A few good men and women
There are many who are changing the city's -- and the country's -- landscape by championing social causes that impact thousands of lives. We bring you some do-gooders who we think will make waves in the new year
Dharavi, beyond squalor
In November this year, Dharavi got a new workshop and exhibition space, called Colour Box. It is the brainchild of David Osrin, a paediatrician and public health researcher and Nayreen Daruwalla, social psychologist.
Colour Box will hold its largest project, the Dharavi Biennale in February 2015, which will aim to showcase extraordinary art about urban health. According to Daruwalla, the Dharavi Biennale is an initiative to showcase Dharavi’s inherent talent and creativity in contrast to the common images of squalor and hardship.
Colour Box’s vision is to guide viewers to acknowledge the contribution of the locals to India’s economic and cultural life. It also aims to democratise the sharing of information on urban health science. In January 2014, Ahmedabad-based artist, Kamaldeep Kaur, visiting faculty at the National Institute of Design (NID), will hold a block-printing workshop at Colour Box and, with locals, create an art installation at Dharavi by using products used in recycling units of the area. In February 2014, NID alumnus, Fatema Jaliwala will create another installation to spread awareness on immunology among Dharavi’s residents. Jaaliwala will use extruded plastics from factory waste to tell locals about the functions of cells in the human body.
Kareena N Gianani
Ride on the good side
You see a group of biker boys on the road and you think, ‘here they go, riding off to some exotic destination, without a worry in the world’. Well, in most cases, that might be true.
But for Inddie Thumpers, one of the oldest bullet clubs in the country, one of these trips includes an annual ride to Ma Niketan, an NGO working for underprivileged girls in Thane. The club, which was set up in 2001, started visiting the NGO around four years ago, member Rohan Salian tells us. “We were really moved by how they are taking care of the education and health of the girls,” he says. Since then, every year, the club with its 100 plus members collects money and donates it to the NGO. “We call them a fewdays in advance to find out what it is that they require in terms of books, toys and clothes, and buy it for them. The members ride to the organisation on their Royal Enfield Bullets and spend the day with the children, often giving them a few spins on their bikes. In the coming year, they are planning to speak to a few other Bullet clubs to join them, in order to raise more funds.
A voice of their own
Shibayan Raha is a man people look up to in the Northeast. That’s because he has single-handedly managed to do what many others haven’t -- give a voice to the Northeast.
A few months ago, Raha launched the Seven Sisters Project, a mobile phone-based initiative that not only encourages citizen journalism, but also enables mobile phone users to listen to the latest podcasts and comment on stories. Through various options available on a toll-free number, a caller can either listen to a story, comment on it or share a story of his own. By January 2014, they are going to set up a dedicated news channel over the phone for their Chakma native speakers. This will widen their reach in the Chakma community in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura and Assam. A general news channel will also be set up to cover other states of Northeast India. A news blog where guest writers will be writing about culture, travel, food etc will also be created.
Helping remove stigma
The Sahaay Helpline, set up by international NGO FHI360 in consultation with the Department of AIDS control (DAC), Government of India, offers help to men who have sex with men (MSM) and the transgender community. Manned by counsellors 24 hours a day, the toll-free helpline offers advice and aid regarding HIV/ AIDS. It was set up in September across Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Delhi. “The helpline’s research phase will continue till May 2014. The aim is to reach out to 50,000 unique MSM callers. At the end, an evaluation will be conducted to measure behavioural changes in callers. If it is successful, FHI360 will hand over the reins to the government to take the helpline to other states,” say Dr Bitra George, country director and Dr Ashok Agarwal, project director, Sahaay.
Call Sahaay at 18002000113
Clean water for all
WaterWalla was founded in April 2009 by five American students (four of whom are of Indian descent). The organisation is committed to providing access to clean water technologies to slum residents through a sustainable and innovative blend of microentrepreneurship, high quality products and customer service, and investment/subsequent reinvestment in target communities. Some of the products include small tablet disinfection items and larger filters and WaterWalla catered to locals from all income levels at Dharavi, where the pilot shop was launched in 2011.
In 2014, WaterWalla will launch the WaterWalla fellowship programme and a pilot project at Sierra Leone. As part of the fellowship, NGOs can take on the WaterWalla model for implementation in their own target regions. A WaterWalla fellow will be assigned to an NGO who will oversee implementation of a clean water programme based on the governing ideals of the organisation.
Kareena N Gianani
Educating with a difference
3.2.1 is the brainchild of engineer-turned-Teach for India (TFI) alumnus, Gaurav Singh. He aims to run India’s first charter-run school (privately operated and publicly funded) network.
Its first school started operations in June 2012 in a municipal school in the Crawford Market area. It was run on the public-private partnership model where the premises was given by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and 3.2.1 brought in its own teachers and teaching techniques. After the BMC declared the Crawford Market building as dilapidated, the organisation is now operating from the Janabai and Madhavrao Rokde Municipal Marathi School at Masjid Bunder. The organisation has 235 kids in senior KG and standard one, the operations of which started this year. The children hail from low-income families in and around Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Crawford Market.
Singh says that in 2014, they will launch a pilot project of training other teachers of low-income schools in cognitive skills. He also aims to create ‘lab schools’ which, like research and development centres, will create, test and share innovations in teaching with the education community. “We want to ensure that the current school has classes till standard 10 in the future. We are looking at identifying spots in Mumbai where this model can be replicated. In the long term, we want to open such centres across the country,” concludes Singh.
