The present pandemic has thrown up many challenges. However, there are just as many people who have come forward to ensure that they cause least problems. SHALINI SAKSENA chats up a few such young warriors who were awarded by YuWaah (Generation Unlimited India), a multi-stakeholder platform formed by UNICEF, to bring you stories of positive change from across the country
‘Education helps gain confidence’
Yoddha YuWaah Ninjas
22 YEARS OLD
Pride of Punjab a joint initiative by Government of Punjab, YuWaah-UNICEF and Civil Society Organisations
It takes all sorts to make this world go round. While on one hand there were people who took advantage of others during the second wave of the present pandemic, they were others who went out of their way to help those in need. Meet Manpreet Kaur, who hails froma small village in Ferozepur village, Punjab.
The 22-year-old, who is pursuing an Elementary Teacher Training course tells yu that while she didn’t the opportunity to study beyond high school, she wants the other children in her village to get as much education as possible.
“Education is the gateway to not just knowing and learning from the book; it is also about being mature enough to understand the importance of hygiene and sanitation,” Kaur says. She has also taken up the task of cleaning up the village pond which is very dirty
Due to the pandemic, the classes shifted to online mode. Most children in villages don’t have smatphones and even if they do, the idea to sit alone in a room and listen to the teacher proved to be boring for them.
To ensure that the students didn’t miss out of the most important aspect of life — education — Kaur opened the doors to her home to teach these kids.
“My mentor introduced me to Pride of Punjab initiative. Even before the pandemic hit us, I was teaching in a local school. When the COVID-19 forced the schools to shut, I decided to do my best to make sure children did not discontinue their studies. I opened doors to my home. I ensured that the children who came wores masks, sanitised themsevles and maintained social distacing as they sat while I taught them. On a rotation basis, I held classes with eight to 10 students per batch. I also convinced the parents to send their children t me. I told me that I would ensure that they would snaitise their hands regularly,” Kaur explains.
She didn’t have many fancy things. She made do what she had. She combined modest resources and taught the kids in a play way manner. This way the kids enjoyed coming to her home; at the same time they learnt to read and write as well.
Recalling a case of a student in Class IV, Kaur tells you that this student didn’t know how to read or write. “I was shocked to know that he didn’t know even the basics. I started teaching him from the beginning. It took time but slowly he gained confidence and now he is at par with other students in his class and doing well,” Kaur recounts.
While Kaur herself didn’t manage to study further but since she is pursing her teaching training, she will be able to relise her dream — that children in her village never miss out on education.
“There are so many small issues that come up. People in my village are not educated. People lack the basic understanding and need for hygiene. Because of my association with Pride of Punjab and the work they are doing here, a lot of improvement has come in. Education gives confidence and with it comes the knowledge and the understanding that it is possible to achieve what they want,” Kaur says.
‘I don’t let my handicap stop me’
21 YEARS OLD
member of Samarthanam Trust for Disabled Persons
What if someone were to tell you that a visually challenged person is out on the streets lending a helping a hand to those in need during the present pandemic? Meet Kavya NR from Tumkur district in Karnataka. This 21-year-old is not just a COVID-warrior, she is also a marathon runner and a national wall climbing champion.
“I have never let my visual disability to stop me fro pursuing my dreams and achieve goals that I set for myself. Rather than use it to get sympathy or not do things, I used it to push myself in sports that some of my friends avoided. Through sports I am able to express what I want to achieve. By representing Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled in sporting championships, I am able to test my boundaries,” Kavya says.
She tells you that the trust in response to the COVID-19, provided disabled people, the elderly and the poor with dry ration. “I wanted to contribute as well and joined the team. I helped them to coordinate and plan out how to go about it,” Kavya says.
At present, she is working as a librarian with the trust. Her work for those who needed help during COVID-19 began when the lockdown started last year.
“During the lockdown I realised that there were so many people who were worse off than I am. That is when I decided that I needed to help them out. I am visually challenged. I wanted to tell people that disability should not be the reason why you should not step out to help others. I wanted to send a message to the ‘normal people’ that they should help. I wanted to motivated them. There is so much work that one can do even if you don’t go out in the field,” Kavya tells you.
She began collecting data from disabled people in the area. She compiled it and sent it to the trust who on the basis of this rationed the dry ingredients that needed to be delivered to those in need.
“I even coordinated vaccination for the people who were physically, mentally and visually challenged. There are designated centres for them. I helped them to identify the centres and reach there. I helped all those who needed help,” Kavya explains.
