Dr. Geetanjali Chopra – Wishes and Blessings

I started my career in the field of journalism and then I took on to academics and finished my Ph.D. in International Politics from JNU. I’ve written a couple of books, used to travel the world attending conferences and basically did what I enjoyed doing. But I felt that little streak of satisfaction missing in my endeavor, which you get while doing something for others. The seed for social work was planted in early childhood when I used to visit schools for the visually impaired with my family during my birthday.

During one such visit, a child asked me a question regarding his birthday, and for some reason, the feelings exchanged during that conversation stuck with me for many years. We realized that we as privileged individuals take our birthdays for granted. Years later, in 2014 when I went back to the same school, the children wanted to play Holi. I pooled in some money with a few of my colleagues and arranged a holiday party for the children. The happiness that I experienced then was life-altering, and that was my first tryst with social work, and since then I have continued down this path

An ambiguous mix of excitement and nervousness is what I recall being the overwhelming sentiment when I first established Wishes and Blessings in April 2014. A decision taken completely from my heart at the cost of leaving a successful career and raised eyebrows from loved ones; this step was the foundation towards making a childhood dream come true. Wishes and Blessings is based on a very simple philosophy. Many of us have some unfulfilled wishes in our life, and some of us are more blessed in terms of helping others fulfill their wishes and what we get in return are blessings; hence the name Wishes & Blessings. The world is divided into people who need help and people who can help. This help could be of any kind – medical assistance, financial aid, nutritional support, rehabilitation, etc. but in times of emergencies, these people may not really know where to go or whom to approach for assistance. Many times, because of this lack of knowledge on their part and lack of exposure to resources, they may suffer even greater losses. On the other end of the spectrum there are people competent and blessed enough to help others, and often these people do not know how to connect with those who genuinely need assistance. They may also be a bit averse because they aren’t sure if the money is going to the right hands. So, this is where Wishes & Blessings as a platform connects the help seekers with the help givers. We are a forum to oversee the connection between the donors and beneficiaries and makes sure that this connection is sustainable.

Most NGOs focus only on a couple of focal areas – education or health and sanitation or environment, etc. Wishes & Blessings, on the other hand does not restrict itself to any single cause or beneficiary type. Anybody who needs help and who can help is a member of the Wishes & Blessings family. We have never said no to anybody who has come to us for any aid and to people who want to help others. We also keep on designing new projects and customize bespoke projects depending on the wishes of both the beneficiaries and the donors. Going by this mode, we currently work on 9 causes – education, vocational training, health and hygiene, food program, a unique infrastructural program called Build A Dream, customization of bespoke projects and finally we have a very interesting cause that we work on called happiness. A lot of people say that it cannot be a cause, it can be an end, but for us, happiness is something that we work for. Our flagship project is called Birthday Manao, which is a monthly celebration with visually impaired children. Apart from this we have the Daily Meal Initiative, sponsor a childhood program, Journey to a New Class, etc.

Recently, we have launched our first old age home for women, Mann ka Tilak, which we want to make into a home away from home and not an ashram. We aim to give people who come there a life full of dignity and respect. We plan to accommodate 15 people right now, gain experience in this area and then expand to a chain of homes pan-India.

Dr. Geetanjali Chopra | Founder Wishes and Blessings

Prerna Bhatia-Nurturing Dreams

“Every fire doesn’t need a fire extinguisher,

Some are meant to be kept alive!”

My Name is Prerna Bhatia and by profession I am a motivational speaker, life skill trainer, and a happiness consultant.My truest aspiration is to become a good human being and I believe rest will automatically follow.

I am the founder of NGOs ‘Nurturing Dreams, and ‘Strii Empowering Women’

I started ‘Nurturing Dreams’ two years back. I felt a dire need to start the motivational talks because whom so ever I came across be it college students or the well-settled people, everyone aspired to become x, y, z but nobody was truly bothered to become I and me, this despondence and discontentment among people, feeling low about their own self, getting depress on seeing others happiness, leaving hope of success on consecutive failures really urged me to step forward and initiate these talks.

Nurturing Dreams is an organization working towards bringing positive change in the society by making people feel more positive about themselves, by making them embrace their own set of imperfections in order to make them move on the road of improvement and for this we conduct motivational sessions for students, teachers, parents and professionals.