More power to the villages
The dusty villages of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are not places where most foreign-educated Indian engineers would like to settle in, you’d think. But 24-year-old Yashraj Khaitan, a graduate of Berkley’s University of California, has been doing exactly that -- he co-founded Gram Power to make electricity more accessible to villagers.
Gram Power tackles issues such as paying hefty electricity bills by giving villagers (who work on daily wages) the option of buying units of electricity from a local entrepreneur-turned-power seller on real time, much like recharging a pre-paid mobile connection. “We work with the state government and sell units of electricity to the power seller,” explains Khaitan. By the end of 2014 or early 2015, Gram Power has plans to bring its smart grid technology to rural areas in other states that are already connected to the electricity grid but face problems with reliable supply, inaccurate billing and high levels of theft. There are other plans in the pipeline too. “We are setting up 40 solar powered smart microgrids in Rajasthan and/or in UP, in collaboration with the US and Indian Government and University of California -- Berkeley in 2014. Thirty thousand people will be impacted through this project,” explains Khaitan. On whether Gram Power will be launched in Maharashtra, Khaitan says that they do plan to venture into other Indian states.
Ensuring the flow of electricity to important establishments, like hospitals on the local grid, is a major part of Gram Power’s project. “We can program our meters in such a way that even when available power is less than what the total power demand is, instead of shutting down the power supply, we can keep power supply to important establishments on with a higher priority.”
Changing 12 states
Sion-based Deepa Kumar set up GrassRoute India last year. Her aim is to promote dialogue between government leaders and the youth. Promptly after the five state elections in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan, Kumar uploaded the manifestos of the elected parties to encourage youngsters to hold their leaders accountable for their promises.
Early last year, Kumar also took up the 12 States Project, wherein she travelled to the hinterlands, which she hopes will help her political career in the future. Kumar is now working on the mpConnect App, and will set up an India Meter to understand the progress of different governments. Like she did for the Delhi elections, Kumar plans to use research to understand the issues of constituencies and help voters match them with the vision of the candidates for their respective constituencies during the Kashmir elections and General Elections. GrassRoute also intends to address Rural Entrepreneurship, LokPal and its implementation, and a campaign on reform in election financing in 2014.
Revolutionising 3D printing
In July 2014, Mumbai-based teenager Angad Daryani will join an IB school, after a few years’ break. In Grade 9, Daryani deciding to get home-schooled by a computer science expert who teaches students with a rare flair for technology development. But the 15-year-old is least perturbed about re-joining a mainstream school after a long break. He has other things on his mind -- like his pet project, a low cost desktop 3D printer for under Rs 20,000.
What Daryani aims to do with his product is to bring about a revolution in 3D printing in India with a low-cost, home-grown product that delivers a high-quality product. “Every school going child in India should know what a 3D printer is, how it works and should have printed on it at least once,” he explains.
“All parts in the printer are from India. Only the plastic has been imported from China,” he adds. Artists, innovators and other professionals swear by 3D printing, but Daryani points out that anyone who’s experimental enough can have fun printing something as random as cartoons and sculptures. The printer will be launched in a couple of months and Daryani is currently working with a team of engineers to fine-tune the product. “The base model will only print PLA plastic (bio-degradable plastic made from corn-starch). To print other plastics like nylon, one will have to opt for accessories while placing his order and chose to add a heated bed for which charges will be extra,” explains the young innovator.
Formed by four buddies, all advertising, PR and marketing professionals, Treetins raised eyebrows last month, when they launched their ‘Let’s Make Strangers Social’ campaign with over 35 restaurants across Mumbai, urging diners and pub goers to raise the flag of friendship and share their table with strangers.
Last week, they finally launched www.treetins.com, an online platform that lets you bump into strangers based on what you express or how you converse rather than who you are or what you look like. The aim, say the founders, is to get people to connect with each other based on a common interest. With the offline (read ‘real world’) concept of ‘Share Your Table’ now hugely popular in Mumbai, the fab four is set to venture to other cities in the hope that they can make the country a friendlier place in 2014.
The child is king
The Cuddles Foundation works with children afflicted with cancer. But so do many other organisations. So what’s so special about this fledgling NGO that won them the prestigious Best New NGO award at the CanIndia Conclave held at TATA Memorial Hospital last week?
Cuddles (www.cuddlesfoundation.com), headed by Purnota Dutta Bahl, is India’s first and only charity that concentrates on the unrecognised area of nutrition for cancer-afflicted children. Based out of Mumbai, it provides supplements, nutrition and counselling to the caregivers as well as hygiene products for the cancer-afflicted children so that they can withstand chemotherapy. “People donate for medication but do not realise that unless children have proper nutrition, they cannot withstand chemotherapy. That is where we step in,” says Bahl. This is one foundation that we hope goes from strength to strength.
For happier children
Either life entails courage, or it ceases to be life. These famous words by British novelist and essayist Edward Morgan Forster encapsulate the ideology of Happy Feet Home, India’s first and only free hospice for children suffering from terminal illnesses such as cancer, HIV and thalassemia. The brainchild of Mansi Shah and Abhishek Tatiya, the centre, which will be built at the Urban Health Centre of Dharavi Hospital, will be in collaboration with the Lokmanya Tilak General Hospital (better known as Sion Hospital).
The 1,200-sq ft space, which will open its doors early next year, will be a day care centre for kids where they can indulge in recreational activities and undergo art, music, play and dance-based therapies to give them the courage to lead the last few days of their life with a smile on their face. It will also conduct counselling sessions and offer bereavement support for families coping with loss.
Shah and Tatiya have now started a fund raising exercise on crowdfunding platform indiegogo.com. They aim to raise R80 lakh
by February 2, 2014.