With all the world’s social and environmental problems like climate change, food scarcity, extreme poverty, educational inequity, increasing by the day, there is only one sustainable solution. Instead of relying only on the government or civic-society organizations to solve these problems, all of us need to take action at an individual-level to solve them. While most of us turn a blind eye to these problems, here are five stories of children who stepped up and took charge to solve problems they found in their society.
12-year olds Arindum, Raghav, Sufi, Ankit and Ashar learnt that the amount of water used in flush tanks in toilets is more than what is necessary to flush a toilet fully. Wanting to save this extra water, they started their initiative Blue Brigade and used one of the most creative ideas to save this flush tank water! They collected old 500ml plastic bottles from their neighbourhood, filled them with sand and gravel, and then placed 4 of them each in a flush tank. This reduced the tank volume by 2 litres (using the displacement principle) and now 2 litres of water is saved every time when someone uses the flush. They started installing these bottles in every washroom in their school, and in their neighbours’ houses. Till now, they have placed bottles in 40+ flush tanks in over 20 washrooms, and are saving more than 45,000+ litres of water every month.
Menstruation is still a taboo amongst girls, especially the ones from low-economic background. The lack of awareness about menstrual hygiene often affects school attendance, performance and health of these young girls. When Gowri, Keerthi, Aryan and Srishti, 14-year-old students from Bangalore realised this, they started Code Red with an aim to build this awareness amongst the girls and enable them to reach their full potential. They designed menstrual hygiene workshops and started conducting them in government schools.
The workshops start with showing the girls an animated video about menstruation to help them understand everything in detail, followed by a live demonstration on how to use sanitary napkins. They also give out Menstrual Hygiene Kits, consisting of information pamphlets, calendar and a hot water bottle, to every girl. The sessions end with explaining how to use the calendar to help the girls track their menstrual cycles and how to use a hot water bottle to reduce the pain during menstrual cramps. Till now, they have conducted 12+ workshops in 8 government schools and impacted 500+ young girls.
15-year olds Shashank, Vatsala, Ravisha, Shrishti and Diya, realised that the teenagers of today’s generation face a lot of mental health issues – like insecurity, anxiety, and depression – but don’t have a safe space to express and resolve them. To solve this problem, they started a Peer-to-Peer Counselling Cell in their school to help children facing such issues. They installed a postbox in the campus where students could anonymously drop letters about any problems they were dealing with and get help. Soon, they started receiving letters and by taking the help of a counsellor in their network, they wrote answers to their problems, and posted them on the bulletin board, still maintaining anonymity, but enough to give direction to the student with the problem and even others who were facing similar problems. They did a face a challenge in the beginning as students were hesitant to speak up, but eventually, they built trust and till now, have been able to help over 50 students in their school and normalise the conversation on mental health.
When a 6th grade Math teacher from a Government Higher Primary School was explaining the concept of solid figures to her students using different objects, her four 11-year-students, Rafiq, Sahana, Santosh and Akash, realised that it was very easy to understand the concept by physically seeing it. They loved this new method of teaching and started thinking if they could understand other concepts as well using the physical spaces in their school like the staircases, classroom doors, walls, etc.
They began ideating and implementing their ideas. To begin with, they drew a giant protractor on the floor below the door to help students understand the concept of angles (see photo). They then converted the staircase into number tables to help their juniors understand it better (see photo). As another activity, they made a height measuring scale on the wall to help students understand different units of length. The other students loved this method of teaching, and 87% of them reported that this method made it easier for them to understand the concepts and retain them better.
At the end of the academic year, students still have a lot of unused paper in their school notebooks which are mostly thrown away. Seeing this happening in their school, Abdul, Apoorv, Dhruv, Swetha, Vanshika and Varun, came up with a plan. They started “Go Green” to reuse this paper and avoid its wastage. They conducted a huge collection drive in their school and apartments, collected the old notebooks from students, took out the unused sheets, bound them together, and made new notebooks out of them. To make them appealing to other students, they also made attractive covers for these notebooks. Till now, these young changemakers have produced 45+ notebooks and sold them to students, and have saved more than by 4500+ pages from getting wasted!
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An American anthropologist, Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” These young changemakers are surely a true testament to this quote. By taking a lead and solving the problems around them, they are showing us the power of individuals to make change happen!
NOTE: These initiatives were started by students as part of International Changemaker Olympiad (ICO), an annual Olympiad that gives a platform to young kids to launch their initiatives and make a difference in this world. You can read more about their work on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Website.