Our prime focus is to make youth positive and for this we talk on subjects like positive attitude, power of thoughts, never give up strength, stress and anger management, depress the depression, self acceptance, believe power of a being, leadership skills, communication and soft skills enhancement etc.

We have executed these inspiring sessions in various colleges of Delhi University.

I started with the school kids because that is the age where we are constantly compared to others and given benchmarks for being a good child, then gradually we started talking seminars in colleges, institutions etc.

While doing this I had to face several challenges but I strongly believe in possibilities which undoubtedly are the end product of challenges. There were various hurdles which indeed acted as the opportunities particularly that of the age, because people often questioned my age and even had this option that I am very young for this field, but then as precisely said, “your work speaks louder for you” and so did mine.

Things were going big, but God wanted things to get bigger, so out of my surprise my own school principal, Sister Pramela approached me to conduct a menstrual cycle workshop for the girls, and this was the point where my life took a 360 degree turn, to my surprise the girls told me that menstrual cycle is a bad thing and we should not go to temple during those days, after hearing all that, I decided to take this campaign forward and I named it *strii empowering women* and today we proudly tell girls about menstrual cycle under the project *I am proud to bleed* and break various myths and taboos related to menstrual cycle.

We distribute sanitary napkins to the girls and women in need of it by arranging sanitary napkin collection drive in schools and colleges, we go to slum areas make the men and women aware about this natural process along and impart them the knowledge of good and bad touch.

I started this campaign alone one year back, but today with god’s grace we are a strii family with 10 members and 50 volunteers.

I believe that sometimes, “life makes you gamble everything for the sight that only you can see”,

and in my case this become the ultimate truth, I had this vision that every girl whom I meet should carry forward this message that’I am proud to bleed’ and things are happening around the globe and are changing too.

 Prerna Bhatia-Nurturing Dreams

Amit Jain – Mitti Ke Rang

I am a 27 year-old Nomad Traveller, entrepreneur, social worker, youth activist and a student.

An Indian Correspondent at Commonwealth, I am also a World Economic Forum Extended Shaper, a Global Youth Ambassador at Theirworld, Delegate – Pune Austin Sister city.

I Founded Mitti Ke Rang (MKR) in 2014 to address gender equality and widows empowerment, to provide them resources and support.

Moreover, I founded the Social Network Startup “Connecting 196 Countries”, a forum that seeks to connect young change-makers in the world to bring ideas and share best practices which will foster development in their communities.

We often talk about issues facing women but have rarely spent time thinking about the wellbeing of widows in our society. In India alone, there are more than 42 Million Widows out of which 60% live in very dismal conditions.

I come from a lower middle-class Indian family and have faced many hardships. My father did not live long enough to see me become something. My father passed away when I was four, leaving behind his wife and two sons and lots of loan behind. Due of the outstanding loan, from a very early age I was used to listen the words like Nilami and Jhapti. I worked hard for academic success throughout school. I wanted to be an engineer but had to shift to Commerce due to lack of money.

So, what now? Many said that with BCom degree you won’t be able to get a job, but I thought let’s give it a try. I wanted to overcome poverty. I moved to Pune in 2012 with just 1,000 rupees. I did not have a place to stay and did not know where to apply for a job. One month and many interviews later a company hired me. Our condition started improving and in 2014 I shifted my mother to Pune.

I have lived in so many challenging situations that Widows and their children have to face, often feeling frustrated and helpless. I couldn’t find any information or get access to support groups that could help widows. It was then that I made it my mission to fill the gap and start Mitti Ke Rang.

Our Society does not have the openness to accept widows as strong women who can contribute. Just because my mother is a widow, she was not allowed to take part in prayers/rituals, marriage ceremonies, or apply mehendi (henna). After my father passed away, my mother didn’t know what to do. She was not aware of her rights. In a fraction of a second everything changed, and she was completely unprepared for it. Raising two children with no financial stability was not an easy feat. This was my trigger to start working towards widows empowerment because I do not want anyone else to feel so helpless.

