Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), which is a defect in the structure of heart present at birth, claims millions of young lives all over the world. In India, 1.6 lakh babies are born with heart defects every year and 78,000 die from it. It has been found that 33% of CHD cases get diagnosed and can be successfully treated, but for parents below poverty line, knowing that doesn’t help.
My school wanted to do something about it. It set out to raise ₹20 lakh in 60 days, to provide cardiac surgeries for underprivileged children with CHD. Taking its motto ‘service before self’ forward, Delhi Public School Bangalore North (DPSBN) launched an initiative called DPS Big Hearts with the help of FuelADream, an online crowdfunding platform, which facilitated and guided the campaign.
Over 50 student volunteers from classes 9 to 12 set up their online campaigns, each determined to raise ₹40,000 and cover one cardiac surgery.
This was a first-of-its-kind students’ initiative at this scale. What gave the school the confidence that such a formidable task could be done by teenagers like us? “I had no doubt”, emphasises the school’s Principal, Manju Balasubramanyam. She continues, “DPSBN has always stood up to a cause. Whether it was offering support to the blind, or to disaster-affected areas, our students have always supported in a big way. In fact, we sent an entire airplane of relief material to affected areas. The world needs empathetic citizens and good communicators who can collaborate in a global environment. This campaign was the perfect platform for students to develop these skills. I was confident that they would succeed.”
Naturally, door-to-door collection alone would not have sufficed. Social media, however, could provide the outreach needed. With a robust foundation like Rotary Indiranagar and Needy Heart Foundation, Jayadeva and Fortis (Bannerghatta) hospitals were roped in to conduct these surgeries at heavily subsidised costs, and for transparency, donations were to be online via FuelADream only – all we had to do was inform, converse and convince a lot of people to believe in our cause and contribute.
I learnt a lot. We had to share our online campaign across social media platforms. We had to apply sharp networking, PR and technical skills, or rapidly develop them. We each had to save a life! For high-schoolers, this was an unbelievable opportunity.
As soon as my campaign went live, I posted my appeal, requesting all contacts to contribute and share on social media. It was difficult, but within minutes, people were eager to donate the entire ₹40,000! They were asked to wait so that the campaign would not close too soon, as we wanted wide participation, allowing maximum possible awareness.
It worked. Within 24 hours, my campaign had crossed the 40k target with many contributors.
One surgery funded, my campaign was already a success! It then suddenly dawned on me – people didn’t simply donate money, they helped me save a life!
I internalised four things immediately – people are kind; awareness is key; social media is powerful; and a pesky teenager can save lives.
Within a day, one life was saved. I felt compelled to do more. I sent out fresh appeals. I guided funders through the online process – they had gone to great lengths to help and I could not let tech glitches come in the way, or a child could die. When the news covered us, the campaign gained more credibility. The more I appealed, the more my campaign grew. As did my fund.
Five weeks, endless phone calls, messages and emails later, my campaign closed at ₹2,00,500, which saved five children. I was humbled.
The entire campaign collected nearly ₹17 lakh and saved the lives of 41 poor children with CHD.
If in two months we saved 41 lives, imagine what all can be achieved if we utilise the best of technology and nurture the compassion of youth and society!