For most of us, the new year brings with it a festive cheer, a new-found enthusiasm and a resolve to make every new day count. Many of us are inspired to make a difference and create a positive impact in our lives as well as that of others. There are heartening instances of people like you and me who have acted on this inspiration and made a positive difference.
Remember the devastating Kerala floods in August 2018? Amid the reports about the loss of life and property, destruction and chaos, what stands out are the heroic stories – of fisherfolk who braved the rain and raging waters to save people, of students who went all out to support the relief efforts, of relief workers who worked for days tirelessly without sleeping or resting, of people rebuilding their lives and homes in the aftermath of destruction. These stories of hope and courage highlight the power of positivity, the power that each of us innately possess.
To celebrate this determination and hustle, HP India, in its recent social campaign #Spreadyourvibe, salutes the courage and hope of people that helps us look up and see a sky full of stars instead of overpowering darkness. The video is getting great traction on social media and has become the talking point of the online fraternity.
If there is one takeaway from this uplifting story, it is that, we should keep reminding ourselves that while challenges and inequities exist, there’s an undying spirit in all of us that cannot be bogged down. It’s all about channelising that zeal, the inventiveness, the positivity and strength, into focused action.
A road accident that left him bedridden for days was more than an excruciatingly painful experience for Veer Agarwal. After the mishap, the student was hospitalised with a thigh bone fracture and bedridden for weeks. He was expected to accept the situation gracefully, which he did. But the accident also made the young boy reflect on the realities for the physically challenged. On further inquiry, he was pained to know that that even a simple prosthetic limb was out of reach for the physically challenged, especially for those from the lower socio-economic strata in rural areas. Resolving to make a difference, the 9th grader, decided to host a fund-raiser to increase awareness and seek financial support for this cause. In November 2018, he raised Rs 14 lakh through a crowdfunding campaign and organised a four-day ‘Jaipur Foot’ camp at Risod in Wahim District in Maharashtra. The camp drew the attention of people from nearby districts and saw 350 physically challenged people visiting the camp for treatment. While 300 were given a prosthetic leg, many others were provided with wheelchairs.
These days, most of us honour martyrs by posting patriotic messages about them on social media. While the intent and emotion to honour them may be genuine, there aren’t many who have gone out of their way to contact the families of these martyrs and show respect.
But Jitendra Singh is an exception. A private security guard in Surat, Jitendra has been writing letters of gratitude to the families of martyrs for the last 18 years. Many of his family members have served in the Indian Army since World War II.
His father had earlier served in the Mahar Regiment. During the Kargil War, his father would read the newspaper mentions and recognise martyred colleagues with whom he had once served. It was then that Jitendra realised the magnitude of their sacrifices and felt the need to reach out to the loved ones of the martyrs.
Using newspapers and other media sources to collect information and addresses, Jitendra has addressed letters to 4,000 martyred soldiers and their families. The security personnel’s immense respect and love for the army can be gauged by the fact that he has named his son after Hardeep Singh, a martyr from Karnal, Haryana, who sacrificed his life in 2003 while fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.
If there’s one challenge that India is battling head on, it is education. For years, the government, social organisations and individuals have worked together to make access to quality education possible. While there has been progress, there’s a lot more to be achieved. That being said, no effort goes in vain, thanks in no small measure to gritty and determined people like Keshav Saran.
It was 1989 in Rampur, a village in UP, that till then did not have a school nor saw the need for one. A village pradhan walked into every household with a single motive -- to drive awareness on education. The lack of enthusiasm from the villagers did not deter the pradhan, Keshav Saran. He decided to start teaching the older people in the village and holding classes in his house. Educating the elderly in the village set the precedent for the younger generation to follow. Soon, when the student population increased and his house could no longer accommodate the students, he decided to build a school on his four-acre plot of agricultural land. Soon, this caught the attention of the government and the school was given the tag of 'junior high school', which is today famously known as 'Keshav Inter College'.
Today, the school educates more than 1,300 students, of which 670 are girls. Inspired by his father's mission to educate the villagers, Keshav's son, Krishna, joined him. Today, Krishna and his wife, along with 21 other teachers, manage the school. In 2017, 450 students from Class X and Class XII answered their board exams, and most of them are now pursuing higher education.
Sanitation is a key challenge in rural India, and more so in tribal areas. While there is an evident lack of awareness, that is just a tiny part of the problem. Most often, the tribal areas are located in places that are difficult to access, with no roads, no proper transport facility and no access to clean water. All this makes the thought of constructing a toilet in tribal areas a far-fetched one. But, one forest officer didn’t let these challenges come in her way.
P G Sudha, a forest officer, in her early 50's, literally left no stone unturned while battling the challenge of open defecation in the tribal colonies of Kuttampuzha forest in Ernakulam district of Kerala. To reach some of the settlements, she had to walk 10 to 15 km, which meant the materials needed to construct toilets had to be transported manually. But through her consistent and continued efforts, she helped make open defecation a thing of the past in the area. It is through cumulative efforts like that of Sudha’s, that Kerala became the third state in the country to become open defecation-free.
Pavithra YS wanted to do something big, but was unsure of the route to take. Seeing a disabled man cross the road, she wondered how difficult it was for them to get into the mainstream society. That thought was instrumental in shaping her big dream.
In 2006, Pavithra co-founded Vindhya E-Infomedia – a Bengaluru-based BPO that empowers the differently abled. More than a decade later, the organisation has grown from a team of three people to 1,500. Her first two employees were two women with over eight years of experience who had a hearing impairment. Initially, their conversations took place on pen and paper. Soon, Pavithra learnt sign-language. There are other instances like these that show her genuine intent to make a difference, which helped the organisation stand strong even during testing times. One and a half years into Vindhya, the organisation didn’t have enough work to employ its workforce, so Pavithra had no choice but to request the employees (16 of them) to stop coming until they found few customers. Yet, her employees didn’t leave and chose to stay with Vindhya.
Today, Vindhya is the preferred BPO in the banking, financial, and IT industry boasting of clients such as Wipro, SAP, Schneider, Janalakshmi Bank, and IndusInd Bank, to name a few. Today, the BPO not only employs the physically challenged but also people with other disabilities – including hearing and visual impairment and even borderline cases of autism.
Just like Veer, Jitendra, Sudha, Keshav and Pavithra, we all have a choice – a choice to be positive, a choice to make a difference, a choice to translate that desire into action. Tell us what is your mantra to keep yourself positive, even in the most challenging situations.