June 2015 By Jamuna Rangachari An award ceremony honouring India’s unsung heroes brought Jamuna Rangachari in touch with the bravehearts who serve and lead by example Has it not been said that good citizens remaining silent is one of the reasons evil thrives? To set this right, ICONGO and its sister organisation, REX, seek to empower India, involving and encouraging everyone to become proactive citizens. It was a gathering of bravehearts from the length and breadth of India. Every part of India was represented, be they the rural areas, tribal areas, the slums, or the corporate world. There were housewives and students, too, and a few senior citizens as well. Some were survivors of chronic ailments and situations who had picked themselves up, never giving up on life. What was common to all of them was that in small ways or big, each was making a positive difference to the world, through their work, or the spirit with which they have faced their challenges. What brought us together to the capital of the country was the Rex Karmaveer Global Fellowship on 21st March 2015, organised by ICONGO (International Confederation of NGOs) in association with Apeejay Group — at Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi. Unsung heroes The list of heroes and achievers was impressively long, and altogether, they make up a sunny picture of why this country, despite the macabre daily news, not just survives but thrives. “I really believe that the children of today are the future of tomorrow,” said Rafique Ansari of the Rahee Foundation in Malwani, Mumbai, that uses sports as a medium to address the issues of substance abuse and high dropout rates from schools. The effort, he said, had inspired the entire region. “Now, in my area, children talk about football all the time,” said Ashok Shankar Rathod, founder of OSCAR (Organization for Social Care Awareness and Responsibility). Rathod is another sports enthusiast from Mumbai who grew up in the slums and saw his friends fall prey to drugs and gambling. Children used to complete their primary education and drop out from schools as soon as they entered secondary because they found English hard to study. Some used to get jobs in the coasts to load fish into boxes for Rs.200 per day, a tempting option to studying. Unfortunately, they blew up the money on smoking, drinking and gambling. Luckily, Ashok got to work in an NGO that taught sports to slum kids. Ashok found that kids enjoyed playing football. He encouraged them to study while teaching football. Then he made the condition that they must study if they wanted to continue learning football. As a result, he was able to get 600 slum children to go to school, and also got the slum residents to send their 150 girl children to school. With persistent efforts, OSCAR has now reached six states of India, wishes to reach all states, and is recognised even by FIFA, the international governing body of football. “We could not have imagined that one of us would be invited to speak to US President Barack Obama on the status of women, ” said Ms Manju Kahar, an activist associated with Jan Chetna Sansthan, an NGO in Rajasthan that works on empowering tribal women. Manju started working with local women groups and mobilised them on various issues like poor female literacy. She worked with local leadership, and built their capacities so that they demanded schools from the government. She also spoke about and demanded health care from the government. A series of determined and committed efforts have been made over the last two years to ensure that the tribes residing in Rajasthan gain self-rule. She is now not just part of an NGO but an active speaker in many forums motivating people never to give up on life. Vivek Satya Mitram had worked with reputed news organisations like PTI, Sahara Samay, Star News, India News and NWS in various capacities including Output Head, Assignment Editor and Channel Head. He shared that though he had joined the media to make a difference to the lives of people, he had not achieved this. It was at this point that he began www.adviceadda.com to provide free advice from experts in various fields. In his speech at REX, he shared, “We have the world’s largest young population in India but our teenagers and youth are not able to find answers for problems such as relationship issues, sexual health, drug addiction, porn addiction, career decisions and depression. Every year more than 60,000 youth in the age group of 16-29 years commit suicide in India. In AdviceAdda.com, the single motive is to help/guide millions of Indian youth and make their lives tension-free, meaningful and constructive.” Jyoti Dhawale Surve’s eardrums were damaged in a car accident when she was three. Then she contracted HIV in 2007. The homemaker, blogger and HIV activist shared that infected surgical implements may have caused her HIV. Her first marriage ended in 2005 “due to incompatibility, not the infection,” she clarified, adding that virus transmission didn’t stand a chance if partners stayed healthy and the infected person kept the virus count low with medication. Eventually, she met Surve. The two hit it off, and she told him she was HIV+. After a courtship for two-and-a-half years, they got married and enjoy the happily-ever-after destiny. Today, Jyoti and her husband inspire others to treat HIV as just an infection and something that can indeed be combatted. Jyoti’s husband, Surve, told us, “With proper exercise, diet and medication, an HIV+person can outlive an HIV- one.” The youngest participant was Ishita Katyal, a nine-year-old author who participates in weekly sessions at a balwadi community in Pune. In fact, we could see the whole spectrum of people who loved India and life there. Personally, I was given an award for my writings on communal issues. I left with the words of the founder of Rex, Jeroninio Jerry Almeida, echoing in my heart and soul. “I think we all need to take proactive action to create a fair world. This will indeed raise our consciousness to a higher level,” he said and quoted a verse from the Bhagavad Gita that states, “When you feel the suffering of every living thing in your own heart, that is consciousness.” About the author:Jamuna Rangachari is a writer who has authored three books for children, and compiled and interpreted Teaching Stories-I and II for Life Positive.
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