12 Jan 2021

Champions of Change

As Suri Sehgal surveyed the images of people in small boxes on his computer screen—the now-familiar Zoom format—he opened the session with a joyful exclamation, “It is great to be among the young people!” Participants had gathered—virtually—for Sehgal Foundation’s November 21st web conference US Schoolchildren for India’s Schoolchildren, to share projects by American kids who, inspired by the Sehgal Foundation’s work, chose to help struggling schools in rural India. Seeing the hopeful and determined faces of these young activists (who had not yet been born when Suri and Edda Sehgal founded Sehgal Foundation in 1999) brought smiles to Suri and Edda.

“Young people are champions of change,” he continued. “Irrespective of age, a single committed person can create miracles.” This sentiment was evident as four inspiring young Americans of Indian descent showcased their efforts to help their less-fortunate peers in their ancestral country. These young change-makers went on to create many quotable moments. Some highlights:

“Giving youth the opportunity to get involved is integral to the success of any organization.” –moderator Vidya Iyer (high school student, West Des Moines, Iowa)

“My grandmother fought for her own education, and that has empowered our family of girls. She summarized her circle of life saying, ‘An educated girl will make educated decisions for herself, for her family, and for society.’ To know that in some parts of India, girls still go through the problems that my grandmother faced, I realized I needed to do something to help. I am carrying my grandmother’s legacy and striving to create my own.” –Shreeya Yarlagadda (high school student, Des Moines, Iowa), Project Life Skills (empowering schoolchildren, especially girls)

“Children in rural schools do not have the same access to sanitation as in many schools in large cities in India, which makes it even more important to me that they remain safe in school. Sehgal Foundation is encouraging the youth voice and helping us promote our projects, which work towards a greater cause in India.” –Adhitya Ajith (high school student, Waukee, Iowa), Adhitya’s Cleanliness Project (sending COVID sanitation kits to schools in rural India)

“I hope to give children who lack resources an opportunity to remove barriers in their education, with the end result of limitless learning.” –Rahul Chimata (high school student, Eden Prairie, Minnesota) Laptops for Limitless Learning (providing refurbished computers to rural schools)

“While I was in India, Sehgal Foundation gave me the opportunity to see some of their work. The biosand filter really intrigued me. The issue of water insecurity in rural India needs to be confronted in simple and economical ways, and Sehgal Foundation has come up with some great solutions.” –Rohan Chalamalasetti (middle school student, Kansas City, Kansas) Rohan’s Clean Water Initiative (distributed biosand filters to rural schools)

Among the many young people, donors, and other dignitaries participating in the virtual gathering, was former US Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, who said, “Wow, the students are so amazing! God bless all of you for all that you’ve done and all of the lives that you’ve touched and transformed.”

Edda Sehgal captured the energy and hope of these young presenters in her closing remarks: “This was truly amazing. Listening to our young guest speakers was so inspiring. Sixty years ago, when I came to the US, John F. Kennedy famously said that we should not ask what our country can do for us, but rather what we can do for our country. Today that question has become, ‘What can we do for our world?’ It is gratifying to see young people step up to meet that challenge.”

You can still donate to the kids’ projects: Make checks payable to Sehgal Foundation and note student’s name or DONATE ONLINE NOW! https://www.smsfoundation.org/donatenow