[Year in Review 2021] Top 10 inspirational stories of 2021 that started Monday on a positive note

From a school dropout running his business to a professional quitting his job to serve animals, here are the top 10 Monday Motivation stories that will inspire you.
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The year 2021 started with a ray of hope, with the world possibly looking at the end of COVID-19 – people escaping social captivity and returning to their normal lives. But the second wave of the pandemic dashed all hopes as hospitals got jam-packed with patients, states imposing lockdown, and the air being filled with a sense of doom.

It was the time when inspirational stories became the need of the hour to reinstate hope by talking about people who were dedicating their lives for the greater good.

This year, SocialStory became an instrument to spread positivity with its Monday Motivation series that featured stories of people not just coming to the aid of others in their time of need, but also acting on protecting and serving communities, animals, and the environment.

We told stories of how a school dropout from Jammu and Kashmir overcame all odds to teach 800 students, how a conservationist from Rajasthan managed to save 10,000 blackbucks, and how a group of women in Tamil Nadu were reclaiming a male-dominated profession.

Here are the top 10 Monday Motivation stories that started your week on a high:

Jharkhand tribal woman fighting all odds

Chritina Herenj

Living in a quaint little village of Patrayur in Jharkhand, 25-year-old Cristina Herenj, a woman belonging to the Munda tribe, lives in a joint family of 10 with her children and her husband, Deepak Topno.

Cristina ran a small business to support her family. However, in 2020, like most others who depended on the influx of customers, the pandemic struck and took a toll on their venture. The lockdown took a toll on the family, and they found it very hard to make ends meet.

But Cristina didn’t give up and was determined to start another micro-business so that she could earn.

With the help of Torpa Rural Development Society for Women (TRDSW), she identified that the vegetable production in the surrounding villages was high. Cristina used this opportunity to not only help these farmers to sell their produce, but also earn some money herself.

Starting a business at 51

Nalini Nagappa Shetty, a 51-year-old resident of Udyama Nagar in Karnataka's Uttar Kannada became the sole breadwinner of her family when her husband fell ill.

She started working in the fields, cutting areca nuts. However, the money she made harvesting areca nuts was not enough to sustain the family, and Nalini decided to take a new approach to boost her income.

“I joined a self-help group called Supriya in 2016. They were conducting an entrepreneurship programme promoted by an NGO called Manuvikasa, which is working to empower women through various programmes for a sustainable livelihood,” says Nalini.

With the help of Rs 1 lakh loan, she now operates a paper plate business and earns a profit of Rs 1,500 per quintal.

From dropping out of school to running an IT company

Hailing from the Batamaloo area of Srinagar city in Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Asif abandoned his education midway due to poverty.

Despite all the hardships, Sheikh didn’t give up on web designing and graphics. He returned from London to Kashmir in 2018 following his dream of creating IT awareness in his homeland. “When I returned to Kashmir, I started a venture to provide online classes for those interested in web designing and digital marketing.”

Since then, he is creating IT awareness among Kashmiri youth and making them learn web designing and digital marketing. So far, Sheikh claims to have taught digital marketing to 800 students across the globe.

Caring for over 300 animals

Seeing the plight of stray animals, Bengaluru-based animal rights activist Sajesh S left his job as a brand consultant to serve the voiceless animals.

He got an ambulance in 2017 to pick up the injured dogs and admit them to a shelter.

“Over a period of time, we realised the atrocities that are happening towards the animals are probably too big for me, or for shelter in the city to handle,” Sajesh tells SocialStory.

This pushed him to start Animal Lives Are Important (ALAI), a dog rescue and rehabilitation shelter for injured, sick, and differently-abled dogs, in Bagalur, Bengaluru in September 2017.

Fast forward to 2021, the shelter now houses over 300 dogs and other stray animals like injured cows.

Feeling 2,000 people every day

Born in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, Malleswar Rao belonged to a family of farmers. He and his family faced many hardships and even ended up on the streets. Despite the hard times, he didn't stop serving other people.

The 27-year-old is now actively working to curb hunger among the poor in Hyderabad and Rajahmundry through his non-profit Don’t Waste Food.

In fact, he is also helping people amidst the second COVID-19 wave by providing them with oxygen cylinders, rations kits, and cooked meals for those in quarantine.

Protector of wildlife

A resident of Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan, Anil Bishnoi has dedicated his life to the conservation of the blackbucks. For the last three decades, he has been campaigning to save them in their natural habitat. Due to habitat loss and poaching, he has even started an active campaign against poachers across 50 panchayats.

Anil has lodged more than 200 cases of poaching and nearly 24 cases reached the final stage where the poachers were sentenced to appropriate penalties.

He started a marketing campaign to cease poachers and save the blackbucks. Today, he works with a workforce of 3,000 folks throughout 12 districts of Rajasthan and has saved and taken care of over 10,000 blackbucks.

Shattering stigma to help HIV+ children

Sixty-eight-year-old Mangal Shah, popularly known as Mangaltai, has dedicated her life towards humanity for the most excluded, vulnerable, and hapless children and women.

Having worked with HIV+ children for about two decades now, her desire to care and support led her to be the godmother figure to over 100 such children. Shah believes in Mother Teresa’s words “if you judge people, you have no time to love them”.

She runs a residential unit called Palawi under Prabha-Hira Pratisthan, an NGO in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, for HIV positive children. At present, the organisation is taking care of nearly 125 HIV positive children.

Finding forgotten stories of India on a cycle

For 32-year-old Ankit Arora, cycling has also become a means to explore India and experience the lives of different communities. A former journalist, Ankit used to pursue cycling for fitness purposes and participated in endurance events like such as long-distance cycling.

He also entered the Limca Book of Records and India Book of Records for covering the Golden Triangle – a tourist circuit connecting Delhi, Agra and Jaipur – in 69 hours without a break.

He built a self-sustaining village in Krishnagiri near Bengaluru and named it Innisfree Farm. It reuses 100 percent of its waste to power eco-toilets, kitchens, electricity, and even fodder for the local animals.

He also introduced the rural community to the idea of integrated farming, explaining that just growing one type of crop such as rice, wheat, or soybean would only keep them employed for six to eight months.

Painting their way through the glass ceiling

Durga, a mother of two, wanted to step out of her home to join the workforce.

“I first heard about this programme nShakti that trained women to be painters, three years ago. I had gone to the Thozhir Sangam when a friend told me about this unique initiative. When I heard that the training was free, I decided to sign up,” she says in a conversation with SocialStory.

The 15-day training was intensive and they spoke to us about everything from safety to mixing paints to how to paint an entire house. Her enthusiasm was contagious and in no time she convinced 25 other women from the village to join her. Durga says that while her family was encouraging, they became concerned about her taking it on as a full-time job.

She makes Rs 650 a day and says that she can choose when she wants to work and don’t have to go to work.

Overcoming cerebral palsy to help others

Born prematurely at seven months, Sumit Agarwal was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which significantly impacted his motor ability.

However, he managed to graduate with a bachelor of business administration (BBA) post Graduate programme in Management, where he got a 9.05 GPA, and also got a post-graduate diploma in mass communication from Jadavpur University, where he graduated among the top of his class. His love for learning also led him to achieve several certifications and degrees.

Despite all his achievements, Sumit says that he was unable to find a job and that no employer in Kolkata wanted to hire him because of his disability.

Rather than wait for employment, Sumit decided to start his own company and founded PR Signal, a public relations firm. Today, Sumit is a well-known public relations entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and inclusion rights activist.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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