Amit Jain | Founder Mitti Ke Rang

Megha Bhatia – Our Voix

I am Megha Bhatia, founder of ‘Our Voix’, a youth lead organization which provides free preventive workshops on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). Our focus is on primary prevention of CSA. Voix means ‘voice’. When the children are sexually abused, they are muted and we need to give them voice, so their pleas could be heard.  The whole idea was seeded when I dealt with sexually abused children, providing them counseling and assisting them in medical examination, during my internship with Sofia Education and Welfare Society. As a legal intern I was assisting with the work of Crisis Intervention Centre, Mahila Panchayat, etc. This close association helped me realize how single instance of sexual abuse can haunt a person for his entire life. It inhibits their personal and professional growth and keeps them caged in this dreadful experience. I had to do something to save these innocent souls from the agony and affliction of sexual abuse. If the foundation was set right, we would be able to achieve a lot.

I started researching on the issue of Child sexual abuse and realized it is preventable and not inevitable. To remove the myths around child sex abuse or CSA, I organized awareness camps for women and their children informing them about laws and psychological side of CSA. I felt, I still had to expand to my domain knowledge in the realm of Human rights, so I decided to pursue masters in LLM specialization in Human Right. I was offered an admission at University College of London. At the college, I continued with an in-depth research on CSA, the psychological aspects, legal provisions and the magnitude of the problem. I became so passionate about the cause that I decided to do an internship with NSPCC, leading charity in Britain dealing with CSA. In London, I also got a chance to be a part of various leading organizations such as Save the Children, Amnesty International, Art of Living, ASPIeRATIONS, The Camden Society London working for various social causes such as children in armed conflict, autism, child abuse and human rights.

I was eager to apply my skills and go back to my country and help the children, even though societal pressures insisted me to do a corporate job instead. But it was something which did not fascinated me. I felt the children were waiting for me.  In India, I have worked with organisations such as Sarvahitey, SEWS, etc. After sufficient knowledge, work and studies, I decided I was ready to start my own organization for this cause, hence ‘Our Voix’. It started on 22 January, 2018 with an Instagram post in London. Now we are based in Delhi. The support I received from people was heartwarming; we have volunteers from London, USA, Canada and different parts of India. We organize free workshops not only for children but also for parents. We make parents and children aware of different aspects of CSA and help them overcome the difficulties of CSA by openly holding discussing with the children, their parents and teachers. We have imparted knowledge on prevention of Child Sexual Abuse to more than 2000+ children in less than two months, and have collaborated with organizations such as ‘Delhi Child Welfare Council’, Robinhood Army, etc.

And I realize this is just the beginning! During one of the regular workshops, we observed an interesting thing. Children were unaware of the correct name of their body parts; some named ‘chest’ as ‘CHIPS’, for others ‘SECRETS’ disguised the word ‘Cigarette’. It’s a long journey from Chips to Chest, but the journey has started and it’s worth it for saving all these innocent souls who are to become the future of our country.

Megha Bhatia | Founder Our Voix

Shantanu Naidu- Motopaws

I am Shantanu Naidu, founder of Motopaws, an initiative to make the streets safer for dogs as well as us, and the vision is to eventually eradicate the issue of dog road kills and other such accidents caused by their low visibility. A simple idea which started with a humble motive of saving lives, mushroomed under the guidance of Mr. Ratan Tata.

Back in 2014, I was an automotive design engineer at Tata. I was the 4th generation of my family working for the Tatas. Every day when I rode to my morning shifts at Tata, I used to see a lot of dog carcasses on the highway. Initially, I cringed and looked away disturbed and heartbroken, but days went by and weeks, and I realized this is a regular occurrence. I did surveys and some primary research talking to people who had been involved in a driving incident concerning dogs on the street. And the general consensus was that the dogs were not visible soon enough to avoid them on the roads at high speeds. I found the problem. Dogs weren’t visible. I just had to make them visible, and visible from a distance.

Being in the automotive industry, I had access to the automotive reflective tape we used on cars. I made a prototype collar by stitching that on a piece of denim we cut from some old jeans. To test this out we made about a 100 and collared dogs across the city for a beta run. Within a day social media was flooded with people reporting these collars and how they helped them in different areas to spot the dogs. It worked! But the success was pretty short-lived. The reflective tape was made for flat car surfaces. When bent into a collar they started cracking and eventually the reflective part fell off. This had to be fixed.

