Meet these 5 Diana Award winners, who are recognised for their humanitarian efforts

This week, SocialStory spoke to some of the Diana Award recipients of 2021, an award conferred to young humanitarians across the world.
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Many youths, besides planning their career journeys, are now also focusing on joining humanitarian causes. These youngsters strive hard to make the world a better place.

At the age of 17, Malala Yousafzai not only became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate but also became a voice for millions of girls who are deprived of quality education.

Like Malala, several youths are putting their best efforts to bring a change to the lives of the underserved communities.

Established in the memory of Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, the Diana Award is given to young humanitarians across the world who “inspire positive change in the future of young people.”

Princess Diana was known to have championed various humanitarian causes, including working for children suffering from AIDS, animal protection, and poverty, among others, around the world during her lifetime.

This year, several young Indians were also part of this coveted list of humanitarians. SocialStory lists a few.

Akarsh Shroff

Through SPARK, Akarsh has helped donate oxygen concentrators to hospitals, among other things, after raising over Rs 40 lakh for COVID relief.

Twenty-year-old student from BITS - Pilani, Akarsh Shroff started his journey in 2018 when he co-founded S.P.A.R.K. in Bengaluru. Since then, with a team of 500+ volunteers, he has co-ordinated over 16,000 hours of volunteering at 11 centres, through four initiatives.

Each of these initiatives was designed to academically mentor children in orphanages (Project Vineeta), creating libraries and inculcating reading habits (Library Enrichment And Development or LEAD), developing linguistic skills (Project Utsaaha), and conducting workshops for public speaking, debating, and articulation (Project Ullaasa).

These initiatives have impacted over 500 children.

During the pandemic, Akarsh was able to raise Rs 40 lakh for COVID-19 relief.

Speaking to SocialStory, Akarsh says, “One of our biggest achievements has been creating a sense of social responsibility while inspiring nearly 500 teenagers with no prior volunteering experience to work for a social cause.”

Chaitanya Prabhu

Chaitanya Prabhu wants to turn every institution into a voter-friendly campus

Mumbai-based Chaitanya Prabhu is the founder of Mark Your Presence — a non-profit and non-political organisation, which works to turn every institution into a voter-friendly campus.

“I aim to strengthen the Indian democracy by registering young voters, educating voters, and encouraging them to actively participate in the world’s largest electoral democracy,” Chaitanya says.

The organisation enrols all citizens above the age of 18 to help them participate in elections. It has conducted seminars in colleges, affiliated with Mumbai University, Symbiosis University, NMIMS University, Delhi University, Ashoka University, and other private universities. 

Chaitanya has been registering and educating voters since 2018 and has reached out to over 16,000 voters throughout his campaign. He was able to successfully register over 10,000 voters in the last general elections and assembly elections in India. 

He also helped organise many campaigns, including ‘Rap for your Rights,’ ‘Dance for your Rights,’ and ‘She Votes,’ among others. He even launched a monthly newsletter called ‘Your Representative’ to decrease the gap between the elected representatives and the youth of Mumbai.

Seher Taneja

Seher presenting 'The Tale of Humankind' to Union Minister RS Prasad

New Delhi resident and Class 12 student Seher Taneja has been sharing ‘The Tale of Humankind’ since 2020.

“The Tale of Humankind” is a youth leadership initiative to enable, connect, and engage youth advocates by starting conversations around key issues and taking them from ideas to action.

“Being the daughter of COVID warriors, it wasn’t easy to manage while continuously worrying about the wellbeing of my parents who were working in COVID ICUs. It was indeed a difficult phase, but during those trying times is when I rose to the forefront to lead change in my community through my initiative The Tale of Humankind,” Seher tells SocialStory.

Seher has worked on campaigns on diverse issues, including mental health, menstruation, gender equality, human rights, power of youth, child rights, climate action, UN Sustainable Development Goals, global citizenship, education in COVID, etc.

One of the campaigns even includes a series of seven movies, themed “Youth For Mental Health,” in support of the #SameHere Global Movement. She has also hosted podcast shows to encourage powerful voices on youth issues.

Sia Godika

Sia Godika refurbishes old footwear and provides them to the underprivileged.

Fourteen-year-old Sia Godika from Bengaluru has seen numerous cases of impoverished people in her neighbourhood living without any footwear.

Seeing this harsh reality of underprivileged sections, she laid the foundation for Sole Warriors. The initiative aims to refurbish footwear from privileged sections of society and donates them to underprivileged communities.

In 2019, she put together an end-to-end process for Sole Warriors. She reached out to communities to organise footwear collection drives, which were transported to a warehouse for sorting and cleaning. Pairs that need refurbishing are sent to a professional cobbler

“Over the past 18 months, we have successfully collected over 15,000 pairs of footwear from 4,000 households A network of 50 volunteers and eight supporting organisations helped make this possible,” she says.

She notes that in underserved families, a pair of shoes is often shared by family members with similar shoe sizes. “With debilitating poverty, a pair of shoes benefit more than one person. Therefore, the donated shoes could have impacted 15,000 to 20,000 individuals,” says Sia.

Aditi Gera

Aditi Gera (in black) helps empower young girls through Empowerette

Twenty-year-old Aditi Gera from Madhya Pradesh founded Empowerette in 2019 to bridge the inequality gap against women by increasing the accessibility of opportunities for young rural girls. The organisation consists of a team of seven young girls, all aged between 19-22 years.

“The need is to build young girls' agency by helping them grow as a leader and providing a strong support system, and we wanted to have rural girls at the forefront of shattering the glass ceiling,” Aditi says.

One of the main initiatives of Empowerette, a one-to-one mentorship programme, is designed for developing leadership and decision-making, career skill set, and confidence among young rural girls. The programme takes 12-18 months to be completed.

The organisation started another programme for digital advocacy for mental health awareness among youth after the rising concern for the same during the COVID-19 lockdown.

It has now reached over 2,000 people on digital platforms.

Edited by Suman Singh

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