Meet Aanya Soni.
All of 13, she has become the youngest Indian to be selected for the Antarctica 2018 Expedition set to take place between 27th Feb-12th March 2018, fueled by the 2041 foundation.
The 2041 foundation was founded by polar explorer, environmental leader and public speaker Robert Swan who the first person in history to walk to both the North and South Pole.
What is the Antarctica Expedition 2018 all about?
Antarctica is a protected, pristine and untouched zone. A 50-year treaty that was signed to prohibit any research, drilling or exploitation of Antarctica ends in 2041. Sir Robert Swan started the foundation to protect Antarctica and spread awareness about climate change.
Every year for the past 14 years, Sir Robert Swan’s 2041 foundation has been selecting 80 people from across the world for this expedition, to build leaders who will embrace a sustainable life and impact change in their families, communities and on a corporate level.
While she hails from Ahmedabad, Aanya is currently a student of Class 8, at the Sahyadri School in Pune. Aanya remembers watching Al Gore’s documentary on Climate Change, An Inconvenient truth and being moved by it. It reminded her of the Ted Talk by Sir Robert that she watched earlier this year.
Later, she also had the opportunity to meet another Indian, Tanisha Arora, who was chosen for the expedition in 2017 and informed Aanya and her mother, Pratibha, that applications were open and Aanya could also apply for it.
Since Aanya is a minor, she needed a guardian. So, she will be joined by Pratibha on her journey to ‘the last wilderness left on earth’ as she calls it.
While Pratibha is a homemaker, Aanya’s father works at Ecolibrium Energy, which helps big and medium-size industries optimise their energy in a sustainable and an ecologically-balanced manner.
Aanya might just be 13, but her lifestyle is a lot more sustainable than most adults. As part of the Kids4aCause core team, founded in 2015, Aanya and her friends have been recycling materials and creating functional and useful products for sales, every year during Diwali.
Their initiative first gained momentum when the children raised over ₹11,000, almost five years ago, for Kashmiri NGO IMDAD to buy blankets and medicines for the victims of the Kashmir floods. They also raised ₹15,000 and donated it to NGO HUG for Chennai floods disaster relief activities.
Last year, they raised funds for The National Indian Association, for free distribution of supplementary educational books for class 12 girls.
In addition to her upbringing, Aanya’s school has also played an essential role in driving her passion towards sustainable living. The school not only encourages students to save paper but also helps them grow their own vegetables, reuse their textbooks, save electricity, and use solar geysers.
Speaking to The Better India, Pratibha says, “Their school also appoints a student to avoid food wastage. Everyone, including the principal of the school, stands in a line to reach the counter where the empty plates are kept post lunch. So, even if you have left one little piece of onion on your plate, you have to finish it. These little efforts go a long way to help the students imbibe a disciplined lifestyle.”
She tells us about the reaction of the entire family when the email with Aanya’s selection arrived. “It was surreal. We didn’t think it could happen. We were jumping like kangaroos for two weeks straight,” she says. Soon, Aanya’s family set up a crowdfunding appeal on Fuel A Dream and were amazed by the support they received from people across the world.
“Everybody we knew or had never met wanted to contribute. Sometimes we had different people from the same family donating. We raised over 10 lakhs in 20 days. Everyone who took time to read Aanya’s story wants to be a part of the climate change movement that we want to kickstart,” says Pratibha.
However, they still need to raise a total of USD 43,000, i.e., ₹28,00,000. The exact breakup is as below:
Aanya and Pratibha currently have managed to create a network of over 140 supporters who instead of giving a one-time contribution have written requesting them to return and spread their knowledge after the expedition.
“Many people want to be a part of our experiences. People are reaching out and willing to wait for solutions that we will come back with, to help them improve their lifestyle and save the planet. They wrote to us saying, ‘All of us can’t afford to go on such an expedition, but we want to help you reach there and come back and teach us how we could live sustainable lives,’” she says.
By joining the expedition, Aanya will become a part of a vast global movement of change leaders from across the planet. She will also be connected to thousands of Climate Force/IAE alumni in over 100 countries, which will give her access to a diverse set of ideas and resources about Climate Change.
“Children are the future of this world, and I want to be a part of the leadership to create awareness about this treaty as well as lead a campaign to make small changes in our daily lives to live in a sustainable environment,” says Aanya.
Once Aanya is back, she wants to visit other schools and conduct workshops on leadership and create awareness about climate change.
She says, “I plan to bring back learning, a strong narrative, knowledge and real-time observations of Climate Change to build effective solutions to combat the effects in our communities in India. I will come back being a mascot of 2041 Foundation and create awareness to build a better world. I want to promote sustainability as part of our lives.”
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What we need to remember it is an all or nothing trip. If Aanya does not raise the full amount, she will not be able to go on the expedition. So, she needs your help. If you want to fuel her dream, contribute at https://www.fueladream.com/home/campaign/2224
If Aanya’s story inspired you, write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org