During the second design, I took the time and effort to redesign this collar from all aspects for a sustainable long-lasting project. We came upon an industrial grade reflective fabric designed to endure street wear and tear. We retained the denim in the design because I believed people always have denim lying around so the material cost for the base would essentially be free. But we did not compromise on the quality of the reflective to be stitched on the pieces of denim. We did not want to wonder, if this failed again, whether it would have worked if we used the best reflective or not. Quality was important.

The design was ready, waterproofed, and the next beta tests showed no wear and tear. So, we manufactured by the thousands. I put together a very small dedicated team in Pune. All of us, mostly students, put in money from our own pockets to fund this. Every month on a Sunday, we went across the city collaring dogs. Being a designer at Tata, my firm was pretty proud of this project. They featured it in the Tata newsletters.And then I got a letter from Bombay, it was Mr. Tata. Mr. Tata’s love for animals is well known. He had seen the project, read about it, and wanted to see me. The last of the house of Tatas, a house we have worshipped for generations in my family, finally called. Mr. Tata helped fund the whole project for a short time. With the funds he gave us, we spread across the country and created chapters in 15 cities where Motopaws operates. I was excited about this, but there was something else that developed, a deep friendship with Mr. Tata. It took some time for me to convey to him that I was not as concerned about funds, as I was about carrying forward the Tata legacy of social welfare. Then one fine day I told him, I wanted to work at the Tata Trusts. I believed I could contribute a lot to the organization’s large-scale social impact projects. But I told him something else also. I wanted to be more than eligible to work at the Trusts. I wanted to know how a high-level social impact business with such a strong heritage operates and should operate. So, I decided to get my MBA.

I got into the humblest of the Ivy leagues, Cornell University. And on the last night in Bombay at a dinner with him, I promised him that no matter what happens over the next 2 years, I will come back to India, and I will keep my promise to work at the Tata Trusts. He told me I was free to change my mind if I wanted to when I went or got into to Cornell, and that I’m always welcome back home.

I left. Over the summer, I found out that the Tata Trusts was working with the Cornell University to build a state of the art veterinary hospital in Bombay.

Animal welfare + Cornell + Tata. This was a dream project. I chose to work on it while at Cornell for my internship and try and prove I could help to further it. For three months, strategy after strategy, and with an amazing team at the Trusts, we went to hospitals in New York for best practice research.

Present day, there are about 50 days left for graduation. I still want to come back to the Trusts. I still want to further the Tata legacy. I still want to help build that hospital. I have been assigned as the assistant manager on this very project and will be joining as soon as I’m back. This project has been Mr. Tata’s dream. It will benefit thousands of animals in India and raise the benchmark for animal welfare in India, just like the Tata Cancer Hospital did.

Motopaws keeps scaling up and we have our next innovation conference in Bombay in July.I am often frowned upon to leave the opportunities here in the US. There have been times when I was made to doubt myself.But if I have to use the education I was blessed enough to receive, I want to use it to fix my home.And what better way to do it with the house that has helped build the country, the house my family has worshipped, and the house that now holds a very dear friend of mine.

To all those who fear coming back to India from abroad, for fear of shame and ridicule or being tagged as “not a success”, I will say this:

The country really needs you. It really does.

Shantanu Naidu| Founder- Motopaws

 

Murtaza Zoomkawala-The Little League

I am Murtaza Zoomkawala, a corporate lawyer by profession and co-founder of ‘The Little League’, a not-for-profit organization that works with the underprivileged children in urban areas and focuses on their holistic development, primarily through sports.

As a concept, TLL tries to create a structure similar to the IPL and EPL, where team owners (essentially companies with a large employee base) adopt and administer a football team of underprivileged children in their localities, for the duration of one season. The TLL model then involves weekly football training sessions and periodic tournaments, along with concurrent workshops and seminars.In addition to helping the development of a healthy body through our football programme, our workshop programme also focuses on educational, vocational and soft skill training. The idea is to focus the energy of these youngsters who are to form the backbone of our future society, through both our sports and educational curriculum.

The programme has been structured as an ‘interactive charity’, which recognizes the potential help that can be amassed by bringing individuals an opportunity to interact with the charity they do. The goal is to promote the culture of social responsibility within organizations (who are team owners) by providing their employees the opportunity to give back to the society by contributing their time and not necessarily ‘money’. To achieve this, it is imperative that all our team owners, managers, and mentors are allowed to participate within the localities of their residence.

