Responsible IB learners are the greatest hope for a sustainable future – says Oakridger Nihaarika
Nihaarika Gopinath, a compassionate grade 11 student from Oakridge International School, Bengaluru who is dedicated to what she is learning at school. Being an enthusiastic IB learner with excellent academic records, she has won many hearts by contributing her bit towards the society to create a better and more peaceful world. In her own words, she explains about her recent CAS project “Empowering women in rehabilitation centres and rural areas through training and creating income generation opportunities.”
“50% of the world’s underprivileged are women. Rural women, who make up more than a quarter of the world’s total population, are underserved. As per the survey in India, around 3.8 million women are intellectually disabled. They are the most vulnerable and often end up homeless or institutionalized in homes with little or no opportunity for individual growth.
When I first visited the Abala Rehabilitation centre in Hosur on an occasion, it saddened me, and I felt that I had a moral duty to help these women in every way possible. This became the very beginning of my project HOPE WORLD. I chose arts and crafts as a media to engage them and help them heal emotionally. I started by teaching them how to make bags out of old newspapers, then went on to teach simple crafts like creating bottle holders and other Knick-knacks.
Initially, it was a challenge for me to work with a few of them due to their mood swings that were caused by their mental health condition. By selling a few of my folk-art paintings, I raised funds to buy them resources like sewing machines, cloth, and jute ropes and with the help of my crafts mentor, we began tailoring classes. I started with 4 women but as the days passed, 14 more women joined. We recently got an order for 1000 bags worth Rs.10,000. My biggest learning has been that I should never underestimate the talents of these women. They were quick learners and taught me many new techniques too.
I have expanded the project to a remote village called Doddamachi in the Anchetty forest area in the Krishnagiri district of Tamilnadu with 25 constituent villages where girls generally marry young right after completing their secondary education. I met the women and other community leaders and after initial hesitation around 20 young women showed interest in being a part of my project. We procured 4-5 sewing machines and began the tailoring classes. We were given permission to use a community hall by the village elders for this purpose. I am raising funds through crowdfunding platforms and have also approached a US-based company – Caterpillar, for CSR funding support.
We have started a small-scale business of handcrafted products like jute bottle holders, cloth bags, paper bags, crafts with bottles, simple Indian folk-art paintings, abstract paintings and more. These 18 women in the rehabilitation centre now earn an income of Rs.1500 to 2000 per month.
The future of this project looks very exciting. I have approached other corporates like Titan and Ashok Leyland companies for funding support in the near future. Using the natural resources available in the village like local spices and herbs, we are looking to branch into niche organic products too. This is HOPE WORLD and we believe that there is always a better tomorrow.
Please follow this link to watch a video on Project Hope World.”
“I had recently interviewed Nihaarika for the position of CAS (Community action service) President in the Student Council, which she won with a huge margin. With a beaming smile and absolute clarity, she had spoken passionately about her commitment to service. She is a role model and an inspiration for not only students but for all of us at Oakridge International School, Bangalore. We are very proud of the work Nihaarika is doing and the impact she is creating in the United Nations Headquarters” said School Principal, Pallavi Mishra.
Several Oakridgers like Nihaarika are taking it upon themselves to better our world each day. From running initiatives like Give Way to Ambulance across the country to teaching under-privileged children, to taking up water conservation projects; the kids are doing their bit to make our world a better place.
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