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Bringing social change in Agra - the children's way!

Thursday, September 16, 2010 11:33:22 AM, Brij Khandelwal, IANS

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Agra: A health camp for the underprivileged, education for slum women, a cleanliness drive-these are not government schemes but social projects being carried out by many Agra students as part of an international contest, "Design for Change".

In what is being termed as the most ambitious movement for change, students of more than 20 schools in Agra between the age group of 8-13 years are participating in the contest.

The first stage of the contest, which began last week, involves students zeroing in on a bright innovative idea through brainstorming sessions. The second stage will involve the actual creation of the project. It will be held during the "Joy of Giving" week from Sep 26 to Oct 2.

Boys at St Peter's College have come up with Upachar - a health camp for the underprivileged.

"Each day, medical specialists will provide free medical support for the weaker sections. Boys are contacting people in small localities and slums to inform people of the facility," said Akanksha, a teacher leading a team of a dozen boys.

Girls at the convent next door have drawn up a programme to educate the womenfolk of slums. "It will be a kind of crash course that would sensitise and motivate women to pursue learning later," Sister Lawrence, principal of St Patrick's Junior College, told IANS.

"Most schools these days are hooked to dancing, singing, fashion shows, debates or essay writing contests. Now this one is unique and different. It educates, empowers and enriches both the target and the implementers," said social activist Rajan Kishore.

One school is planning to launch a "hand-washing campaign" to help people ward off swine flu and eye flu. Another is focusing on a quick-fix solution to remove dirt heaps from a colony.

Actor Rahul Bose, who is the brand ambassador of the campaign, said in his message: "The idea of getting children to

isolate a problem that deeply affects them, then find and implement a solution - empowers them in a way most people never enjoy."

According to concept promoter Kiran Sethi, founder director of the Riverside School in Ahmedabad: "The aim of the contest is to change the perception of children from 'helpless' to 'drivers of change'. One doesn't have to 'grow up' to make a powerful change!"

The contest is being held in 22 countries, Britain, Brazil, Taiwan, Ireland, Bhutan and Romania to name a few.

"Children from all over the world with simple, fresh and bold ideas of change will demonstrate that they can design solutions for some of the world's greatest challenges. We hope the ideas will be replicated worldwide to change a billion lives," Kiran Sethi told IANS on phone.

"Last year, the Design for Change contest topics ranged from stopping child marriages to filling potholes, from combating loneliness to converting waste dumps into gardens. It could be anything from a shoe drive to a mass donation to charity or even a 'smile at strangers' day," she added.

An international jury will select the top 100 projects.

Publishing house Amar Chitra Katha will publish selected stories of change in their comic book series Tinkle, while Mindspark will give a grant of Rs.5,000 to the top 100 stories.

Last year, children in a Jodhpur village took on fraud godmen and made villagers pledge they would never fall into superstitious traps again. In a Haryana village, children worked out a plan to help alcoholics.

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at





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