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Young Achievers

Gursimran Singh & Mihir Menda

Gursimran Singh and Mihir Menda — higher secondary students of the top-ranked Amity International School, Sector 46, Gurgaon and Mallya Aditi International School, Bangalore respectively — were crowned national winners of the Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards (PSCA) 2017 at a glittering ceremony held in Delhi in early April. 

Launched in India in 2010 as an initiative of DHFL Pramerica Life Insurance, a joint venture of the Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Ltd and Prudential International Insurance Holdings Ltd, PSCA is an annual awards programme which acknowledges and celebrates pre-collegiate youth who positively impact their local communities through voluntary service.

Inspired by the daily struggles of visually challenged citizens in India’s disabling environment, Gursimran, a computer science enthusiast, has developed an innovative reading device for the visually impaired. Resembling a pair of spectacles, his EyeScribe device with attached ear phones, reads text matter, newspapers etc placed before it. “Thanks to the psychological and financial support of my parents, in early January I was ready with my first prototype which cost Rs.5,000. EyeScribe was successfully tested on 150 students of a school for the blind,” he says.

Fully backed by Aarti Chopra, principal of Amity International, Gursimran submitted his invention to PSCA in January. “Now there’s a real chance to scale up production, reduce unit price and benefit millions of visually challenged people around the world,” he says.

On the other hand, Mihir has been extolled by PSCA for promoting UrbanUp, a non-profit social enterprise whose objective is to provide low-cost housing to families with incomes of less than Rs.15,000 per month. “With the help of Prof. Mehrotra, dean of Harvard University’s graduate school of design, and Venugopal A.N, president of RMZ Foundation, I promoted the UrbanUp Trust in 2016. With a large slice of luck in securing a land grant, funding from generous donors, UrbanUp Trust has begun constructing 30 affordable homes priced at Rs.7 lakh for applicants who will pay for them in easy installments over the next 15 years,” says this can-do social activist. 

Way to go!

Autar Nehru (Delhi) & Paromita Sengupta (Bangalore)


Ahaan H. Phadnis

Aahaan Harish Phadnis is a home-schooled student who’s making global headlines. This Mumbai-based 11-year-old prodigy was recently declared junior champion of the online Unesco Worldwide Center for Peace Youth Multimedia Competition 2017. A 25-member eminent jury pronounced its verdict on April 8. In his capacity as junior champion, Aahaan has been invited to a special ceremony convened at Unesco’s Builders-of-the-Universe camp from July 16-29 at Hood College, Frederick, Maryland, USA. 

Organised by the Unesco Worldwide Center for Peace, this annual theme-based competition attracted 600 entries from 76 countries. This year’s theme was the global refugee crisis with participants required to document its impact on their lives, or alternatively to offer a comprehensive solution to the seemingly intractable problem of swelling tides of refugees from the war-torn countries of the Middle East and Africa heading West.

Ctrl+Alt+Del, Aahaan’s three-minute prize winning video suggests a peaceful resolution of the refugee crisis. “In the video, I propose that if we reboot the world as we reboot our computers, a new global environment could be created. ‘Ctrl’ stands for control and orderly management of scattered groups of refugees, by offering them temporary citizenship and rehabilitating them in their home countries after normalcy returns. ‘Alt’ is a call to host countries to alter the way refugees are managed by teaching them basic life-skills, creating a refugee relief fund and instituting official and legal processes for their placement in temporary jobs in host nations. ‘Del’ suggests deletion or end of wars and terrorism,” explains Aahaan.

“Using Microsoft PowerPoint and powerful graphic animation software Prezi, Focusky and Screencastomatic, it took me four days to complete my video which was ruthlessly edited into a three-minute audio-visual,” explains this precocious preteen.

"The world is changing very fast and well-established industries and careers are becoming obsolete overnight. I want to take my time to choose a career path that interests me and will also serve the public interest,” says Aahaan, who is clearly destined to make his mark on the world.

Dipta Joshi (Mumbai)

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