Subashni Bala, 15 and Shweta Dagar, 12, have been shortlisted for the Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards. Bala was selected for teaching poor kids at a village near Chennai, while Dagar helped build a kitchen for a school at Tikli village.
In 2010, when Subashni Bala went to her grandmother’s house at Kalahasthinathapuram village in Nagapattinam district, Tamil Nadu, she made friends with some kids who were not as privileged as she was. Then she decided to help.
“The only difference between me and them was because of the opportunities I got in my childhood while they didn’t,”said Bala.
Initially, the kids were apprehensive while getting candid with her. “They were conscious about how I would react to their expressions and jokes. But gradually all of us realised that we were the same,” she said.
This was followed by daily sessions with her village folks. “For a start I taught them basic things like saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ in English, then I taught them in a regular way,” added Bala.
After classes, they would go to the fields and play, and Bala would tell them the names of plants and flowers in English. “Everybody would have got bored if we studied the whole day,” she said.
They also watched English movies on DVD and once, went to Poompuhar beach.
Dagar contributed to a school project by building wooden benches for the school kitchen.
“I won’t say that it doesn't matter whether I win, but even if I don't make it, it will not make my contribution any less,” said Dagar.