The Little League – Season One, started in July 2017, a series of open trials were conducted across different pockets of the Mumbai city and over 1,000 children participated for the selection in one of the TLL’s team.Ninety-six ‘Little Leaguers’ were selected and divided into 8 football teams and their football coaching commenced in June.During each of its training sessions, TLL also provides all the young Little Leaguers with a healthy customized meal. By doing this, TLL seeks to achieve-physical development through regular exercise and nutrition support and help in psychological development through the building of character traits such as teamwork, dedication, and perseverance.While our main focus is developing life skills in our kids to sustain employability in the future, football is a vital part of our program. With the help of certified coaches working rigorously with each team, we already have identified some hidden football stars, who are given the opportunity to display their skills before their team owners, friends, and families at periodic tournaments hosted by TLL.

The TLL team also understands the necessity of educational development and vocational training in the lives of the Little Leaguers; and accordingly, has tailor-made a development programme through their workshop model, which complements the training provided for the course of the football season. Academic workshops are intended to provide tuition after the school hours; and vocational, soft-skill and fun-with-learning workshops are conducted as events, where all of the teams are gathered at a single location for a day-long activity.

‘The Child Development Team’ at TLL monitors the progress and development of each of the Little Leaguers individually. Through constant interaction with the children, working closely with coaches and mentors, reviewing academic results and analyzing behavioral trends in the children, the Child Development Team at TLL focuses on ensuring the psychological development and well-being of the Little Leaguers.

Volunteers slash mentors within the interactive charity system of TLL, have regular interactions with one child from the team, a relationship which is built on trust and common interests and is supported by TLL case-workers. The result is a life-changing experience for both the mentors and the mentees. ‘Our aim is to help bridge the socio-economic divide prevalent in our society today and believe that these interactions, though small in scale, have a great impact’.

Murtaza Zoomkawala| Co-founder The Little League

Chandni- The Goodwill Tribe

Ever since I was very young, I had this strong feeling that we were getting a lot wrong with life (I think most of us realized this as kids, but perhaps forgot along the way). I looked at people and I saw goodness, I knew there was a way of life where we could all win. I haven’t found it yet and it’s perhaps the journey of many lifetimes, but I still absolutely believe that it is possible to live in a world where everyone wins.

When I was in University of Bangalore, I volunteered with an organisation called ‘Centre for Social Action’, where I taught kids in a slum. This place and this opportunity completely transformed my life. I finally experienced what it was like to be in service of another human being, and how our efforts can really make a difference to the life of another being. I knew it then, that being in service of mankind was going to be the story of my life.

When I moved back to Dubai in 2013, a dear friend Sonia and I started what is now called ‘The Goodwill Tribe’. We were both deeply disturbed by the disconnection we were witnessing in the world – disconnection from the self, from others and from the planet. We really wanted to do something to inspire more connection, more compassion and more love in the world. And so we started to host small events in our local community that were based on these values. The journey from then on has been pure magic and The Goodwill Tribe has grown itself beautiful and powerful wings and reached 12 cities in India and around the world (London, Sydney, Dubai, Kuwait City, Munich, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Nagpur, Goa, Chennai, Jaipur). In each of these cities, we have a group of 2 or more volunteers (in Nagpur, it’s a team of more than 30!) who have taken on the responsibility to host monthly events around the values of connection, compassion and kindness. ‘Chapter heads’ tailors their own events to express their passion and suit the rhythm of their city. We’ve found that people take an inspiring ownership of The Goodwill Tribe. We’ve collectively designed over 10 different creative and fun kindness events/projects and have together hosted more than 100 events across all the chapters. Here are the three of our most popular events:

Letter Earthlings:

We receive letter requests from individuals for their friends, family, colleagues going through a tough time. And we get together at monthly events to hand write letters of love and support to these people. The bundles of letters are sent to the recipients anonymously through snail mail. Imagine receiving a bundle of handwritten letters of love from strangers from all around the world.

Gratitude Table:

‘What are you grateful for?’ There is power and positivity in paying attention to this question. We create a space at local flea markets to inspire the attitude of gratitude through conversations and practices.

