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India’s good Samaritans

On this Republic Day, we raise a toast to young students looking beyond their selfish interests and working for a safer and better world.

education Updated: Jan 23, 2013 14:42 IST
Gauri Kohli

Call them activists, leaders or changemakers – they are people who give selflessness a whole new meaning. From a budding lawyer who is trying to get justice for a 12-year-old girl abducted in Muzaffarpur; to a commerce student helping women artisans get a footing in the urban market; here are many stories that will warm your hearts and reassure you that this country, which celebrates its Republic Day after a few days, has a great future to look forward to.

Caring for nature
Take the case of Lavanya Julaniya, a political science student at Miranda House, Delhi University, who is passionate about conservation and children’s issues. She founded Amaani, a non-profit teaching initiative for underprivileged children – who do not otherwise have access to quality education – with financial support from the British Council, Switzerland in 2011. It has helped educate more than 400 children through innovative methods such as hands-on tools and fun workshops. Now, Julaniya has groomed and developed a team of 20 volunteers to run Amaani. She has also conducted climate leadership workshops and wildlife conservation programmes for youngsters like her.

“I have immense faith in the youth-led movements and their power to bring about change. It is my passion for conservation and children’s issues that keeps me going. As a good citizen, you should be able to think beyond yourself and be appreciative of nature and the people around you. Our values as good citizens come across when we treat others with dignity,” says the 21-year-old.

She was part of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, Toronto, from May to June 2010, where she conducted climate leadership workshops and organised events during the G20 summit to raise awareness on climate issues. Her love for wildlife and nature made her the Delhi coordinator of Sanctuary Asia, a wildlife and conservation magazine.

“This was my first job while I was still in the first year of college. The office of Sanctuary Asia is in Mumbai, but I was coordinating work from Delhi and handling work after college hours and weekends. I also trained about 20,000 children on ecological security and tiger issues in 60 schools of Delhi by organising climate leadership training, field visits, tiger festivals and audio-visual interactions. This was part of the Kids for Tiger Programme,” says Julaniya.

At the age of 17, she addressed world leaders at Kofi Annan’s initiative - Global Humanitarian Forum for Climate Justice in Geneva (2009). She even represented India as a Global Changemaker in the British Council’s Global Youth Summit, 2009 held in Guildford, UK.

Empowering rural women
For Shashank Kalra and Subhash Pachar, it all began with Lead the Change, Youth Alliance's leadership programme in March 2012. “It really changed my thought process.

Service-based leadership and enterprise are the two values it instilled in me. As part of the Post Gramya Manthan programme started in June 2012, I decided to work to create alternative livelihood opportunities for women in Ganga Din Nevada village, near Kanpur. We began with two women in the village, where the indigenous skill is stitching and tailoring and set up a Swaraj Livelihood Centre there,” says this third-year commerce student at Hindu College, University of Delhi. Kalra conducts collection drives in his college and urges students to donate old denims which are then used by these women to manufacture bags. His efforts got a boost recently as these women artisans bagged an order from Tata Consultancy Services to manufacture 100 bags.

“Compassion for others and leading by example are the two most important values you can imbibe.

I ensure that I play my roles to the fullest — as a human being, student and citizen,” says Kalra.

My country, I care
Tanvi Girotra, an economics student at Delhi University, is leading a globally-recognised youth organisation - Becoming I Foundation. She spearheads a team of more than 200 volunteers who work in the fields of primary and secondary education, women empowerment and life skills training.

Girotra won the Youth Award for Contribution to Humanitarian Development at the United Nations and also served as an international fellow for the Global Fund for Children in the 2011 in Washington DC. Having bagged these chances, she seeks to bring about a change through participation. “Project Fiza deals with the issue of socially sanctioned commercial sex trade in Najafgarh. We try to integrate with the locals in a bid to change entrenched attitudes and end this age old practice among the girls and women and push the children towards education,” says Girotra.

Enabling justice
Abhishek Ranjan Kumar, a law student at Delhi University, filed a writ petition seeking production of a 12-year-old girl who was allegedly kidnapped from home in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur town. The PIL petition, moved by Kumar and his friends, said that without producing evidence, police had alleged that the girl had eloped. The Supreme Court recently issued notices to the central and Bihar governments on the issue. “We were really moved by the entire incident. As law students and responsible citizens, we felt that we must do something to help the girl. It has been more than 100 days since she was kidnapped and there’s no breakthrough in her case,” says Kumar. The students have also started online campaigns on social networking websites to spread the word about the case.

Get involved through these fellowships

Lead the Change
It is a six-week programme for 40 youngsters. It will expose participants to pressing issues such as women’s empowerment, education, environment and rural immersion. They will study solutions offered by role models, personalities and get a short experience in leadership education. Last date to apply is January 25, 2013. Visit for details

Gandhi Fellowship
The Gandhi Fellowship is an intensive two-year programme that helps young people develop leadership skills. It consists of hands-on field work undertaken in small government schools, rural villages or slum communities. Applications open till March 2013. Visit for details

The Young India Fellowship
During the one-year programme, you will take classes in a range of subject areas that cover anthropology, life sciences, climate change, art appreciation and entrepreneurship. Last date to submit applications is February 28, 2013. Visit for details

William J Clinton Fellowship for Service in India
It is aimed at creating leaders who are committed to the development sector. The fellowship’s duration is 10 months starting September 2013. Fellowships are available in fields such as education, public health, social enterprise, human rights and advocacy, environment and sanitation, and citizenship and democracy. Last date for applying is February 4, 2013. Visit

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