“In conversation with Divyashri, a 12-year-old student who has set out to challenge preconceptions of our ability to create a positive impact in society.”

How did you start volunteering?

Since a young, well much younger age, I have always been socially conscious. Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Belakoo Trust’s Spoken English classes in Hangrapura Malavalli. Here, I got to interact with students of age 5-15 years. The students, for their part, thoroughly enjoyed themselves and being a student myself, I was able to teach them a few tricks and hacks that helped them learn better.

This class left a lasting impression on me. Long after the class, I would find myself frequently thinking about those children and what I could do to help them. I realised that this was an issue that must be addressed on two fronts – first, I wanted to figure out what I could do to get them immediate help (providing aid, etc.) and second, I knew they also needed long-term support.

“Long after the class, I would find myself frequently thinking about those children and what I could do to create a positive impact in their lives.”

“I set up a campaign to raise funds within my large apartment community by raising awareness of the cause.”

Tell us about your first campaign

While I was consumed by these thoughts, I realised that most of the students came barefoot to class and were in real need of footwear. This, I felt, was an immediate need I could help address.

I sensed the easiest way to solve this problem would be to go to my parents and ask them for funds. But instead, I wanted to see how many people I could get involved in this cause.

I believed, and still hold, that this would allow for more people get involved, making it easier to garner further support in the long run.

I set up a campaign to raise funds within my large apartment community. I made posters and flyers myself, hung and distributed them in the different blocks in the apartment. Over a 10-day period, I was able to raise close to Rs. 21,350.

While it started off as my cause, a diverse group of people helped in making it a reality. There was a group of 10-year-old boys who helped me raise funds and distribute flyers in the apartment. The Belakoo Team assisted in procuring good quality canvas shoes and socks with the money we had raised. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, each student is now able to go to school wearing comfortable shoes.

“Thanks to everyone’s efforts, each student is now able to go to school wearing comfortable shoes.”

Are you working on any other projects or volunteering currently?

“At Belakoo, I not only teach English, I learn Kannada too!”

Well, after my first campaign, I’ve continued going to Belakoo Trust as a volunteer. I teach spoken English to students between the 5th and 7th grade. I’ve designed a game that enables the children to learn simple words and sentences.

There were, however, some challenges. Not being fluent in Kannada while having the majority of students study in a Kannada medium school was one of them. While initially stumped, I installed Google Translate and learnt to pronounce words in both English and Kannada. This also helps the students better understand the words and sentences. Not only that, it also meant that I was learning Kannada and improving on it through my interactions with the students!

Divyashri’s story is an inspiration, and a testimony to how Youth can create change. If you know someone who can be featured in this column or would like to be featured yourself, write to us at smitha.hemmigae@gmail.com or shivoo.koteshwar@gmail.com