New Delhi: The rural areas of India often experience power outages for hours. This concept of load shedding was alien to 16-year-old Anvitha Kollipara, who had recently shifted to India from the US. She visited her grandparents’ home in Kapileswarapuram in Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and noticed that the villagers were left to sweat it out because of long power cuts. What caught her attention was how these frequent cuts hampered the children and their studies.
Talking about the disparity she witnessed between rural and urban areas, Ms. Kollipara said,
When I moved from the US to India, I saw a huge disparity in access to basic resources such as food, water, etc. But when I visited my grandparents’ home, I realised the energy crisis was also one of the burning issues, and this came as a shock to me. I saw the effects of the frequent power cuts on the underprivileged, especially children. For example, these children were not able to do simple things, such as study at night, and that’s when I knew I had to make a change.
She realised that switching to renewable sources of energy was the best way forward to provide electricity to the underprivileged and, hence, decided to work towards enabling access to solar power and educate the underprivileged about the same.
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Ms. Kollipara launched Project Soledu, an initiative to inform the communities in rural areas about solar power and its positive effects on society. Through this project, Ms. Kollipara addresses the issue of a lack of affordable and clean energy in rural areas and its connection to air pollution and climate change. She does all of it by raising awareness and providing informational workshops among children aged between 10-15.
For the workshop, Ms. Kollipara has created a curriculum on solar power and has worked in collaboration with Teach for India schools across Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and SOS schools. Her vision is to ‘light up rural India with one solar system at a time.’ She wants to bridge the gap between the lack of energy and the available renewable energy to help every student study efficiently without any time constraints.
Her plan of action is divided into several stages, including small-scale and national-level workshops in villages on the importance of solar power, providing solar-powered lamps to the students for them to build themselves, among others.
For her project, Ms. Kollipara collaborated with several organisations such as UNICEF India, Teach for India, and the Energy Swaraj Foundation. Her project reached a larger audience after she enrolled with a Bengaluru-based organisation, 1M1B’s (1 Million for 1 Billion) Future Leaders programme.
1M1B is a United Nations accredited non-profit organisation that works towards activating one million leaders to help one billion of the population. It engages and enables youth to become future-ready problem solvers, creating real world impact.
Talking about the challenges she faced at the initial stage, Ms. Kollipara said that funding for the project was a huge concern at the initial stage.
At the very beginning, it was hard to get a kick start. I had to do a lot of fundraising at the local events, and I also participated in many competitions just to try my luck.
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Impact of Soledu
Her consistency and dedication towards the project bore fruit with several organisations, such as UNICEF, that connected her with more schools. Ms. Kollipara said that the collaborations were instrumental in Soledu’s accomplishments and learnings.
Ms. Kollipara said that the biggest achievement of the project was enrolling in 1M1B’s Future Leaders programme, which gave her an opportunity to speak at the United Nations about Soledu. She participated in a 3-day immersion in New York, where she showcased her project’s impact at the annual 1M1B Activate Impact Summit at the UN Headquarters.
So far, Ms. Kollipara has impacted more than 400 students, distributed over 300 solar power lamps to the children, and conducted several workshops and sessions in several schools.
Through Project Soledu, Ms. Kollipara is planning on installing complete solar power systems in schools and other places that students can use for their studies. This will ensure a consistent energy flow not only throughout the day but also in the wee hours for the students who prefer studying at that time, she added.
Besides, she is working towards expanding the geographical outreach of her programme. Initially, she covered the schools across the South Indian region, but the project has now also covered the Northeast region.
In the northeastern region, sometimes students go two to three days at a stretch without electricity, and this happens multiple times a month. The energy issue is much worse there.
Ms. Kollipara is working with the Sunbird Trust to install solar panels in northeastern schools.
The youth of India represent both the country’s future and the group that is most receptive to being empowered with a changemaker mindset and cognitive empathy. Looking at Ms. Kollipara’s efforts to mitigate the issue of frequent power cuts in rural areas, it is evident that India is in the safe hands of innovative and creative people.
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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.