This Class 7 student in the US raised funds to buy and distribute LED bulbs for free to poor people in India. This is the story of her determination to do something concrete for the future of the planet.
“Small things can make a difference – provided all of us do our part. I am asking you to join me in the effort of replacing 77 crore incandescent bulbs in India with energy efficient LED bulbs. This will go a long way in reducing energy consumption and carbon emission along with the electricity bills of those who can least afford these bulbs. For the sake of India and for the sake of this planet, let’s all change our future, one bulb at a time.” – This is 13-year-old Meera Vashisht’s message to children of her age around the world.
An Indian-origin girl who was born and raised in the US and lives in Sugar Land, Texas, Meera will soon be in Delhi to distribute LED bulbs for free to those who cannot afford them.
Meera’s interest in the project came about when she was researching a project in school. She stumbled across a news article about the LED revolution in India. The Indian government is in the process of replacing 77 crore incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs, as a part of the Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) scheme. She was intrigued to learn that simply changing a bulb at home can not only change the lives of people by offering increased energy savings, but reduce our carbon footprint as well.
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Under the UJALA scheme, the Indian government is distributing LED bulbs across 16 states, in the price range of Rs. 75-95.
“But even at these subsidised rates, people belonging to the poorest sections of society would find it difficult to afford these bulbs,” Meera concluded.
Picture for representation only. Source: Flickr
“This was my moment of reckoning. After all those days when I had thought of doing something for India but didn’t know what to do, I suddenly discovered something that I could actually do and make a difference,” she wrote in an essay.
Meera’s first thought was to save her allowance money and send it to India as her contribution to the UJALA scheme. But that wouldn’t be enough she realized, so she thought of something else: “Let’s distribute the bulbs for free!” Her parents encouraged her to develop the idea further and it was then that she came up with the idea of a fundraiser.
She picked up a telephone directory and started writing letters to random people in the US, asking for help in making LED bulbs available to those who need them the most in India.
“The challenge here was – why would anyone in the US want to fund something that was going on in India? But Meera was willing to take on this challenge. She told us – ‘The planet is one. We all share this planet. Whatever happens in India affects everyone. So let me try and draft this letter,’” says her mother Sunanda Vashisht, who works as a writer and columnist.
To everybody’s surprise, the first cheque arrived for Meera in just a few days, and the money kept coming in after that. Meera sent 500 letters and collected $ 2,000 (approximately Rs. 1,30,000) over the span of a year.
“In my letter, I explained why an LED revolution in India can save the whole planet and why we all should participate and contribute. I explained that a simple action of switching a light bulb in India could help achieve the goal of providing 24/7 electricity across the country. What most of us don’t understand is that electricity is empowerment. In rural areas it helps kids study after dusk, it helps ease the workload of people, it improves agricultural output, it helps set up small scale industries and connects remote areas with the world at large via the Internet and smartphones. This is empowerment in its truest sense and real democracy in action,” she wrote.
Now Meera had to find a way to reach those people who would need these bulbs the most. Sunanda contacted India’s Ministry of Power, informing them about Meera’s desire to visit and contribute to their mission, and the authorities were more than willing to help.
Sunanda and Meera will reach Delhi in the first week of July, and the Ministry will help them identify the underprivileged families that need these bulbs.
Meera’s father is an engineer and her family’s ancestral home is in Punjab. “We have family in India and we keep going back to visit them all the time. We are inculcating affection for India in Meera. She always says that she wants to work for people there,” says Sunanda. Through this distribution drive, Meera also wants to create awareness about the use of LED bulbs among people who might think that giving Rs. 75 for a bulb is a waste of money.
The teenager also stays connected to her roots through music and dance. She learns Hindustani classical vocal music and has been learning Bharat Natyam since she was four years old. Her grandfather’s passion for environmental causes has inspired Meera to work for the environment as well.
“He is an avid lover of nature, an artist, and an environmentalist. He is very considerate and compassionate. From him I have learnt to respect all life…I am so glad to be finally able to now come to India and make a contribution to the cause of cleaning the environment in a tangible way. I couldn’t be happier,” she says.
Here’s hoping this young environment enthusiast finds success in all her endeavours towards making the planet greener and more compassionate towards the less fortunate.