“Let’s do something about it!” There’s no waiting around for someone else to fix things for these guys, they’re taking matters in their own hands — from skiing to raise money for the leprosy-afflicted to rewriting an unbiased history of India and Pakistan; recycling tyres and pushing solar energy to solutions for the hearing impaired and making earthquake relief count. Motherland picks out a bunch of promising superheroes from across the country, determined to light up the world we live in.
It could come at you in any form. There’s conscientious introspection, and then there’s the epiphany. Last year, the earthquake that devastated Nepal had a profound impact on Urgyen Joshi, 19. “My mother was 20 km away from the epicenter, trekking with a group of travellers. She was in the thick of things, and I was affected by her experience of being there in the middle of everything. I was frantically trying to get them out of there, arrange helicopters and everything,” explains Urgyen.
When she finally returned and the family started to recover from the shock, they felt compelled to help in whatever way they could. That urgency gave birth to A Fantastic Initiative (www.afantasticinitiative.org), now run by a six-member team. “My mother had spoken to a couple of her colleagues there,” says Urgyen, “And they figured that big organisations were unable to do much on-ground. They spend a lot of money on overheads, but the ratio of productivity drops as the organisation becomes bigger. We focused on providing immediate relief, while also looking at long-term planning.”
The core team, with some external support, was able to make a substantial difference. Their immediate efforts included getting transport to the medical and aid team, surveying the place and helping with relief work in whatever manner they could. Providing food supply was also essential. “There is this really remote village in Nepal that is completely inaccessible by road, and even helicopters couldn’t get there. My mother had gone trekking to this village some time ago, and she knew some locals there,” he says. “We managed to get around two tonnes of food and medicines delivered there.”
Beyond what they collected from friends and family, as well as the money they themselves donated, they were supported by the World Food Program, which helped out by providing helicopters. A year after the earthquake, A Fantastic Initiative is looking at the long-term plan of action, which includes setting up schools and community centres.
“We are starting with one, because most of the money we’d raised and put together went into immediate relief. We wanted to build the school using earthbag technology, a sustainable way of construction, which is earthquake-resistant and uses local materials. But as the government isn’t familiar with this technology, they refused to give us the necessary approvals.” For now, they’re concentrating on building a regular school, and intend to also design curricula and teacher-training programmes.