Small Steps Big Leaps

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a1HOMES MAKER

At the receiving end of her husband’s battle with alcoholism, for seven years, Bhanu Suresh Babu took it upon herself to bring about a change. Her personal mission soon shifted to a larger cause: helping alcohol and drug addicts. With time, she founded Concern, a de-addiction centre in Chennai. Here, those who check in for rehabilitation are provided food, psychological counselling and timely medical care. Despite having the licence to open its doors to more such addicts, Concern limits its intake to ensure each individual gets proper attention and care. Many of those who have been reformed at the centre now work as volunteers there. With her personal experience of how an individual’s addiction impacts him or his family, Bhanu continues to extend effective help to the families and friends of addicts.

a2NO CHILD’S PLAY

A far cry from ludicrous and mostly inconclusive Parliament sessions, a serious session is under way. Topic of discussion? Replacement of a faulty street lamp. Welcome to the ongoing session of the Ambedkar ‘children’s parliament’ at Aranvayal, Chennai, where a handful of young minds gather to discuss and solve problems affecting the community. The children’s parliament was started by Logammal, 39 in 2006, while working for an ngo engaged in the educadtion of child workers at brick kilns. The child parliamentarians have a numbers of success stories to their credit: they demanded relocation of liquor shops away from public areas and garnering relief funds for the village using what is usually called pester power. Another achievement they are proud of is collecting funds to start a library in the village. With the objective of moulding every child as a changemaker, Logammal is forming children’s parliaments in the neighbouring villages as well.

a3SAVIOUR OF THE WILD

Hailed as the ‘Forest Man of India’, Jadav Payeng embarked on his incredible journey when he first witnessed the massive loss of wildlife as a teenager. Disturbed by the sight of thousands of reptiles lying lifeless on a deserted sandbar in Aruna Sopari (a river island on Brahmaputra), Payeng vowed to rescue these animals. Heeding the advice of the villagers to grow a forest to create a habitat for the wild creatures, a young Payeng started planting saplings and in a few years succeeded in creating a lush green haven for wildlife. The forest that Payeng grew is now home to five Royal Bengal Tigers, hundreds of deer and vultures, wild boar, several species of birds and one-horned rhinoceros, in addition to a variety of snakes. Now in his fifties, Payeng emphasises the need to make environmental science a compulsory subject in schools. Payeng received the Padma Shri award this year for his contribution to the environment.

a4POWERPUFF GIRL

EverY time Avani Singh travelled in the national capital, she would see something disturbing. Slums are an extension of the city and yet life there was as diametrically opposite to that in the posh areas. Moved by the plight of the slum-dwellers, Singh decided to create a livelihood opportunity for them. After several ideas, she zeroed on an electric rickshaw. She then formed Ummeed, an organisation to train women from the slums to become rickshaw and taxi drivers. With the help of other NGOs, she bought her first vehicle and started the first batch. Singh’s efforts were well-received by the slumdwellers, who saw in her scheme double benefits: that of livelihood and mobility. After rickshaws, she trained her eyes on taxis. Subsequently, five women were shortlisted and trained. Four of them now ply on the roads of Delhi with aplomb. Singh’s initiative gave Delhi its first female electric rickshaw driver and earned the praise of Farooq Abdullah, former minister of new and renewable energy, for her innovativeness.

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