Kindness Confetti:

Kindness Confetti is about spreading smiles through random acts of kindness. We show up at busy junctions with boards that read cheerful messages, we give high fives, surprise people with flowers, post sticky notes with positive messages, anything to make people smile!

The intention behind these events is to give the community an experience of compassion. It’s a chance for them to connect and interact with each other in new and compassionate ways, making possible kinder ways of being with each other. We believe that every act of compassion and kindness creates a ripple that is impossible to measure, gently opening hearts along the way. And we hope that everyone who comes to an event leaves having experienced at least a moment where they felt moved. The question we often ask is, what would the world look like if we were all a little more compassionate

These events have created a network of change makers, who are pumped and proactive to light up this world with love and compassion. But equally (if not more) important, are the intangible elements of impact – the countless smiles created, the beautiful conversations between strangers, the powerful stories of human connection, the warm, inclusive and supportive community that all of us now feel a part of. It’s been a beautiful, powerful, organic journey, one that still has a long way to go!

Personally, the last four and half years of volunteering with ‘The Goodwill Tribe’ have truly transformed my life. It’s my channel to be true to myself, to live with the values I honor the most. It’s taught me to trust life and trust the flow. I’ve also had the gift of experiencing the best in people, and witnessing how kindness can open people up and create subtle but powerful shifts within them. It’s showed me the possibility of communities that are connected through rich values – these kind of connections allow us to thrive and express our full potential, yet remain humble and strongly connected. I’m so excited by all the possibilities of new love-filled ways of being! Right now the question that I’m working on is – how can I go beyond a project? How can my whole life be a true expression of what I believe? How can every moment be an opportunity to act centered in love? It’s going to be a fun ride ahead!

Chandni| Co-founder The Goodwill Tribe

Apoorv Om (Artist) – Ability rather than Disability

‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities’- Dumbledore’s golden words to teen Harry have touched and inspired everyone at one or the other point in their lives. I have my own version of this inspirational quote-‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities or our disabilities

I am Apoorv Om, a Deaf, 23 years old, an Artist, a student of B.Arch at School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi, Innovator of hanging  2D/ 3D models of buildings and creative artwork and a certified yoga trainer. I got special Honors from UN Leaders and Govt. of India personalities. I am also the recipient of National Award for Persons with Disabilities, 2017 in Role Model category; National Gaurav Awards’17; National Education Leadership Awards the Asia Pacific Higher Education Summit’18, And the Global First Ever ‘Deaf’ Youth as peace leader (India) in 2nd international Volunteering conference of UNESCO. It is a long story before my identity became the one of its kind as an artist, volunteer and disability rights activist. My disabilities such as being deaf, speech impairment, retinitis pigmentosa and an eye disorder had presented insurmountable challenges and I continue to struggle to lead a normal life despite many achievements. I have not allowed hearing impediment & visual impairment to dampen my championing of UN as a global platform for an inclusive society.

India lags behind in providing support, policies, and infrastructure which promotes quality education for a person with disabilities. I completed my schooling from Navy Children’s School with the Inclusive education system in spite of great hurdles and lack of communications due to non-facilitation of modern smart classes with digitalization but the bigger troubles began when I had to pursue my higher education. I was denied admission to CIC, Delhi University and JOSAA for NIIT, despite my merit in IIT JEE because of mismanagement. Finally, they allowed me to take admission in School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi only after The Order of The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi. Even after admission, the SPA asked my father to withdraw my admission as they had no system to facilitate education to the deaf. Still, SPA has no such system in place though they extracted full fees without any concession from a disabled student. Also, I am the first deaf who successfully completed two certificate course in yoga courses from MDNIY, Delhi.

This incident was an eye-opener for me. So many meritorious students lose out on quality education and have their dreams trampled upon due to one disability. According to Census 2011, there are 2.68 crore persons with disabilities in our country who exhibit great diversity in terms of quantum of disability as well as types of disabilities.

I decided to bring respective authority’s attention to make education inclusive for disabled, so I wrote to the Union HRD ministry for two years. I was disheartened when I did not receive any response but I continued writing. This time I wrote to the UN and much to my surprise, they responded. I am now a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Youth Volunteer and through various youth conferences and discussions in personal meetings with higher authorities of UN & India for digitization inclusive system in education and unique ID CARD, I have tried to raise awareness and bring the disabled rights issues and concerns to the table also given suggestions for solution  which were admired.

