(April 26, 2022) Akarsh Shroff’s journey into volunteering started in school. As president of the social welfare committee, National Public School, RNR, Bengaluru, he visited orphanages and schools meant for the visually impaired. Appalled by the conditions, this changemaker decided to be proactive. Upon discussions with friends, he realised that they all wanted to do something for a social cause but lacked clarity on how to go about it. So, in 2018, the class 12 student started the NGO, Spark (socially productive and responsible Karnatakans) with an aim to address the gap and help the youth bring about progressive change.
The young changemaker’s NGO has already impacted 82 lakh people in eight districts of Karnataka, raised ₹43 lakh, and rallied support in the form of medical equipment (oxygen concentrators etc) worth ₹17 lakh. In a conversation with Global Indian, the 21-year-old, who is now a final year computer science student of BITS Pilani, says, “My purpose has been to empower young adults to exhibit leadership skills for the welfare of others.” The initiatives earned him awards and titles galore – Forbes Teenpreneur ’20, Diana Award ’21, and an Ashoka Young Changemaker.
Leveraging social media’s power
Akarsh and his core team of nine members, leveraged the power of social media to activate youngsters as impact makers. Through his micro-influencer strategy, he has built a team of more than 600 volunteers from 35 institutions helming several youth-led projects.
The student-driven crowd funding organisation has partnered with communities and clubs in schools and colleges, and raised funds through events and social media campaigns. “In a span of 15 months during the first and second wave, we were able to raise ₹43 lakh,” smiles Akarsh.
Projects of impact
NGO Spark was renamed Yuva Spark, and it focuses on library enrichment and development initiatives to improve the quality of libraries in government schools with book collection drives through its project Lead Initiative. Its other projects, Utsaaha is a linguistic skill development initiative with weekend volunteering to develop presentation. Project Ullaasa is meant to develop communication and comprehension skills, while project Vineeta is a weekend volunteering programme at orphanages to provide academic mentorship and a support network.
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Focusing on child welfare Yuva Spark has come up with an orphanage in Bengaluru for 26 children in partnership with an organisation that takes care of day-to-day running.
“We have also recently signed an MOU with government of Karnataka for designing scalable digital education solution for 1,600 aganwadi centres,” informs Akarsh.
Talking statistics, the young changemaker mentions, “Yuva Spark has impacted 5,000 plus through education projects, 11,000 when Covid was at its peak by means of ration, masks, sanitisers and other essentials, and 66,000 through medical equipment during the second wave. Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneur Kuldeep Dantewadia of Reap Benefit helped me design impact assessment metrics,” says Akarsh.
The core team has very good representation from high school students, and with this, Akarsh’s aim to develop leadership in youngsters has seen fruition. All smiles, Akarsh mentions, “Our volunteer recruitment head has been a student of class 9 taking interviews of MBA-level students applying for internships. A class 11 student is the head of external relation and collaboration, while the head of finance has been a class 12 student who practically managed ₹43 lakh of our campaign!”
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The final year student has learned to manage time with experience admitting that his third semester was difficult, as he was multi-tasking – a startup that closed, raising funds for his nonprofit, a research internship along with academics. However, he learned to manage time. “By the fifth semester, things started falling in place. I am able to manage my academics and non-profit with active participation of the NGO’s vice-president, Akarshan Mazumdar,” adds the social entrepreneur.
The young changemaker’s father is a former senior manager (HP), while his mother is a manager at Apple. His parents have been very involved with their non-profit which looks into healthcare in rural areas, making dialysis more affordable. “Right from the time I was eight, I was exposed to the social development sector. I got an opportunity to meet community workers and understand social impact because of my parents,” says Akarsh.
Yashveer Singh, founder of Ashoka Young Changemakers, and a school alumnus is hugely supportive, and helps Akarsh with ideation and networking.
The youngster sees himself immersed in social entrepreneurship, and upliftment of people in the future. He is all set to pursue a master’s in non-profit leadership from the University of Pennsylvania (he already has admission). The social leader, and development sector enthusiast finds Netflix, cricket and occasional badminton his go to if at all time permits.