What is a 17 year old doing collecting shoes for people among other things she is supposed to be doing at her age?
Quiet a bit actually! Simran Vedvyas in her calm voice and the maturity of someone beyond her years explains to me over the phone from Dubai, as to why she is doing what she is doing.
With distinction in academics and awards like the ‘Heart of Gold’ for humanitarian commitment and the Princess Diana International award, this young achiever is the Founder and Chairperson of SynergY, a NGO youth group through which she advocates for sustainability, human rights, reduction of poverty and hunger, access to clean drinking water, education, healthy lives, and the provision of basic healthcare for all. Of the causes closest to her heart are health, peace, environment, youth empowerment, gender equality, and education for all.
HerStory spoke with Simran to know more about what keeps her motivated and inspired to adopt causes and work towards making a change.
A head start
Simran started young. At the age of seven she used to visit the Missionaries of Charity centre in Lucknow, India. At her age she was unable to relate to the patients. It was her grandmother who accompanied her to the centre and she put things in perspective for her. “My grandmother is the strongest person I know and I have always looked up to her. She helped me understand why these people were so different than us and more about their condition and that I was in a position to help them and be compassionate. The following year my family made sure that I visit the centre again and I was more at ease. Since past eight years I regularly visit the centre and some of the children recognise me and I look forward to this eagerly. These visits have influenced me a lot to become the person I am and the choices I make.”
Simran’s interest in environment too started around the same time at her grand parent’s farmhouse. Since childhood she was fascinated by plants and enjoyed seeing them grow. “Standing outdoors always gave me a sense of calm and tranquility as it does today. I started recycling paper, cans, and other materials at home and I would hand them over to different organisations.”
Over the years, Simran’s interest in sustainability has only grown. She has successfully led over 60
well planned and executed youth engagement campaigns to benefit the community and environment among which exceptionally outstanding is the planting of over 2,000 trees at various landfills in UAE, engaging over 300 students from various schools and institutions across UAE.SynergY
Officially launched in 2012, through SynergY young students from various institutions across UAE work with the sole purpose to support various environment trepidations and societal uplift addressing focal areas relating to health, environment, education, and welfare. SynergyY works under the umbrella of Cosmo Foundation based out of India and does works in India and the UAE.
Collecting old shoes
Simran has successfully collected over 3,000 pair of shoes in less than a month. These were distributed in Kenya and Uganda in Africa through US-aided AMPATH.
Simran’s father had met a woman named Lu at an Abott Diabetes care conference who was collecting shoes for diabetic patients in Africa. Her father told her about Lu’s efforts. Unfortunately, two days after the conference on her way back home, Lu passed away as she was suffering from type 2 diabetes. Simran had never met Lu but decided to take up her project and start the collection of shoes. Simran started by seeking support from the social media, when the Gulf News picked up the story, they shared her email id too. Simran to her surprise found her inbox flooded with offers from people in UAE who wanted to contribute. Very quickly the shoes were collected and sent to Africa.
Youth and the power of change
“Yes I do believe that youth have the power, motivation, and drive to change the world.”
As a young and talented visionary, Smiran is self-motivated and to her success means, “The belief that at the end of the day my actions have had a positive effect on at least one person in the world.”
Of the many awards and recognition she has received for her work, the most special one has been the moment when she was chosen to carry the Olympic Flame at the London Olympics in 2012.
Although of Indian origin, Simran was born and brought up in Dubai. She travels to India every year and has stayed connected with her roots. According to this young woman, “The number one impediment to world peace is the disconnection and lack of thinkers, dis-orientation from true love, faith, and belief in ‘Sameness of All’. We need to learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning, finding, and advancing the entrenched love, faith, and true belief in thoughts and deeds.”
Well if a 17 year old can visualise world peace, then we do have hope for the future.
While she goes to movies and the mall with friends, she also has her friends be a part of efforts and drives that can make an impact. “The work we are doing is so impactful that it is great to have a weekend to focus on these things with my friends.”
Five years down the line
Simran’s understanding of people and problems around her is deep and reflective of her commitment to be the change maker. Five years down the line she aims to study medicine and surgical sciences. “I have always had a strong interest in health sciences and I would like to go on to study that. Ultimately, I would like to incorporate the ideals behind a sustainable world in medicine. Medicine is being revolutionised everyday and sustainability is a crucial part of that now and I want to be a part of that change,” she says with absolute clarity and emphasis.
She is very excited about the Emirates Young Achiever’s award which she has been nominated for and is hopeful to garner public support and goodwill for it to emerge as a winner.