Youngsters these days are often labelled as self-centred, selfish and obsessed with coming first in the mad race of life, in which nobody knows where the finishing line is. For some part, it might also be true. But then, there are some youngsters who break the stereotype, not with rebellion or protest, but with kindness and love. I had the good fortune of meeting some of them while working for an NGO in Calcutta.
A bunch of young folks from New York University had come to India as a part of a cultural exchange program, in the course of which they had organized a workshop at the NGO I used to work for. After a week of fun and learning for both sides, it was time for them to go back home. It could have been so easy for them to write their reports for their class, and push the memory of a third-world country to the back of their minds as a one-time learning experience. But some people are not born to take the easy way out. And when they set their hearts on making a difference, they do.
After they went back to NY, they launched a campaign called A Dollar A Day. The program asked students of NYU to donate 1 dollar from their lunch money every day to the Friends of India fund, as they called themselves. And this money would be used for development projects at the NGO. Soon, through speeches and an exhibition of photos taken at the NGO, word spread and an astounding number of students signed up for the program. Eventually, the protagonists graduated and moved on with life, but the program was carried on by their successors. The program has been going strong and growing for over 10 years now. And countless meritorious students have been sent to school and college with the money thus collected. Some of the money was also used to set up computer classes at the NGO, install a water filter and even rebuild a student’s roof when it collapsed in rain. Only a dollar a day changed so many lives forever. All thanks to a group of young boys and girls who decided to share a little of their good fortune and a lot of love with the world, a world they knew nothing about.