Young innovators: Solving voter ID, mental, elder care, research and eco issues
Written by: Team GI Youth
(April 7, 2022) When today’s youth chance upon a problem, they are pretty proactive. So when the then 10-year-old Madhvi Chitoor saw the menace of styrofoam cups, she decided to tackle plastic pollution. That became a huge movement that even saw Potus, American President Joe Biden write to the young Indian changemaker about her stellar achievements. Of course, there is Time Kid of the Year Gitanjali Rao who sought to address lead pollution in the water. Others relentlessly work towards spreading awareness about mental health, or crusade against single plastic use. The youth of India or of Indian origin, across the world, have taken it upon themselves to carve a beautiful present and future, and save the planet, or give society progress that creates a better world.Global Indian turns the spotlight on such youngsters who are not leaving any stone unturned to bettering society.
Chaitanya Prabhu, activist
Determined to help his friends, Mumbai-based lawyer-activist Chaitanya Prabhu started getting their voter ids done. “What started as a small action slowly took the shape of the Mark Your Presence campaign. Information about the initiative spread through word of mouth, and many people started approaching me for getting their voter ids done too,” says Chaitanya. The campaign evolved as a result of huge demand from people and reaped such a massive impact on the democracy of the society that the 23-year-old advocate at the Bombay High Court was awarded the UN India Award and Diana Award 2021 for his humanitarian efforts.
For the then law student starting such a campaign in 2018, has been a milestone. Motivated by its success, he started his second campaign, the Youth Manifesto to educate the youth about the basics of the Constitution and how they cannot ignore their duty. His idea is also to make the voices of youth reach relevant ministries, BMC commissioner and CM of Maharashtra. “We as voters are given manifestoes but not asked about ours. My idea is to involve youth in creating a list of expectations and putting it forward,” adds the young Indian changemaker. Chaitanya’s larger aim is to increase the number of voter registrations, educate voters, and soar up the voter turnout.
He was in Class 8 when Kavin Vendhan understood the importance of non-academic skills, when he first enrolled for a peer-education programme in his school. That opportunity opened up a new world for this Chennai boy who acknowledged a child’s potential beyond marks, and took it upon himself to launch a movement for the students and by the students. This idea gave birth to Society for Motivation Innovative Leadership and Empowerment of Youth (Smiley) India, a non-profit initiative in 2019.
“We focus on the importance of non-academic education, social responsibility, and addressing mental health issues. The youth is the future of India. We work on the overall development of young minds by conducting workshops. We give them a platform to speak their minds and understand the possibilities within,” adds the Diana awardee who works with 70 volunteers across Chennai.
The 18-year-old Aditya has been campaigning against single-use plastic by working with India’s National Green Tribunal to introduce environmental compensation from some of the largest organisations in India, including Amazon, Walmart-Flipkart, and Pepsi. The teen changemaker, who started the Plant A Million Trees campaign in 2016, received the prestigious Diana Award in 2021 for his efforts.
“I live in New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with sinusitis, a respiratory infection caused by air pollution. When I started researching about it, I realised that if pollution levels don’t reduce soon, many could die or be severely ill,” shares Aditya, who has planted over 1,80,000 trees under his Plant A Million Trees initiative. The youngster, in collaboration with the Energy and Resources Institute, is working on a direct air capture technology, called CarbonX, that absorbs carbon dioxide from ambient air. If scaled up, it can be an important weapon in humanity’s fight against climate change. “I feel that if we continue to turn a blind eye to climate change, then we all will suffer due to extreme weather conditions and a lack of clean water or air. For me, the propagation of this idea is more important than the awards,” expresses the young Indian changemaker.
The North Carolina-born teen changemaker might be busy in his sophomore year, but his sights are set on growing his co-founded AmityConnect (founded in 2018-19). The startup helps collate data of the elderly across the US, and the rest of the world, thereby predicting their medical emergencies and general health.
Karthik Ramu solved the hugely ignored elder care problem in the US. The University of Virginia student saw his grandfather in Coimbatore fall seriously ill, he researched on elder care, got data, and he and his classmate Krishi Nayar launched AmityConnect. The mobile platform helps families monitor elders’ health by aggregating real-time health data from smart medical devices (smartwatches, etc). Honoured as a global teen leader by We Are Family Foundation (2021), Ramu is growing this and is in talks for more funding, to help families and nursing homes take care of the elderly.
“The biggest problem for our team was our grandparents – they had medical emergencies. I saw my grandfather suffer a heart attack. We felt distant and unaware, and were unable to offer the best care,” says the young Indian changemaker in an interview. His concern? “The elderly population is expected to double globally from 900 million to 2 billion in 2050 – it shook me,” he concludes.
Snehadeep Kumar, president, The Aurora Academic Journal
Seventeen-year-old Snehadeep Kumar was producing significant research and experimental scientific work when he was in high school. Even as a teenager, he was in correspondence with the big names in science, including Dr Tom Welton, president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, London and Nobel Prize winning physicist Gerard’t Hooft. However, he was disappointed to find that publishing research was very difficult for two reasons – one, he was still a student and second, it was expensive. After being turned down by major publications like Scientific American, he decided to start The Aurora Academic Journal.
Dedicated entirely to students who do their own research in science and the humanities, the journal publishes work for free. There are two criteria – the author must be a student and second, produce quality research. “I want to provide a platform for kids who are brilliant and have original research, but who cannot afford to pay for a spot in a major journal,” says the young Indian changemaker.