I believe that our country has everything that it needs-we’re just not using what we have in the right way. Still, many people today are working hard to create new things. But if everyone works to create new things, there is no meaning. For this reason, I have dedicated my work to making improvements to existing things.
These are the words of Anuradha Bandari, a 19-year old student from Government First Grade College, Sirsi, Karnataka. She might not have received the best of education, but her thoughts and actions are speaking louder than her degree.
Anuradha’s village of Bommanalli had a water problem which got worse during summers. Anuradha knew that a water tank, which could store enough water to sustain the entire village, would solve their problems. Anuradha realized that their Gram Panchayat had the power and the resources to significantly improve the lives of her villagers but wasn’t utilizing its funds properly.
Under guidance from the Deshpande Foundation’s LEaders Accelerating Development (LEAD) Program, Anuradha took action to find a solution for this persisting problem. She approached the Gram Panchayat herself and demanded their support to help her village. This initiative, while courageous and heroic, was not an easy task. Her age, her anonymity, and her non-intimidating appearance caused the eminent Gram Panchayat members to disregard her request. But she never lost her confidence. She stood her ground. “I wanted to create change”, Anuradha says, “and I wanted other people to look at my village as an example of what could be possible”.
The Gram Panchayat eventually surrendered to Anuradha’s unyielding perseverance, and they sanctioned Rs. 2 lakh to fund the construction of a water tank in her village. But the impact of Anuradha’s project does not stop there; during her meetings with the Gram Panchayat, it was also found out that her village did not have any streetlights, which was posing many safety problems for the villagers. So, in addition to funding the water tank, the Gram Panchayat funded the construction of streetlights in Anuradha’s village.
Anuradha, “just a student”, improved the lives of over 300 people. Her efforts and success earned her an award from Ratan Tata at the Deshpande Foundation’s Yuva Summit 2013.
Many problems in our communities live on simply because people underestimate their own ability to make a difference. We become inhibited by the misconception that just because our job title, our position in society, or our age is not directly associated with power or influence, we can do nothing. Imagine what can be possible once we begin to realize that we can become the agents of change.
About the author: Annie is a Global Exchange Fellow at the Deshpande Center for Social Entrepreneurship . She has been working in India since January.