By Puja Marwaha:
Editor’s note: Puja Marwaha is the CEO of CRY, an organisation actively working to restore child rights in India. CRY was started in 1979 with just ₹ 50 by a 25 year-old Rippan Kapur.
Overlooking my workstation is an open space meant for volunteers and interns. I see them coming in large numbers – working, making noise, engaging in serious debates, cracking jokes and breaking into peals of laughter. I look at them and smile to myself. What I see is the indomitable spirit of the youth. This is what creates magic in this world.
Just imagine for a moment that the same young volunteer who now exudes confidence and works with communities to get children to enrol into schools may have grown up hearing from her parents that it was time for her to study and not while away time volunteering.
Volunteers have been told that they are too young to address issues like illiteracy. And this slightly shy volunteer who led a social media campaign to break gender stereotypes also heard from well-wishers that she should study instead and aim for a good college.
We all grow up battling some of these stereotypes that keep telling us that we are not good enough and that we need to be like this girl or that guy, that we’re too young, and too inexperienced to bring about change.
We learn very early in life that success is measured in marks and eventually the number of zeroes on our paychecks.
But what if, we’re taught from our very childhood that success lies in the number of lives we’ve have touched and made better, or in our ability to empathise? What if we are made to believe that we have the potential to resolve some of the biggest challenges the world faces today? That is exactly what Rippan did.
Late Rippan Kapur had everything that you and I have. He went to a good school, had loving parents and siblings and loads of friends. He was a flight purser with Air India. He founded CRY in 1979, in his early twenties with six of his friends at his mother’s dining table. He went on to start a chain reaction in millions of Indians who started believing that an individual can make a huge difference.
He brought about a paradigm shift in the field of social work, especially work done for children. He believed that funds needed for children could be raised in India. This very thought was revolutionary back in the eighties and nineties. He was restless in his pursuit of change and was often heard saying, “If you don’t dream of the impossible, how can you make it happen?”
I have seen many young people bring about change and what I’ve observed is that you’re never too young to start the change, and no action is small or trivial.
A routine exercise of interviewing volunteers at CRY led us to Moyurie Som, Ankan Adhikary and Adelina Soreng. These three volunteers were fresh out of school when they joined us. Little did we know that they would not only be responsible for great impact but would also go on to write a book about all the experiences they had had while they were a part of CRY. At the time of writing the book, they didn’t have the slightest idea, that what they had put together had the potential to motivate a large of number people.
On International Youth Day – I gift you this book to read, and I salute every person who has fought stereotypical notions about young people at large, and done something to bring about positive change.
And what could have been a better platform than ‘Youth Ki Awaaz’, which stands out as a space for the youth, by the youth and of the youth!