Summer-time for an ordinary teenager in India usually involves frolicking in the sun and finding ingenious ways to get away with doing absolutely nothing. However, on the rare occasion, you find teens who would rather spend their summers volunteering in remote villages in India, creating spaces that could change the future of the country. Ananya Saluja is a 17-year-old girl who has dedicated her last three summers to educating children in Ladakh. Her school, The Shri Ram School in Moulsari, introduced community service as one of its many modules, which is what spurred this venture on.
She looked into the 17000 ft Foundation, that works on improving education in Government schools and creating livelihood opportunities, to better the lives of the people of remote mountainous villages in Ladakh. After approaching the foundation, she decided to go to Ladakh in 2015. In an article by TOI, Ananya goes on to describe her experience by saying, “It was transforming and enriching. During the time of the program, I really got close to my girls (I was teaching in Leh). The happiness on their faces after having understood a concept was worth anything in the world. I just knew that I didn’t want to stop at that.”
After her first summer visit in 2015 to Leh’s districts, Ananya wanted to think of a way to give more than just her time in the summer. Therein, the idea for building libraries and playgrounds for the children in Ladakh was born. In September 2015, she set up her first fundraiser. Using her blog ‘Ananya Learns To Julley’ and Facebook, she began to spread the word, and to those interested in helping—she sent proposals after personally speaking or writing to them.
By summer 2016, she was back in Matho, Leh, to set up the very playground she helped fund, besides the library. All this was just the beginning for this ambitious teen, though. “I didn’t want to use a crowdfunding page, because I wanted to try and raise the funds without having to pay the website a percentage of funds. I managed to get a couple of companies to sponsor a library each. One charitable trust sponsored one library. Another two were sponsored by a giving circle,” she told us rather modestly for someone who has managed to secure the funding of 19 libraries, 14 of which have been set up already.
She received plenty of support from friends and family, who in turn spoke to their friends and made the circle of donors expand. The students in Ladakh, are incredibly delighted with their new libraries. The funding also covers for more than just a library filled with books — it also includes training sessions for a staff member of the school, to manage the library, and follow up visits. Volunteers also visit to attend reading sessions conducted by the NGO.
Now, in 2017, the teen wants to help set up a library in Kargil, with the money raised from her second fundraiser. Ananya Saluja has come a long way, from an initial target of 5 libraries, to a total of 19 libraries funded for and even more in the pipeline.
If you’d like to contribute to her cause, you can contact her through her Facebook page. If you’re simply interested in following her journey, or learning about her venture in detail, you can visit her blog.