Meet Ricky, WE Villages community mobilizer and ME to WE facilitator in India
When Raghavendra Pratap Singh Ranawat—affectionately known as Ricky—heard a new charity was starting in his home state of Rajasthan, he got on an overnight bus for Udaipur to apply for a job as community mobilizer.
This was 2008, when WE Charity was known as Free The Children and Ricky was completing a bachelor’s degree, with the hope of doing social work in rural villages—an atypical professional choice for someone from Ricky’s regal background.
Ricky descends from Rajasthani royalty, and although his family no longer holds governance power, his name carries responsibility and weight. His parents hoped he would choose a profession in keeping with the family status, like a lawyer or doctor. But Ricky knew there is status within community development work, and was determined to prove that to his family.
He got the job, and hasn’t looked back.
Ricky’s role quickly expanded to Cultural Facilitator, hosting international groups on ME to WE Trips looking to understand India’s culture and see WE Villages work firsthand. Ricky has since facilitated well over 150 trips, while also helping expand WE Villages in India. He also earned a master of social work while working at the organization, and speaks five languages.
We asked Ricky about his journey with WE, what attracted him to the organization and how his work breaks castes barriers in rural India.
Question and Answer
What attracted you to work with WE?
I love the approach WE has toward the community. This is one of the things that first attracted me and that keeps me going. They really want to support and help. One of the big fears of communities is that someone will take advantage of them. With WE, it is about building the relationship, getting to know the person and the family. In turn, sharing about yourself and not keep anything secret. This is the approach that I love, what I was taught in the beginning and have always followed.
You’ve hosted so many trips in your time—youth groups, corporate groups, very large supporters and donors to the organization. Can you share a group that continues to stand out to you?
One of my most memorable groups was the very first I ever facilitated. I was nervous because I had never interacted with foreign travelers before, but my co-facilitators from Canada made me so comfortable and helped me to open up with the group. I was part of all conversations between the community members and the participants, which was very moving for me. I was translating for the first time and having these conversations with people from different sides of the world. I began to better understand the challenges community members spoke about. For example, fetching water 10 times a day, especially the distance, was mind-blowing. Four to five kilometres to just get a bucket of water! How easy it is for us, while people walk so far for drinking water, to bathe—everything they need to go through to get that simple necessity.
Your family is Indian royalty, and you are by all accounts—and this may come as a surprise to some of the trip participants you’ve hosted—a prince. A real live prince! Although you may be the most humble prince. Would you share a little bit about your family and their response to the work you are doing?
My family is from the warrior caste and my father is king of one of the regions in Rajasthan. My family been ruling that area for close to 500 years. The type of work that I chose to do is something that my family was not at first comfortable with. Based on what tradition dictates, the warrior caste does not go and sit with dalits [caste known as “untouchables”] or bhils [known as “tribals”]. But I chose to work with, eat with, spend my time with them. It took a long time for my family to understand what I do and why I do it. Over the course of time they saw the passion I have for my work, and I also had talks with them to make them understand what I do, and why I do it.
Why did you choose this work?
This gives meaning to my life. And its gives me a joy that I am serving others, more than myself, and serving for the right cause. When I started, I thought, if I could change one life, that makes my life more useful.
I’m passionate about education and over the course of time I’ve worked with WE I’ve seen these kids going to school regularly, and completing high school, and even university. Kids who might not have completed primary are in university. It makes me feel proud and grateful that I am here to see them growing and every day reminds me how small things are changing the lives of these kids.
This interview has been condensed and edited.