Meet the young changemakers who have weathered incredible adversities and pioneered programs that are changing the world.
Bringing awareness to the plight of disadvantaged children and youth was important to Rishi, a young teenager who was passionate about the happiness of the world. His sudden departure at the age of 17 years brought people together, bonded with grief and love, and the fire to continue what he started. In his memory, programs supporting these disadvantaged children have uncovered inspiring stories that are transformational.
Changemakers brings you stories narrated by ordinary children who have experienced extraordinary hardship and faced tremendous loss. They were brave enough to find a doorway into the world that showed them that success is not determined by avoiding challenges, but how they allowed the challenges to shape them. They have become extraordinary individuals and beacons of inspiration to others. And in being a light for the world, they spread their resilience and joie de vivre to others, transforming the world. These are the changemakers.
At 25 years of age, Samreen Ansari is a role model for many adolescent girls and young women of Shiv Vihar, a resettlement colony in the outskirts of Delhi. She works full-time at the non-profit Bal Umang Dhrishya Sanstha (BUDS), and is completing her college degree at the same time. As chief educator at the Rishi Children’s Fund-supported Youth to Power Centre, she ensures that the team has an inclusive and gender sensitive approach in imparting alternative education to out-of-school girls. Her work provides a second chance at education to girls who had to drop out of school due to family or societal pressures. Samreen encourages the girls to dream big, and work towards making their dream come true. She loves to travel and enjoys listening to music and aspires to study further. Most of all, she is passionate about girls’ empowerment and wants to change the way the world thinks about women’s education.
Sixteen-year-old Ishika Shaw is a Street Champion with Child In Need Institute (CINI). She lives on one of the busiest pavements of Kolkata. Having endured the adversities of street living, and constantly facing starvation and discrimination, Ishika has always felt the urge to bring about change within her community. The experiences of living in constant fear of being harassed due to lack of privacy and safety for girls living on the streets, drove her to create an environment in which children from the streets can enjoy the same entitlements as other human beings in the world. Ishika currently studies in class IX, but works with passion to improve street-connected children’s accessibility to services that protect against discrimination and exclusion. She has recently presented her views to world leaders at the United Nations Human Rights Council on child rights.
Babu Seenappa is a 21-year old who was born with HIV and orphaned at the age of six. Coping with rejection and misunderstandings was one of the biggest challenges for him. But he is unbeatable in his goals to pursue success and growth. He recently graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, and is currently a technical officer in Snehagram, where he teaches high schoolers in mathematics, language and sports. As an athlete, Babu is recognized by UNAIDS as a youth ambassador. He has participated in marathons across the world – the Children’s Olympics in the Netherlands, the Boston 10K Run, the Nelson Mandela Marathon in South Africa, and many others. He believes that sports can be a powerful medium of transformation for youth and has presented his ideas at national and international conferences. Babu aspires to be a role model for children and youth, and wants them to accept challenges that life throws at them and achieve excellence and happiness.
Gowthami Devaraj is 20 years old and from Kolar. She lost her parents at a young age, and continued her education at Snehadaan in Bangalore and later in Snehagram in Krishnagiri. She completed her 12th grade with the National Institute of Open Schooling and is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She is a trainee under the I’mPossible Fellowship program, and is a certified mentor to children affected and infected with HIV. She lives in Kolar and works full-time as a teacher and mentor to orphan girls. Apart from her work and studies, Gowthami loves to write stories, travel and visit places, and spend time with nature and animals. Growing up in Snehagram she picked up skills like tailoring, embroidery, singing, cooking and farming, but she is most passionate about dancing, and dreams about starting her own dance school.
Anita Shet is a pediatrician and public health scientist, and is Director of Child Health at the International Vaccine Access Center, Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her work spans teaching, research and practice in the areas of maternal and child health, nutrition, HIV and vaccine-preventable infections. She is passionate about empowering children and youth to live with good health and dignity.