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Sunday, 25 January 2015

Be the change you want to see

On Republic Day, we speak to a few individuals who believe that power to change society rests with right action

Every citizen has a role to play in the betterment of a society. Photo: G. Sribharath
Every citizen has a role to play in the betterment of a society. 

Another Republic Day is here already and patriotism somehow manifests on days like this when we watch the parade on the telly or perhaps go on a patriotic movie marathon. However, more often than not, many of us don’t quite care about the city/country we live in, the rest of the year.
When we encounter potholed roads, loose cables, or garbage dumps that haven’t been cleared in years, it’s so much easier to crib and complain than to be an agent of change.
Thankfully, however, there are an impressive number of individuals, organised groups, and non-profit organisations in and around the city, which are taking up the challenge on their own and spearheading the change they wish to see, in their own unique ways, and inspiring people around them to follow suit.
When you think of cleanliness drives and beautifying one’s surroundings, The Ugly Indian, is perhaps the first group that comes to mind. An anonymous group of individuals who swear by the motto ‘Kaam Chalu Mooh Bandh’, they perpetuate the idea that ‘all of us are ugly Indians, and only we can save us from ourselves.’
The method of fixing ugly spots is called Spot Fixing by them- and the shared belief is that a street, a neighbourhood, a city and a country can be fixed - one ugly spot at a time. According to them ‘The common citizen who spot fixes spends a few hours every week focusing on local ‘spots’ and fixing them to the best of his ability. Using his own hands, time and money.’
Founded by Arundhuti Gupta, Mentor Together is another group of committed people who work to match urban poor children, enrolled in formal education programs, to professionals, who will serve as their mentors, based on shared academic, career and personal interests as they believe that mentoring can play an important part in bringing about empowerment through education, as it offers urban poor children the socio-economic partnerships that they lack, coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
U&I, a volunteer driven charity, established in 2011 by Satish Manchikanti and Ajit Sivaram, is committed to working towards positive social change in the spheres of education, anti-trafficking, child and women welfare and mental health. According to Ajit, “U&I has always been about aiming to make a difference by educating and rehabilitating people from various communities. We want to see a city where children have a better shot at education. Nine out of 10 kids drop out of school before they turn 14. We want to be able to help them stay in school, excel and get better jobs. We want to see a culture in our city where everyone is involved in social change. We have students and young working professionals in Bangalore teaching underprivileged students and helping them believe in their dreams and helping them get one step closer to making them a reality. We have classes run by 600+ volunteers, 7 days a week all over the city. Each of these volunteers are doing their part to be the change in our city every day.”
Working with children with special needs is definitely not the easiest of jobs but at Manna, a non-profit organisation providing holistic development to children with developmental disorders, especially focusing on children living in slums and nearby villages, street children, orphans and semi-orphans, Srithi Abhinatha, an intern with the organisation, says: “At Manna, we firmly believe that children with developmental disorders can be nurtured to develop basic developmental and functional skills and be mainstreamed into society to live full rewarding lives. Early identification, intervention and the right environment improves the quality of life of these children.”
Empowerment of women is an issue that is close to Sunita Suhas’ heart. A self-taught quilter, Sunita set up Indian Yards. Her team members are women from a backward community living around the Mysore palace. She says: “I initially used to quilt only for myself and my family. One day, I found that my household help was interested in what I do, so I started teaching her my craft. Soon enough, she began to bring other women from her community to also learn quilting and make a living out of it. Many of these women are sole breadwinners of their homes and working as domestic helps doesn’t fetch them enough to run their household. I think the best thing a woman can do for another is to teach her so that she in turn can teach someone else. Today, Indian Yards has expanded beyond what I’d imagined back when I started and it feels so good to be a part of the change I want to see in society.
There are so many more people who deserve mention but for paucity of space, we can only doff our hats to them, and maybe also take it upon ourselves to make a difference in our city and country, starting today.

Source: The Hindu , 25th Jan 2015

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