Changemakers, starting young

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Ishita Chaudhry of Defence Colony, now 25, leaped into the world of activism and social entrepreneurship at the young age of 17. Now, president of The Young People Foundation (TYPF), she has managed to mobilise remarkable support base of young students.

Splash of young blood

With rising awareness in the society, young students are finally coming out of closet and increasingly taking part in social and community affairs, through their association as volunteers with various Non Government Organisations (NGOs). “Whether it is a street plays to raise awareness about civic responsibilities or initiating dialogues on sexual harassment in public transport, youngsters spread the message with ingenuity and enthusiasm,” says Shiela Jhunjhunwala, who heads a South-Extension based NGO working for underprivileged people.

While many do it just to help the less fortunate or spread a social message, volunteering has also become a good way for students to build up their resumes, learn new skills or make contacts that can help them in their careers. “Young people just need a proper platform to channelise their restless energy,” believes Rahul Verma of Hauz-Khas based Uday Foundation. Uday has hundreds of young student volunteers working for it.

Born change-makers

Recently, in the slums of South Delhi, 20 street children were taught the art of writing news articles, analyse the communities’ problems and view media with a critical eye by four student volunteers. The result was Udayachal, a children’s newspaper highlighting the problems of urban poor communities and views of children on grave issues.

“Earlier girls were not even allowed to interact and there were no opportunities for them. Now things are changing,” says Tanvi Saxena, a volunteer. These volunteers create awareness on issues such as sanitation and cleanliness through Udayachal.

Mansi Bose joined TYPF two years ago, in her second year of college. She was inducted into VOICES project. “I was part of a project where I knew very few participants. I was interacting with complete strangers about issues that were completely personal. During this project I learnt something, which is what we always tell students in schools, “You’re not alone with your problems, and yours are not the only problems,” says Bose.

Mukul Jain, of Green Park thinks every youngster has a duty towards the nation. Jain had participated in Monsoon Wooding program last year, which brought together over 200 young student volunteers to distribute saplings and use street plays to give fillip to the ‘go green campaign’. “At a time when global warming concerns are taking a toll on the environment, it’s our duty to plant more saplings and promote the concept of green city,” says this student of Delhi Public School, Nizamuddin.

Some students like Prerna Bharti and Vishesh Sharma from Amity University are involved with Uday Foundation’s Story Telling Programs held in Escorts Hospital. “We conduct story telling sessions for children admitted in Escorts, and try to cheer them up,” says Bharti. “We stay in touch with those children and their parents even after they are released from the hospital,” says Sumegha Gulati, from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, Delhi University. “These students have been involved with the programme since past 6-7 months. It is a voluntary work on their part,” says Faisal Zahoor Haq, Assistant Professor at Amity University.

Piyali Chaddha (name changed) from South Extension II, a survivor of child trafficking has become a role model now – exemplifying how a victim can lead a dignified life by choosing a life free of stigma, oppression and shame. She has joined ‘Koshish’, a unique Self Help Group (SHG) initiated by Stop Trafficking and Oppression of Children and Women (STOP) to rehabilitate survivors of trafficking. ‘Koshish’ was formed in November, 2006 and runs a cafeteria in a college of the Delhi University Campus. “I wanted to prove that we can’t just be dumb cattle. We have a voice too,” says Chaddha.

Sumit Solanki from South Extension II, a Delhi University student has been involved with Butterflies; a Green Park based NGO working for street children. “We generally collect data for research related work, and even go for field work,” says Solanki. Some like Rahul and his friends from Hauz Khas have been associated with the NGO iVolunteer, where young under graduate and postgraduate students are selected, oriented and then placed with rural NGOs across India.

In Green Park and Hauz Khas, many little school children joined hands last month in a cleanliness drive aimed at restoring the beauty of famed Rose Garden, Hauz Khas Village. “It was a humble attempt on our part to rid the garden of filth and polythene lying scattered all over,” says Ankit Singhvi, one of the volunteers.

(First published in Hindustan Times)





About Zafar Mehdi
Maverick journalist, irreverent rebel, travel freak, cricket junkie, reluctant fundamentalist, student of life, dreamer, believer.

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