Young People in the midst of a Pandemic: How Changemakers are leading relief efforts in India
It is often stated that young people are the future, which can sometimes support the thought that they can’t do much to solve the problems of today, but these young Changemakers in India are proving us wrong, especially in times of crisis.
Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on the world, resulting in altered family dynamics and a crippling economy. While some adults have been struggling to pick up the pieces, young changemakers have been trailblazing alongside them to help the world heal from the turmoil caused by the pandemic. We see this taking place in India, namely with the nine following changemakers who are each a part of the Ashoka Young Changemaker program. This is a group of young people who are stepping up to make a change in their community, and activating their peers to find their power as changemakers, too.
Let’s meet them and learn about their solutions for a healthier world:
Kavya and The Bhavishya Foundation
Kayva saw the number of COVID-19 questions in his city increase rapidly and decided that he wanted to help provide the answers. He developed the Bhavishya Foundation and launched a helpline and an app for all COVID-19 related queries. The Bhavishya Foundation also has a directory with all COVID-19 related resources in Kanpur, the city where Kayva lives. Furthermore, The Foundation provides 'Free Medical Sewa', which is a free medicine program for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms, and free consultations by a registered MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) practitioner on the app. Initially, when COVID-19 was at its worst in the city, Kavya and his team received 30-40 calls on the helpline a day. Now, they receive up to 15-20 blood plasma requests on the helpline (as the oxygen crisis lessens in the city), out of which they are able to match 5-7 plasma donors every day. For the plasma donors, they are collaborating with the Art of Living Foundation, who have sourced a list of all COVID-19 positive patients in Kanpur from January. The Bhavishya team calls 300+ people every day to encourage them to donate plasma, but it's a challenge: the conversion rate from inquiry to donation ranges from 4-6%. Nevertheless, Kayva and his team are dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of their community. Check out the app here: kanpurcovidrelief.glideapp.io
When the second wave of the pandemic hit the southern region of Assam, specifically in the Barak Valley, Subhadeep and the team behind the social venture, The Eco-Alarmists, were there to cause change. Subhadeep founded this nonprofit to help people and businesses live a more sustainable lifestyle. During the pandemic, Subhadeep and his team created a WhatsApp group to connect people with plasma donations. Quickly, this group was much more than plasma donations. Subhadeep saw that the plasma requests on WhatsApp also included requests for “information on hospitals, ambulances, medicine, groc[eries], helplines, COVID-19 tests, logistics services, etc”. To increase the accessibility of knowledge and resources, his team launched a COVID-19 portal to “bridge the gap between the provider and those in need.” Subhadeep feels as though his contributions to the people around him give him a sense of purpose, letting him know that when circumstances seem like they cannot improve, one act of kindness can incite hope and encourage. As of May 9th, 2021, Eco-Alarmists recorded more than 15,000 visits to their portal. Similar to Subhadeep and the Eco Alarmists, Mudit is also working on generating leads for plasma, food, and oxygen to improve the lives of the people around him.
Aditi and Empowerette
Aditi feels as though every day with Empowerette is “day one”, although Empowerette has been uplifting women for over two years. Empowerette is a mentorship program whose goal is to bridge the gaps of inequality against women by increasing access to opportunities for young, rural girls. Aditi, the Founder, exclaims that “even fi the world is progressing and ever-changing", women are not yet equally represented in leadership and decision making spaces.” While empowerment and equity for women are still being sought out, all teams at Empowerette have been committed to COVID-19 relief work in rural areas and collaborating with local nonprofits to make the right connections and build a network of changemakers. They are organizing weekly calls to their mentees to check on them and help with vaccine registrations.
Sreelakshmi’s QTC campaign
Like Aditi, Sreelakshmi is also working hard to get other individuals vaccinated. Sreelakshmi’s first initiative began when she was 14 after she learned that one of her grandparents was a victim of passive smoking. From that point forward, she began to inform and urge others to stop smoking with her “Quit To Care” anti-smoking campaign. Sreelakshmi has since expanded her work to help other elderly people in other ways once she realized that there are many senior citizens in her neighborhood who are living alone. She has connected with city administration, the Health Department of Kozhikode, and a few other local organizations to best support the seniors through home delivery of essential groceries, vaccine appointments, etc. Sreelakshmi is also producing cloth masks for the care workers in her neighborhood.
Rishabh and The Water Project
Rishabh believes that making a change is not enough if it doesn’t have a positive impact, so when he saw individuals in his village gathering near the government water tap due to water scarcity, resulting in the spread of COVID-19, he decided to make a needed change. Rishabh and his team convened and raised funds to increase the number of water taps in their village in the District of Uttar Pradesh. Now, the crowding has reduced significantly and directly impacted more than 1,250 people.
Lavanya and the Teleupchaar Team
Lavanya co-founded Teleupchaar at the age of 16 after she was informed of how difficult it was for care workers to access basic health care facilities. Lavanya and her team believe that “healthcare is a human right, and as individuals felt that it was imperative that we do our part in helping any and everyone get access to medical care." As the team conducted more research, they came across telemedicine, - the distribution of health-related services via electronic information and technologies, and created Teleupchaar. Teleupchaar's main goal has been to provide care for those facing barriers to affordable, reliable, and consistent access. Recently, the Teleupachaar team has been verifying all the COVID-19 related leads for beds, oxygen cylinders, refill, plasma donors, etc., and has actively circulated the leads on social media.
Aniket and Priyaswara’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic have been directed towards addressing the children and families impacted by the pandemic, as well as the spread of misinformation. Aniket has launched a fundraiser for supporting children who have lost their parents to COVID-19. This is in partnership with Ashoka Fellow, Kailash Satyarthi.
Priyaswara and The Bihar Youth For Child Rights (BYCR) team have also facilitated multiple online awareness programs and activities since the start of the pandemic. During the first wave of COVID-19, Priyaswara realized that there was so much COVID-related misinformation that included the idea that people would be infected on a greater scale with the disease of face death due to the vaccine. So, the team is leading the campaign, “Help and Heal: stay back from fake news, vaccination is right to choose”. The main theme of this campaign is to stop the spread of disinformation at its roots through the use of local languages.
Young people are leading us forward
All of the initiatives that these Ashoka Young Changemakers have impacted thousands of individuals. During a time where we have had to truly expect the unexpected, these changemakers have stepped up and created their own means for helping thousands of people that they may not even be familiar with. Young people do not need to wait until they “grow up” to create the change they want to see in the world. Instead, these changemakers demonstrate that young people are driving solutions for a better world every day, constantly learning, growing, and activating more young people to join in, too.
This story was produced by Jasmine Walker and edited for length and clarity.