Aarti Naik, 23, spent her school days being deprived of the one thing she loves the most: books.
Naik, who grew up in a slum in Mulund, could not afford books as her father never held a steady job. To help girls living in her slum, Naik, who is pursuing a Bachelors in Arts in psychology through a correspondence course, decided to set up a community library in her locality.
This is when a non-profit organisation, which is funding Naik’s education, guided her to Life Unlimited, which provides resources to college students to turn their ideas into reality.
The organisation interviewed Naik and gave her Rs30,000 to set up the library. “I wanted the library to be a place where these girls could enhance their vocabulary by reading various books and also voice their opinions,” said Naik, sitting in the one-room library that houses 84 Marathi and 200 English books.
For 30 girls in the locality, visiting the library every evening after school is now a routine. “I love reading the colourful books and learning new words in English from Aarti Tai (elder sister),” said Payal Jadhav, 12. “It is amazing to watch these girls progress,” added Naik, who is now the Mumbai coordinator for Life Unlimited.
Set up in 2006 by ex-students of St Xavier’s College and the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, Life Unlimited helps students’ implement their ideas.
Grants are given to students above 18 years for one year. “We fund students who are passionate about what they want to do and don’t have an alternate source of funding,” said Neha Trivedi, one of the founders.
Cycling enthusiast Kshiti Gala, 20, convinced the organisation to help her raise awareness about using bicycles to commute in the city. She intends to use her Rs3,500 grant to blog about her experiences of cycling in the city. “Nobody is too old or too young to bicycle. Also it is the cheapest and most eco-friendly mode of transport,” said Gala, a final-year student at St Xavier’s College.
Yoko Rai, 23, who graduated from St Xavier’s College in 2007, is passionate about art. She dabbled with painting as a hobby and wanted to try her hand at big canvases and exhibit them. Life Unlimited provided her with a mentor (a professional artist) and gave her a grant for an exhibition she held in 2008.
“My mentor helped improve my skills and the exhibition gave me the confidence I required to paint on big canvases,” said Rai, who now works with a private bank.
Daneil Sequeira and Tania Louis, both 22 and nature lovers, were ready to brave the rough weather in the Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh to save the snow leopard as a part of a wildlife conservation project. “We wanted to learn how wildlife conservation projects are implemented,” said Sequeira.
With funding from Life Unlimited, the duo spent a month in trekking in the Spiti valley tracking the elusive snow leopard with camera traps amidst heavy snowfall.