How India’s under-18s are pioneering Coronavirus philanthropy

Rohan George crowd-sourced for Vidyodaya

When school went online last year, Rohan George, from Woodstock School, Mussoorie, would experience a little tech trouble once in a while. “Even though I had all these good systems in place, I still had days when my Wi-Fi was bad and I couldn’t see my classmates. I wondered how children in villages were managing,” says the class X student. He decided to help raise ₹50,000 for a few and set up a fund-raiser on

Rohan had been advised by Raj Kumar, who runs one of Landour Community Hospital’s projects, on which villages and schools he could help. Elite Scholars Home and Dhana Inter College serving Rautu ki Beli, Airi, and Mathamali, in Uttarakhand, were selected.

With the first round, he was able to set up 10 routers in the villages and schools, so teachers could upload lessons and children connected through their parents’ smartphones could download them. Then, he heard that the schools were finding it difficult to pay the monthly bills, so he now has a second round going, for ₹40,000, of which a quarter of the money has been raised.

Tia Garg and Suhani Daruka founded The Uncut

An organisation that arose out of the idea of parliamentary debating, The Uncut was formed by Tia Garg and Suhani Daruka, both students in class XII, in DPS, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. “We realised that a lot of kids weren’t aware of things happening right in front of them,” so they began talking about everything from government policies to mental health, says Tia.

They were soon joined by five others, each heading a different segment (editorial, design, PR, for instance) and about 50 volunteers from across the country. When the current COVID-19 crisis went out of hand, they decided to help by identifying and verifying resources: spreadsheets containing information about telephonic consultations, medicine and meal availability, and links to other sites offering help.

“We operate 24x7, and most of us are in the 14 to 18 age group,” says Tia, adding that they could plunge into the work because board exams have been indefinitely postponed.

Usually people get in touch on Instagram (@theuncutteam), and they have received about 800 direct messages in the two weeks they have been active. Celebrities such as Sonam Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, and Alia Bhatt have put out stories featuring them.

The best part, she says, is the “satisfaction you get when you help someone. That really ups the morale of the whole team.” There are trying times as well, like when they are not able to help. “We encourage team members to take a break. We’ll do a chill Zoom session or a movie night.” They plan to soon go live with a psychologist too.

Rohit Abraham sourced equipment

During the floods of 2018, Rohit Abraham and his parents had travelled through Kavalam, Alappuzha, where his mother hails from, to help residents with essentials. So, when some students of Kavalam needed mobile phones to attend online classes during the lockdown, one of the residents contacted them. “I went to social media and requested people for mobile phones. I was able to collect 25 phones,” says 16-year-old Rohit (@rohitabraham), a student of Excelsior English School in Kottayam.

When the students needed a TV, he turned to his father’s friends for donations and was able to buy five TVs for schools in Kavalam and Thiruvananthapuram.

Ninan Christy teaches tribal students

When Ninan Christy, a student of Trivandrum International School, was on vacation in Wayanad, his aunt asked him if he would like to help tribal students between the ages of 10 and 12 with English and Maths.

“They were having online classes and some of them were finding it difficult to understand the subjects. The classes were telecast on Victers TV and the reception was also not the best at places. The children were all from the locality and so they were able to come home for classes. That is how I taught five of them during the vacation,” says 17-year-old Ninan (@ninanchristy).

Since schools with the State Board syllabus have closed for summer, Ninan is also taking a break from his classes.

Aanya Malik started H3: Humanity Has Hope

While H3 (@humanityhashope_ on Instagram) was started by class 12 student Aanya Malik, who is the head of operations, she is joined by four others in Chandigarh and Delhi, who also hold roles such as head of design and head of marketing, and help people find medical resources. Their 50-odd volunteers, all between 10 and 19 years, work through the day, taking a break for a few hours in the early hours of the morning.

While their group has had experience working on other projects, such as campaigns to protect stray dogs, the idea to set up an NGO (currently in their parents’ names) was because of a long-term vision of continuing “to work for society” even after school, as Vaanya Gilhotra, one of the core members, who is in class XI puts it.

“We have two WhatsApp groups: one where we post unverified leads, and one where we post verified ones,” says Vaanya, speaking about how they streamline processes. While many of them still have school, they work between classes or redirect calls when they are busy. “We do tell people to take a break, and take care of their mental health,” says Aanya, adding that when people reach out to ask for information about crematoriums, it can get especially hard.

They hope to get funding soon and expand their work to include dog adoption, the environment and serving the underprivileged.

Surya Sivaram made YouTube videos

Inspired by the Break the Chain campaign of the Kerala State Government to contain the pandemic, 10- year-old Surya Sivaram made two 30-second videos on how to keep the virus at bay and “the soldiers fighting the battle against the virus.”

“Appa and amma helped me shoot the videos and they put it on the WhatsApp group of my residents’ association and sent it to their friends. It was to remind them to keep themselves safe,” he says.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 7:57:11 AM |

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