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    Three youngsters show us how a great idea and some help from social media can make a difference 

    Age is never a factor when you are doing something good. In fact, the younger the better. Chennai boy Arun Krishna was barely 17 when he started the Environmentalist Foundation of India, an organisation that focusses on conservation activities like sparrow reintroduction, herb plantation, composting and lake conservation. “When you are young, you are running high on positive emotions. It’s a lot easier to do things in such a state of mind,” says the winner of the 2012 Rolex Young Laureate Award. We look at a few others.

    Text: Ponnu Elizabeth

    Ekta Kapoor and Mugdha Jain, 21

    Taali Bajaao: A campaign that shames eve-teasers & sensitises bystanders

    Clap if you can’t slap. That’s the new decree for responding to eve teasing and you have two 21-year-olds to thank for it. Chennai-based Ekta Kapoor and Noida-based Mugdha Jain met while at Shiv Nadar University, Noida, and came up with the campaign, Taali Bajaao, with friends Ayush Bhattacharya, Hoshank Ailani and Akash Idnani. Kapoor explains, “Instead of targeting the perpetrators, we encourage bystanders to clap if they witness harassment.” The campaign, hardly a month old, has already picked up momentum. “We get letters from students telling us about how they can relate to the idea,” says Jain. “Everybody has either been a victim or a bystander at some point. Our aim is to empower the bystanders,” she adds. Though they did a street play highlighting the issue, they feel an online campaign is the most effective way of spreading the word. “They work no matter what your geographical location is and we hope the campaign will pick up momentum throughout the country,” says the duo. Next up, they want to use platforms like TEDx and INKtalks to highlight the campaign. “We’re gauging responses and planning to work on a global scale,” she concludes. Join them on Facebook. Details: taalibajaao@gmail.com

    Varuna Srinivasan, 24

    Tribal Hearts: Encourages women from slums to be creative for a living

    Varuna Srinivasan is a busy 24-year-old. But, more importantly, she is a happy 24-year-old. When she started Tribal Hearts (a community outreach programme that empowers women from slums through vocational training) this March, she knew she had chosen the right path. “We PICTURES OF VARUNA FOR INDULGE. EXPRESS / R.SATISH BABUwork with over 30 women hailing from the Narikuruvar tribe (originally fox hunters, they turned rag pickers when hunting was banned, and now live in a slum in Kotturpuram). When I asked them what they’d like to be trained in, they all voted for accessories and clothes,” says the MBBS graduate. Today, thanks to the volunteers at Tribal Hearts, the women make jewellery, tie-and-dye textiles, block-printed scarves, pouches and headbands. With 20 per cent of the sale proceeds going towards building a youth centre, the rest is put back into the project. They are hosting an arts and crafts event at MaalGaadi to launch a new line of products tomorrow (from 6-8 pm, details: 42103242). “We will also have stations with DIY crafts, to give you a idea of how we create our handmade products,” she shares, adding, “When we worked with the women, children flocked around us. So we thought of doing something for them too.” And now, after post-school art, theatre and counselling sessions, they are also planning to expand their reach through an online art platform called Art of the Matter. It hopes to connect artists and NGOs. To kick-start the initiative, they held an open call exhibition in the city. “There were about 200 works on display,” says Srinivasan, adding that all the works will be documented on their social justice blog, which will go up later this year and function as a visual diary of NGOs in the country. Details:facebook.com/tribalhearts

    Sneha Mohandoss, 23PICTURES OF SNEHA MOHANDASS FOR INDULGE. EXPRESS / R.SATISH BABU

    Food Bank: Distributes home-cooked food to the homeless

    Sneha Mohandoss is glued to her computer, her fingers assiduously tapping while she checks her WhatsApp group. But don’t mistake this as the chat group of a 23-year-old, because Mohandoss checks her messages to inform volunteers to pick up food from homes and distribute it among the needy. “I used to spend a lot of time on Facebook. So I thought, why not use it constructively?” says Mohandoss. So, four months ago, she started a Food Bank, a one-of-its-kind initiative in the city, that provides home-cooked food to the homeless. The venture encourages people to make enough food for one extra person when cooking in their homes. “I believe the homeless deserve fresh home-cooked food and not leftovers,” says the Visual Communication graduate from Ethiraj College. Food Bank now covers 15 areas like T Nagar, Nungambakkam, Perambur and Adyar — and has also percolated to other parts of the country. Inspired by the initiative, people in places like Coimbatore, Madurai, Bengaluru, Pune, Delhi and Mumbai have started the same, with Mohandoss giving them inputs. Their Facebook page has over 8,100 members. “Conventionally, people do cook for others. They just needed some guidelines on how to go about it. You can cook any kind of food, but since we don’t know the food habits of people, vegetarian food is preferable,” she says, adding that she is looking for more volunteers. “It’s not a problem if you can’t cook. You can still help distribute the food,” she smiles. Details: facebook.com/foodbankchennai

     

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