A casual conversation which flirted with the idea of change through the medium of education, led two high school boys to undertake an initiative which is now providing hundreds of underprivileged school kids with notebooks and stationery.
There is an extremely poignant question which T.S.Eliot asks in his brilliant poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:
“Do I dare disturb the universe?”
Aniruddha Voruganti chose to say yes.
This teenager, studying at National Public School, Koramangala, Bangaluru, in the last year of his school life, took an initiative with his friend, Nishant Panicker, which is now the reason why hundreds of underprivileged kids have notebooks and stationery, and why a lot of paper is being recycled and reused.
Their brainchild is called ‘Towards A Green Education’ or TAGE.
“We collect any recyclable paper from schools and communities, and use the funds generated from recycling to buy stationery. However, an important aspect is that we remove the blank pages from old notebooks so they aren’t wasted and use these to make new notebooks with the help of school students.”
They make their collections on a monthly basis. Aniruddha says the faculty at his school has been extremely supportive and the teachers take an active interest in this project. They experimented with three or four models prior to this, all of which failed, but they persevered and concluded with this brilliant one.
The monthly collection happens from the school as well as the residences of the team members.
Generally, they sell their papers at ITC’s ‘Wealth Out of Waste’ programme, which is a recycling initiative undertaken by ITC’s Paperboards and Specialty Papers Division. If the location and rates are good, then they also sell to the local paper dealers. There is a local stationery shop which provides them with a good deal and that is where they purchase their stationery from.
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Apart from this, they have also held notebook making competitions which have been runaway successes, resulting in the making of 350 notebooks. They started with just two members, now they have five more and the number will only keep growing.
“Over the course of this year, we’ve collected over 2,100 kilos of paper, about 50,000 sheets of blank paper, and made over 350 notebooks – enough to provide over 300 children with stationery. On the 29th of June, we, with some of our friends and volunteers, visited a government school in collaboration with Akshara Foundation and gave 250 children stationery ‘sets’ – each of which includes a handmade notebook, a 100-page notebook, a box of 10 pencils, two erasers and a sharpener.”
They intend on expanding and teaming up with other schools for a larger collection of papers. He has a keen interest in National Public School (NPS), Indiranagar. Whereas his team collects 2.2 tonnes, he says, NPS, Indiranagar collects 4 tonnes. When asked how he intends having his ‘legacy’ taken forward given that he is graduating soon, he laughs. Aniruddha says the school has integrated the programme into the academic curriculum and since there is an Eco Club in his school, there is a great chance that this would continue to carry on.
“It isn’t the most innovative of ideas. It is simple and effective. The key is that it continues.”
Aniruddha hopes that people will take notice of his initiative and take part. Education is how the world shall change, is his belief, and while he is sailing through the course of his, he is going out of his way to make sure other kids receive the opportunities he did.
He dared to disturb the universe.