Seventeen-year-old Arushi Pant is proof that you’re never too young for social work. The resident of New Town’s Rosedale Garden started Children’s Armour two years ago that, among other achievements, raised over Rs 1 lakh for Covid charity last year and helped raise another Rs 7 lakh worth in cash and kind for cyclone relief.
She is also one of the recipients of the Diana Award 2021, declared last week. Established in memory of Princess Diana and conferred by a UK charity to those in the 9-25 year age group for humanitarian efforts. the award was relaunched in 2007 by Gordon Brown, then the UK Prime Minister, and has the support of the House of Windsor.
“My parents have always given back to society and these values have been instilled in me since childhood. I want to do my bit too,” says the teenager who worked with the NGO Association for Social Health and Advancement (Asha) in Class VIII and got inspired. “I worked with them on a child protection project and realised I was connecting with them better as I was the same age as them. So I started my own group.”
She runs Children’s Armour (CA) with the help of about 40 volunteers, all school students. “I posted about the group on social media and students from other schools started applying. I was strict about the selection and for the core committee chose 10 out of the 50 who had applied. The teams were then divided into graphics, content and outreach, who look to collaborate with others for projects,” she says. Besides volunteers from reputed institutes of Calcutta, they even have a girl from Bangladesh chipping in.
A residential student of Pathways World School Aravalli, Gurgaon, Arushi wants to pursue a double major in music and economics. She has been learning western music since she was five and used her talent to raise funds last year.
CA had organised online concerts with performances by herself, other musicians, poets and stand-up comedians from across the globe. The week-long shows raised Rs 1.4 lakh, that was donated to the chief minister’s Covid relief fund.
The young girl works on youths’ mental health issues and tries to raise awareness among them about topics like trafficking, abuse and child marriage. She’s also adept at meeting business head honchos and seeking corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds. “We have recently got Rs 6 lakh that is being used to set up centres across the state to counsel students and their parents to stop school drop-outs,” says Arushi, whose group is now affiliated with Asha.
Another project she is highly kicked about is on menstrual health. “A company had given us 200 sanitary pads a few months ago and I was part of the team that went to Ultadanga to distribute them among adolescents,” she recalls.
Initially it was awkward. Men in the area were giving them looks and the girls themselves, were taking the pads, hiding them in their dupattas and fleeing the scene. “While they wanted the pads they were too embarrassed about it,” says Arushi.
The girl then stopped the distribution, held up some pads in her hand and showed the girls there was no shame in it. “Eventually the girls took their pads out of hiding, even if they weren’t ready to flaunt them. It will take more to change their attitude but such interactions are the way to do it. And it helps if they are spoken to by someone their own age.”
How the twelfth grader manages so much alongside schoolwork is anyone’s guess. “Time-management and prioritising are important. I set schedules and stick by them,” says the girl who never procrastinates. “Besides, we always find time for things we like.”
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