CHENNAI: Thanks to the increasing number of socially aware youngsters, Chennai has been seeing a number of student initiatives and NGOs mushrooming in recent times. “When we reach the age of 18 or 19, we become socially aware. We are driven to bring about a change,” says, Supraja Narayanaswamy, a volunteer at Becoming I. The NGO was founded in 2010 by young Tanvi Girotra who was just 18 then. Supraja, who graduated from Stella Maris last year, currently heads the project Knock Knock (for RTE implementation) under Becoming I.
The Green Nest, an NGO started by Prithvi Tej Tulluri, a student of SRM College, teaches underprivileged children the basics of English, apart from working towards a cleaner and greener environment. Prithvi started The Green Nest in Hyderabad and later introduced it in Chennai.
Sushmitha K G, a student of St Joseph’s, wanted to help cancer patients through her NGO MAC, which has 35 active volunteers.
However, she couldn’t pursue it due to lack of funds. “We collect `50 from each member every semester for the NGO,” she says. MAC has now decided to help visually-challenged students by providing them braille. Sushmitha and the student volunteers will begin working towards it in June.
Funding has been a concern for most student-run NGOs. “Big NGOs and orphanages run by influential people get sponsors among big giants and NRIs,” says Ayappan from Youthhelpinghearts (Y2H). Ayappan, a software engineer, started Y2H along with his friends Ganeshan, Krishnan, Praveen and Ganesh Kumar, a few years ago when he was still a student. Y2H was registered in 2011. Supraja says that she found it difficult at the 80G stage, which is the last stage of NGO registration. Once 80G is received, it attracts sponsorships as the sponsored amounts become tax free.
Though they do not get enough sponsors, they are able to execute their plans due to their passion and effort, say student volunteers. “People, who join NGOs should have passion,” says Roshan, logistics director at The Green Nest. Besides effort, it is the fresh ideas from youngsters that distinguish student NGOs from the rest, says Sushmitha.
Supraja feels that well-established NGOs have become profit run. She says, “We are at a stage where we can experiment. Our priority is to give back to society.” For Raj Mohan, volunteer for Becoming I, the best part about student-run NGOs is that they consist of like-minded people. “They keep asking for suggestions from you and acknowledge you time to time. There is no one to command anyone,” he says. The students, apart from contributing to the NGOs from their pocket money, organise big shows, where the fellow members perform. They then utilise the ticket money for other activities. There are Indian students abroad who have raised funds to help the underprivileged in India. “I am happy that I am able to contribute in my own way,” says Aishwarya, a student at The University of Sheffield. She works for an NGO run by students in the UK that supports the education of underprivileged children in India.