I have met amazing people throughout my travels and this young woman from Mumbai, India, has truly inspired me. Meet Ritika Arya.
At 23 years old, she’s already been invited to talk at two TEDx (Taipei and Houston), she has received the Staples Ashoka Youth Social Entrepreneur Award in Boston (USA) and the Cherie Blair foundation for women – National entrepreneurship network fellowship (CBFW-NEN).
But before these achievements, Ritika was set for the corporate life of an accountant. Alas, she failed her accounting exam – a big challenge for her which she now says has helped her learn and grow – and felt a greater purpose was calling her. She quit accounting and started a degree in socialism.
At the age of 18, Ritika was teaching four kids in her living room. Today, she’s co-founded NGO Young Innovators Foundation* with her friend Priyam and sister Srishti. Together with 20 odd volunteers, they run a range of projects that help create growth and progress through positive social change including three community schools that welcome 100 under-resourced kids from neighbouring settlements and slums.
I drove with Ritika through Sanjay Gandhi National Park, an hour north of the city centre of Mumbai, to visit one of their bamboo schools. The 20 kids, all between three and fifteen years old, smiled, shouted, laughed and jumped from excitement as they saw the volunteers arriving – and a foreigner (me!) who they don’t see so often around here! For the following 45 minutes, they learnt not only skills and knowledge, but essential values, self confidence and love. The volunteers’ true passion and dedication could be felt right through the kids’ energy. It was beautiful to see.
“What is your dream,” I ask Ritika.
“I’m living it,” she replies with a smile. “Wonderful things should be spread”… and that’s certainly what she’s doing!
Deep down, Ritika dreams of a world where organisations like theirs will not be needed anymore; a world where people will be connected to help, impact, support each other and create powerful change together – instinctively.
“If I impact five people and these five people impact five more people, who then impact five more, we’ll create a positive social change and make a difference as a community. Everyone can bring to the table whatever they have: resources, skills or simply love!”
“Everything in this world has a colour and the world is a canvas. So let’s paint it in the colours of our choice!”
She’s an amazing young woman… Let’s all try to take a leaf off her book.
Here’s a glimpse at what this is all about – Ritika’s presentation at TEDx Houston 2011:
* Due to the Indian government’s policies, Young Innovators Foundation (YIF) is not allowed to receive international money transfer until it has reached two years in existence. But if you visit Mumbai in the near future and would like to donate in person or simply meet the amazing team behind YIF, I’m sure they’ll be so pleased to welcome you. You can check out their website http://www.yoinfo.org or Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/YIFonline.