I had the honor to present portraits to many internationally and nationally acclaimed personalities like Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on 1st International Day of Yoga; Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India; Mr. Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General; Deputy Director-General of UNESCO; Cabinet Minister of India; 6 Chief Justice of Countries; Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Laureate; Governors of India and  Sachin Tendulkar.

 H.E.Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General on 20.04.2016 honored me by receiving my artwork  and Mr. Dalveer Bhandari (Indian judge), Judge of ICJ with the Mr. Ronny Abraham, President of ICJ Invited me and received My Special Painting to The President of ICJ on the event of 70th Anniversary of the International Court of Justice (United Nations) at Peace Palace, The Hague, Netherlands in April 2016.  A painting of UNOG Building is placed in UNOG, Geneva, Switzerland in Sept 2017 by Director General of UN Office at Geneva. My 2D model of UNESCO HQ Building has been installed at the main exhibition hall at UNESCO HQ, Paris; I had presented it to Director-General of UNESCO on 20.04.2018. I also decided to use my sketching skills to gather people’s attention. I presented a 2D model of Supreme Court of India Building to Chief Justice of India H L Dattu and placed at Supreme Court Museum of India in 2015.

I give yoga as well as Art & Craft lesson on weekends to many children from underprivileged sections of society. My efforts have been helpful in bringing some attention to the matter and in one of the conventions, the HRD Minister has assured to support my admission in IIT and provide further education support.

I am still miles away from achieving my goal and receiving my basic right to education and leading a normal life. But I will continue making my efforts, through my portraits and representing the disabled class in international and national platforms.

India needs firm laws in place to support the disabled, or else let the headline (as put by one newspaper) remain true- ’No country for the Disabled’

Apoorv Om – Young Artist Working for SDG

Kunal Saraff- The Saviours

Our lives get defined by a crucial event, an inflection point, which catapults us into action to do something bigger than ourselves! For me, it was the incident when my grandfather met with a minor accident and was denied emergency blood requirement, even in a premier hospital. Although last-minute help from my relatives saved his life, the incident led me to start an NGO – ‘The Saviours’, to make sure no one has to face the issue of blood shortage again.

I am Kunal Saraff a management graduate, a writer and the founder of an NGO ‘The Saviours’. It is a youth-led NGO in India focused on providing emergency blood donation and aims to eradicate blood shortage in India. It was a humbling experience to receive ‘National Youth Award’ from Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, in recognition of our efforts for The Saviours.

After research, I found out, that India today faces a shortage of 10% relative to its blood requirements. In absolute terms, this means that we require covering a shortfall of over 12 lakh units. Given that the eligible donor population of India is more than 512 million, this deficit is surprising. With an aim to bridge this gap, Saviours was launched in August 2014 in Kolkata with only a database of 10 emergency donors and the organization was registered in October 2014. Since then, it has come a long way with a team of 2000+ people volunteering for the cause, a database of 30,000+emergency donors and has arranged over 1,000 donors in an emergency to save lives.

The organization works on the army of volunteers from colleges. The students intern with the team and learn the processes. Once they go through the initial training they help people register with them. Once the data of the donors are collected and accepted, the interns mail them to confirm their registrations. The database is vetted by multiple teams in the organization and is finally given to the requests team. The requests team takes care of the emergency requests for blood and connects them to the donors in their area. Once the donors agree, they are connected to the receiver for blood donation.

Earlier the team used to arrange the donors in emergency and conducted awareness campaigns but since the inception of the organization it is organizing successful blood donation camps, awareness drives at events such as Raahgiri Day conducts Humanity Week etc. We have conducted over 15 blood camps with a total of 1150 blood units in last 2 years.

You don’t need to be God to save lives… Be a ‘Saviour’– That’s the philosophy that drives us. Anyone who voluntarily donates blood through the organization is provided with the title of a “Saviour”, along with a certificate stating the details regarding their good deed. We also encourage every Saviour to encourage three more people to register as emergency volunteers.

