Most teens spend their vacations hanging out with friends at the mall, cinema or beach. Not 17-year old Ananya Saluja. She has dedicated her free time, and her heart to uplifting the spirits of children in the remote villages of India. Using the amazing power of Crowdfunding, Ananya has raised enough money to fund 19 libraries, and she is still going strong. This is great news for the many children who reside in areas so remote that technology does not even exist in their lexicon and where books and other teaching tools are pretty much nonexistent. For Ananya, the connections she makes with her students and the smiles she sees on their faces is more than enough to keep her coming back during every school break and to pursue the challenging work of raising money to bring valuable educational and social resources to children largely forgotten.
Ananya Saluja is a student at Shri Ram School, located in Gurugram, in the Haryana Moulsari area, a little southwest of New Delhi in northern India. Two years ago, Ananya’s school added a community service block to the curriculum that required students to teach underprivileged kids. The community service requirement ended, but Ananya continued, spending three of her summer breaks teaching, bonding and raising more than Rs 10 lakh to cover the cost of building playgrounds and libraries.
In an interview with Times of India, Ananya said that the experience transformed her and she found it so enriching that she has continued even though it requires traveling many miles to reach “her kids.” Ananya said that she and the young girls she was teaching in Leh grew to become very close and the happiness they displayed was worth more than anything in the world to her. For this reason, she knew she could not stop.
Ananya’s former teacher was running a charity called 17000 ft Foundation. Ananya heard about it from friends at school. She got in touch with the Foundation to apply for a volunteer opportunity. After discussing the Foundation’s programs she chose Ladakh as her first assignment. Now, each summer Ananya treks to the remote villages of Ladakh and Leh. In 2015, she taught children in Turtuk, Liktsey and Tialing. The following summer she returned to Leh and taught children in the village of Matho. Ananya did not stop at teaching, she also helped to put up a playground for the children. Her plans for this summer are to travel to Kargil where she will teach, establish a library and also conduct a workshop. Her energy and enthusiasm seem boundless.
The regions where Ananya is working are home to more than 600 small villages, with roughly 1,000 government-run schools. Facilities are primitive and supplies are extremely limited. It took some time for her to build rapport and trust with the children, but once they moved past the barriers of their cultural differences, an unbreakable bond was formed. Ananya would love to spend more time in these villages, but she is limited to her breaks from school. Her fundraising for educational and recreational projects keeps the work going even when she is not there.