In July of 2020, when the pandemic started getting to its peak, Delhi-based school student Samara Ahuja along with her friend, embarked on a unique mission.
With physical movement restricted and everything moving online, Samara realized that much misinformation is being spread on social media about Covid 19, leaving many citizens confused, especially the senior citizens. To prevent this, they started doing seminars where they started educating & propagating facts about a number of subjects.
“We started this because of the severe misinformation being spread on COVID 19 virus, amongst other things, and realized how social media was at the root of this problem. We initially decided to conduct a few seminars for our grandparents and community, educating them about the current misinformation being spread. After an overwhelming response, we decided to continue,” says Samara Ahuja
The Delhi teen initially started with two seminars a month. However, she realized that she is missing out on a large audience because of the language barrier, as many were not comfortable with English. So a Hindi seminar was added, which was a success. Simultaneously, she reached out to her family and friends in other countries, asking them if they wanted to do this in their local language. This led this to become an international project with ambassadors in 11 countries conducting over 20 seminars monthly in various languages.
The content is updated monthly to keep up with the current misinformation and to avoid it from being spread further. Additionally, a huge chunk of these presentations is about Internet scams since senior citizens are the primary targets. In total, they have had over 11,000 attendees and are targeting many 50,000 by the end of this year.
Samara and her group of friends plan to continue this endeavour by having ambassadors worldwide to make this project as widespread as possible. Soon they would conduct workshops and seminars to train the senior citizens on how to deal with misinformation. A plan to churn out these presentations into many languages is going on to reach more people. In terms of giving this concept a structure, they eventually will have a team of coordinators who can coordinate seminars, communicate effectively with ambassadors and keep everybody updated.
“To reach out to other vulnerable segments of society, we plan to create a different series of seminars for children and the younger audience as they would be relatively new to the internet but more familiar with technical terms than senior citizens. They would also be easier to reach out to since we already have an ecosystem in the schools,” says Samara
There is no fee to attend these seminars. A week before the seminar, a zoom link is circulated for people to attend.