Published: 03rd November 2021
What were you doing at 16? This Bengaluru kid is shaping young children's lives for the better
Camelia Bhattacharya is a teenager who is helping kids through the Future Leader Program by the 1M1B Foundation
It is a well-known reality that the world is split between the haves and the have-nots. What's even more cruel is that right when they are children, some people have to face this perilous truth. The inequity in society may be wide and gross but the heartening thing is that many are involved in closing this gap and when the person doing it is just 16 years old, it really raises hope for a better future. Meet Camelia Bhattacharya, a Bengaluru-based teenager, who is part of the Future Leader Program by 1M1B Foundation.
Future Leaders is a program for finding and nurturing the world’s most promising youth leaders in high school and undergraduate programmes who work at the grassroots level and demonstrate how their actions are driving fulfilment of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 1M1B Foundation (A Million for 1 Billion) is a United Nations accredited non-profit organisation that aims to activate one million young leaders who will impact one billion people for a sustainable planet.
Camelia will be presenting her project, There4u, at 1M1B’s Activate Impact Summit at the UN in New York. Her project aims to help and provide basic amenities to minor girls and children living in orphanages and child care homes. She also gathers funds to provide mid-day meals, groceries, medicines, medical surgery costs, fixed deposit for rented houses, laptops for online education, new clothes for festivals and gifts to poor children. So much is the work that she is doing that it is scarcely believable that she is this young! We caught up with her for an interview and learnt more about her and her project. Excerpts:
What was the turning point that led you to engage with social work?
During my childhood, I used to visit government model schools with my mother, where we used to donate stationery. One day, I saw three siblings sharing one plate of food. From that day onwards I thought of doing something for children like them. When I started working with 1M1B Foundation, I wanted to use the opportunity to create social impact by helping underprivileged girl minors.
How are you utilising social media to gather maximum traction for these issues?
I believe that these are issues that youngsters should be involved in. I created multiple videos to share the stories of these girls on YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. I have also taken virtual sessions in order to convince donors. I regularly post my work on social media to keep my consumers updated. I also send 'Thank You' notes from the children to those who have contributed to this cause. Using various social media helps me reach out to a broad range of audience, from children my age to adults. I have also recently started a club in my school called 'Girls for Girls' where I am engaging girls aged 12-18 years to work with me for these needy, underprivileged girls.
As you grow, how do you expect to tackle the same issues on a larger scale?
I believe in this saying by Mother Teresa, “If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Small steps can also take us far. However, I will try my best to sustain this platform and hand over the leadership to young girls when I am away. I would love to continue this work virtually when I am not available in Bengaluru. The need is continuous and we can continue to help them irrespective of where I am.
How has the 1M1B programme shaped you?
Sometimes it is overwhelming. However, if there is a will, there is a way. So far, I have been able to manage it and now I am creating a team of volunteers who will be working with me for the same cause. It has been a very enriching journey for me with 1M1B. I have grown as a person and as a leader. Now, I am more open to criticism and feedback. I am more empathetic towards people and I have learnt to handle failure and accept it in a better manner. This programme helped me expand my horizon and I was able to connect with some wonderful, similar minded people. The constant feedback I received really taught me important life skills that I will be using in the future.