She tells you that her parents were very scared for her and did their best to dissuade her. But she was determined and insisted that she needed to help the less fortunate.
“My parents, to begin with, were scared; it is natural; they are farmers. But I convinced them. I took all the precautionary steps t ensure I was safe. I went with a group of five. My wall climbing coach also came home. He told them that I should be allowed to help others since it would would encourage them. We collected the supplies that we needed from people. Through the trust, the dry ration kits were then given to the needy,” Kavya says.
She tells you that she has never her disability affect her — whether it was working long hours to help others or competing in sports. She competed in 2018 in wall climbing competition held in Kashmir.
“I went to Kashmir for the competition and was placed third. This is a annual competition,” She says.
She tells you that rock climbing comes with instense training that requires mental and physical fitness. “My coach would take us through intesne exercises. He would tie a cloth over our eyes and then train us; he would then give us instructions on how to and where to find the holds. He taught us how to feel for support with our hands. In this we would explore the terrain. The touch and feel on the rocks would help us pull up our bodies. That’s how I learnt this sport,” Kavya says.
This is not all, her goal is to play cricket; she already represents the State in the visually challenged team.
“I am an all-rounder. My favoutite is Prakash Jayaramaih; he is the VC of the India national blind cricket team. My other favourite is Virat Kohli, Captain of Team India,” Kavya says.
Lending a helping hand to those in need
Yashvardhan Jayraj Rane
20 YEARS OLD
Member of YuWaah's Maharashtra Young People Action Team
Like tens and thousands of other students in the country, Yashvardhan Rane also headed home with the first lockdown was announced due to COVID-19. Rane, who is pursuing law from Pune went back to his village in Kudal district, Maharashtra.
It was during the lockdown that Rane saw what devastation the COVID-19 was creating. The 20-year old, who has received a Presidency Award and Rajyapuruskar honouring his success in public service campaigns, decided to do something about this and help people in need.
This is when he decided to contribute to the battle against COVID-19 and YuWaah. “It was so sad when I saw people in distress as they ran around looking for a hospital bed for the family member. The second wave of COVID-19 was devastating and it left people stranded with not knowing where to go and how to get a bed for their patient. I wanted to give them their right to information — authentic updates on beds, ambulances, doctors and medicines,” Rane tells you.
He tells you that since his village his small, people have to travel at least 50-70 km before they can reach the nearest hospital. “I saw how people travel this distance with the patient and come back empty handed because they were unable to secure a bed. This is when I decided that I had to do something for these people. I made a team. To begin with, I roped in people I knew. Of course, none of them were forced. Only those who came willingly joined. We devised a plan and started a mission — Find a Bed initiative,” Rane says. Today, there are over 350 volunteers who are working across the State.
To ensure that only authentic information found its way he and his team tied up with Government and private hospitals. They tied with up ambulances, doctors and even hospital clerks who gave them the necessary information that was then uploaded on the yuva support portal. Not all the people in his village or surrounding areas know how to use a smartphone let along have one and have the ability to fill in the necessary details. In such a case, a team member personally visits the home and help.
“When we started this work, people started coming forward with requests. We gave our numbers so that we could be reached at all times. Seeing a family take shelter under a tree with their 32-year old COVID-19 affected son, waiting for a patient to die, so they could be next in queue, was so heartwrenching,” Rane recalls.
Of course, this is not the first time that Rane stepped in to help those in need. When he was 12, he set up Bal Vishwa Sena. The work? To rescue stray animals and provide food to the homeless. When he turned 18, he founded the Yuva Forum India Organisation. With a large number of volunteers, the team started working on issues like sanitation, menstrual hygiene and setting up public libraries.
All this takes money. “My foundation till date doesn’t have a bank account. When we work for the betterment of the society, the idea is to improve their lot and not amass money. We usually request family and friends to buy things that we need so that we can give it to them directly. Take an example. We supply sanitary napkins to 500 women every month. This costs `9,000. Instead of asking for money, we ask people to donate the product which we then give it to the women,” Rane explains.
He tells you that his need to do good comes from his father who is a social activist. “To begin with, my parents were apprehensive because of the rampant virus spread. But I was supported by my father. Other parents were just as scared. But once people started praising their children, they came around and are now happy that we are doing such good work,” Rane says.
After finishing his degree, he plans to continue his organisation’s work. But this is not all. During the recent flooding of Chiplun region. Rane and his adopted four villages to provide them whatever they need — from cleaning their homes to getting the electric lines in working order. “No task is big or small for us,” Rane says.