A group of kids who were moved by the struggle of people around them and decided to pitch in and do their bit.

Last Sunday, when Dia Mirza addressed a room full of students, the actor said that while she was required to make a speech that would inspire the children, it was she who felt both inspired and humbled by them. The audience agreed with her, surrounded as they were by young people who have dedicated their lives to tireless service and social work.

The finalists were gathered at the Fourth Annual Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards (SOCA).

The finalists for SOCA 2014 were from Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Punjab, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

Problem solvers

The gold-medalist, Maneka Sharma, a Std. XII student of Shri Ram School, Aravali, Gurgaon discovered the desperate and pathetic lack of clean water for the poor during a visit to a slum. “I met a girl called Pooja, who told me that her family received just three litres of water everyday to meet all their needs. I had known there was a problem, but hearing it and seeing it made it so much more real. It was then that I decided that I wanted to do something to change this.” Maneka created a massive awareness drive to encourage children to conserve water. She authored a book on water conservation called Rohan On A Water Saving Spree. To make learning more engaging, Maneka adapted her book into an easy-to-play Snakes and Ladders board game that children can understand easily and learn from. “The book and game are my way of reaching people even without being physically present.”

Similarly, Aarushi Gupta was moved to help the visually impaired during a visit to an eye camp in her locality. “I know how difficult it is to go for a day without glasses, since I have them too. And I saw how people didn’t have the money for basic check-ups, let alone spectacles.” So Aarushi started a ‘Spectacular Drive’, to collect used spectacles and provide corrected vision to the poor and needy, donating the collection to NGOs like Helpage India, Goonj and Jan Sewa Foundation. Today, over 1500 people have benefited from Aarushi’s project.

The students, gathered there with family, teachers and friends, were felicitated by the Jury members and chief guest Dia Mirza, the evening an example that the younger generation, through sheer self-confidence, selfless thought and empathy, can make a change that will indeed go a long way.

Some more winners

Individual category awardees

Marita D’Souza, spends her free time teaching younger children; Jitendra Chaudhary, a Std. VIII student of Jesus and Mary’s High School, Mumbai, has been working for the social and educational upliftment of rural communities.

Surjit Kaur from Balliawal in Ludhiana, Punjab has been working towards making her village a cleaner and better place to live in.

Group category awardees

Aashna Aggarwal, Neel Singal and Sumantra Munjal, Std. XI, Modern School, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi provided aid to the unemployed through their project, ‘Golden Waste’Malvika Shukla and team, Rachana School, Ahmedabad, set up a butterfly garden in their school and have developed and nurture it.