However, there are a lot of hurdles specific to arranging blood donations and awareness campaigns. People are always apprehensive of their health if they donate blood. Also, convincing the registered donors to actually donate blood during an emergency is a difficult task. Many people only register but are never inclined to assist. But for a good cause, right people always turn up. In general, it was difficult to overcome the negative perceptions set forth by the society which stereotypes that NGOs or entrepreneurship, are sub-optimal occupations. These perceptions still exist but I believe the strength of good work by increasing people of social entrepreneurs will definitely put a dent on it.

My tryst with entrepreneurship is much older. I started my first venture ‘Saviour Publications’ while I was still in college and published help books for exam preparations. I also made an app called ‘No more Tension’ which curated websites according to 24 categories to simplify web search for senior citizens. As most of the old people do not use the internet and can’t remember the names of different websites according to their needs.

‘When you help others, the universe conspires to help you’ is the guiding philosophy of my life and I chronicled my life journey in a book called –‘How an iPhone Made Me the Youngest Billionaire’ It has received positive reviews on Goodreads and remains amongst the bestseller on Amazon.

It was a one-man show, which arranged donors in an emergency when I started. Now we are in four cities- Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata. My further plans are to decentralize my team and start independent operations in all the cities. Moreover, I want to make this a youth-led revolution which pushes the blood supply and demand back in equilibrium.

Kunal Saraff| Founder- The Saviours

Chandrajeet Kumar Gupta-Slums to School

Change is difficult, no one wants it. So, we make ourselves believe that we are content and complete; ensconced in our illusionary world where we have a truce with the time that ‘changes’ should not pierce our walls. This was the case, with parents of the slum children in  Chankayapuri Bihar, even in the 21st century they still believed, that children are an extra earning hand and education is a luxury which they could not afford.

I am Chandrajeet Kumar Gupta, founder of a campaign called ‘Slums to School’. The program aims to sensitize the parents of slum children and make the tectonic shift in their mentality so that, their children could have their right which is ‘Education’.

It all started when I was conducting a research to assess the enrolment of slum children in the nearby government schools, which are plenty in number. I was disappointed with my results because out of 300 eligible age students, only 90 or 30% were attending the schools regularly. The enrolment ratio drops further in higher classes as the pressure of income requirement from parents and family mounts. After the research was completed, I was convinced that problem was not the lack of accessibility (plenty of government schools nearby), or affordability of education centers (under RTE, education is free till the age of fourteen) or even the motivation (mid-day meal schemes, free stationery, uniforms etc). The problem ran deeper, it was what we read in our textbooks – the backward ‘mentality’ of the parents. We were fighting the age-old monster of backward thinking which keeps the vicious cycle of poverty wheeling and I realized knight in shining armor is ‘awareness’; awareness that education is the only way out of poverty. I put in a team of four volunteers and three teachers and we campaigned in the slums to convince the parents to send their children to school and do not pressurize them into dropping out just to become an extra earning hand.

We organized discussion camps where parents of non-school going children engaged with the parents of school going children. This way they can understand the perspective and benefit of sending children to schools directly from their own people, who face the same difficulties, dilemmas and circumstances.

After two months of successful campaigning, we were able to convince 50% of parents to send their children to nearby schools. Now, 270 children up from 90 earlier are enrolled in nearby government schools. We also perform a routine attendance check to ensure the children are attending classes regularly and we arrange for extra help by tying up with various NGOs which can counsel and teach these students to secure good grades.

The success of this campaign has instilled confidence in me that yes change can happen, though only gradually and it needs continuous reinforcement. Now, I am teaming up volunteers from IIT Delhi and IIT Kanpur to take this campaign to other slum areas in Delhi and I plan to do the same for all colleges of Delhi University.

To scale up my project and convert it in a registered NGO, I decided to take up hands-on experience by working with other NGOs. So, I worked with NGO ‘Make a Difference’ for a complete year as the Academic support volunteer, post which I received fellowship wherein I work as City Manager for ‘Transition Readiness and Aftercare’ vertical. Till now, I have worked for many organizations like YES Foundation, SarthakPrayas, Their world and Commonwealth Youth Council.

We are lucky that we belong to a privileged class. We may not realize that, but there are people who with no fault of their own fall in the cracks of unjustified differences in the social system and never even know what it is like to have ‘privileges’. It is the time we all took a step and shared our privileges with them.

Chandrajeet Kumar Gupta| Founder- Slums to School