golconda fort with relatives visiting from other parts of the country.
One of the things that I was warned as a traveler when I moved to the city was that there is nothing to visit around Hyderabad and I need to make a minimum overnight journey to visit anything worthwhile. I must say I was disappointed but continued my search for destinations to visit with Hyderabad as the base, my quest took me to GHAC or Great Hyderabad Adventure Club and I visited Medak as my first trip with GHAC. Soon we were participating in activities of GHAC as a family as well as I alone where kids could not join. I had visited many places with GHAC like Pench National Park, Nallamalla Forest, and Ananthagiri Hills, Medak Church Coffee plantations in Karnataka, Koil Konda fort etc.
Slowly I started realizing that GHAC is much more than an adventure club. Though GHAC started as an adventure club in 2008, it has evolved into a social movement driven totally by volunteers from all walks of life. You have college students, IT and BpO professionals, doctors, journalists, housewives coming and contributing as volunteers for GHAC. Bangalore and Mumbai are considered to be to cities at the forefront of citizen activism, but I am happy to say GHAC is spearheading citizen movement in its own way in the city of Nizams.
One of the biggest challenges that we face in this country is the directionless youth, where the idea of fun and adventure is distorted by colored glasses from the west, with online social media considered as the messiah of social change and grassroots activism takes a back seat. We have millions Facebook and Twitter activists but for real change to happen in any field we need hands and feet on ground or Volunteers willing to go out and work in the field. This is where GHAC has shown the way and is a leader in volunteer movement. With more than 10000 members who are willing to participate not only in adventure activities but also volunteer for the various social cause, GHAC has become a key catalyst for any social cause in the city of Hyderabad.
Whenever the city of Hyderabad has raised a concern GHAC volunteers have been on the forefront, be it blood donation camps, visiting orphanages to donate clothes, bags, books or organizing drives to clean the lakes of Hyderabad or to protect the heritage rocks of Hyderabad. GHAC is at the forefront of all these activities.
The challenge with most NGOs is to get people to work for them as the salaries are not as lucrative as in the private sector, nor there is a security of the government job. GHAC has turned the table to the other extreme, by creating a volunteer base that is willing to work for the passion for a good cause. With 10000+ members and volunteers, GHAC has emerged as the single largest mass movement for social change using volunteers while staying true to its roots as an adventure club. How do they manage it? The volunteers are given professional training in leadership in outdoor training which is better than what many MNCs give to their employees. The idea is that once you are in the field you are responsible for your group and you make sure the trek or whatever activity you are leading is successful.
GHAC was started by Diyanat Ali, who in earlier avatar worked for an IT company until one day in 2008 he said Hyderabad needs a little shake up, hence GHAC was born. GHAC relies on volunteers, it does not matter what you are in your day job a CEO or an intern, what matters is how active and responsible you are for the cause GHAC stands for and whether you are active in the events or not. I have myself attended events in the leadership of young leaders like Rashmi Agarwal who quit her job with an MNC to work with tribal women to bring their handicrafts to market. She has been leading GHAC and GHAC nature trips and is also active on many other social causes. There are many young women in GHAC who are leading and joining treks to various places around Hyderabad and as far as Everest base camp and Mount Kilimanjaro. What better way to women empowerment than to see them leading from the front?
They say you can tell a lot about an organization by its website, do check GHAC website which you will find very simple and barebones, the idea being to provide relevant information to the visitors. Same thrift I see when I attend GHAC functions and events, I normally see fell trekkers and mountaineers from other cities had it been any other NGO each event would have some bolly or tolly pseudo-intellectual gracing the dais to get that precious media space. Not here in GHAC, leave aside celebrities even Diyanat himself is never seen occupying the central stage, he lets the volunteers come in front, while he prefers to stay in the background working meticulously to nurture a process driven organization that prides in its transparency and leadership bandwidth. Diyanat is supported by a team of passionate and experienced members called Co-Organisers who lead different teams and take care of different processes and functions of running the club smoothly.
The GHAC organizing Team consists of about 100 trained and experienced volunteers who been chosen for their ability and competency to lead different activities and serve selflessly. The club actively looks out for experienced members who love to share their passion and give back to the community.
The Leadership Model in GHAC has evolved over the years and is called The Team Leadership Model where the leadership is shared and every volunteer leads and contributes as per their abilities and availability.
None of the volunteers are paid or expect any cash remuneration, and all of them join and contribute for the cause they believe in be it trekking in the hills, or organizing a blood donation camp, or visiting the lakes surrounding Hyderabad to check on the visiting birds from Central Asia and Europe. Each volunteer after going through rigorous training in GHAC values and leadership skills can organize treks and other events. It is not uncommon to see 20-year-old leading people double their age in the wild. Now you tell me which organization respects and recognize skills better than this? For any event that is organized the members pay to join and GHAC volunteers and organizers take care of logistics. GHAC takes a small donation or club fee from each participant for each event this is what keeps the wheels moving and pays for expenses like office space, buying equipment for outdoor activities etc. The trips and treks and events are simple eco-friendly events, with the emphasis being to bring back only the memories and your trash back with you, volunteers ensuring that not a single bottle of water or chocolate wrapper is left behind in nature.
But Diyanat is not sitting on what has been achieved he is already planning to take GHAC to other parts of AP like Vizag and Vijayawada. He also wants to include more events that will bring out the whole family to participate in activities and not just the young college going or techie generation. Recently GHAC nature and GHAC social two new verticals have been started with the aim to work towards saving the environment like our lakes and birds of Hyderabad with GHAC Nature and work with underprivileged children and other social causes. Some of the other verticals to cater to different strata of society within in GHAC fold are
The GHAC model has been very successful and there was demand from corporates to use the outdoor leadership model hence Diyanat started Outbound Training venture called OutLife to address the outbound learning needs of Institutions and Corporates. Diyanat is equally passionate about bringing Adventure Based Experiential Learning and Team Building to the Corporates to enhance work productivity and to create High-Performance Teams.
I think GHAC is doing a great work in creating a band of socially and environmentally engaged citizens and the best part is the whole movement is driven by Volunteers who are part of the movement for their passion and not for money. So dear reader next time you are in Hyderabad and want to experience a Hyderabad beyond Biryani join a GHAC event, I assure you, that you will be going back with a unique experience in not only adventure but much beyond that.
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