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Give Wings to your idea

Young Innovators Foundation (YIF) encourages innovation. Hitisha Jain checks out if they are making a difference

In 2008, a group of youngsters set up an organisation that succinctly spelt out their intention—it was called My India Empowered. The Charity Commissioner’s office was probably their first reality check! ‘India’ had to be dropped from the name; it became Young Innovators Foundation (YIF) and was finally registered in August 2011. The trigger to start YIF, says co-founder Ritika Arya, was a story that she heard about a boy her age (around age 18 then). He was doing inspiring work in his community through football. It set her thinking: ‘if he can, then why can’t I be an agent of change?’ Thus, unknowingly, she embarked on the path of changing the lives for people—irreversibly, for good.

Ritika Arya, 24, who co-founded YIF, is a commerce graduate who dropped out of chartered accountancy studies to start YIF. The co-founders include Priyam Datta, a social media expert, who has worked with Social Seety and shaadi.com, and her sister Srishti Arya, former content head of Social Kinnect, who is the creative expert at YIF.

With ‘Explore, Create and Innovate’ as its motto, YIF works at developing a creative environment for kids from economically backward communities. The resource persons guide every member, be it a child or a volunteer, to explore one’s own self through diverse art forms, learning about new cultures and experimenting with different interests with friends. The idea is to build beautiful shared memories. For instance, volunteers, children and the community, together, built bamboo school buildings in the forest at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Bombay, in which YIF’s classes are conducted. The flagship education programme is run at this location with about 100 children between the age of three and 16 years, from nearby villages and slums. Children of each village are encouraged to develop their own interests—for instance, those from Tale Pada are trying to master football, while children from Tumni Pada love cinema. Their teaching is through conventional and unconventional methods and movie shows on Sundays.

‘Unleash’, one of YIF’s major initiatives, works on getting rid of fears that stop people from achieving their goals. This is an independent programme, started a year ago, to help through problem-solving and to nurture entrepreneurial and communication skills irrespective of economic background of students. “Unleash is meant to develop entrepreneurial mind, to be connected with the nature and develop the attitude to serve people,” says Ms Arya. Unleash involves forest trips, running your own venture, playing learning games and participating in activities to develop multiple perspectives on issues.

The idea of Unleash is ever evolving and growing. Currently, it is experimenting with the idea of ‘learn and earn’. Starting this programme has been a big challenge. Each module had to be prepared in Marathi and Hindi to be understood by the target groups. “It was our first time with crowd funding; so we struggled to exploit that platform. Moreover, the children would often be late because they had to walk long distances to get to our Centre or have some household chores to finish,” added Ms Arya. The programme has a network of 60 volunteers, of whom 20 are involved with facilitating activities on the field with the children. The other 40 are just a call away.

YIF started its journey with only Rs5,000 donated by Ashoka’s Youth  Venture Program and now receives contributions from friends, family and, sometimes, the community it reaches. It welcomes contributions in funds and through volunteering. It has applied for registration under Section 80G of the Income-Tax Act.

Young Innovators Foundation (YIF)
1D, Tower B, Viceroy Park,
Thakur Village, Kandivli (East),
Mumbai - 400101.
Tel: +91-773-838-9080
Email: [email protected]
Web: http://yoinfo.org/default.aspx

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