Ishaan Sudan is a 24-year-old based out of New Delhi, India. He has been engaged in volunteering activities through Leo's International since 2018 and is looking forward to the Multiple-District President leading 3000+ members. For his team's impactful projects targeting gender, peace, hunger and education, like 'PeaceBuilder's Unite' & 'Kaagaz Kalam' he has also received varied awards and recognition including the prestigious Diana Award 2019 and Duke of Edinburgh Award. He is also a Kectil Fellow and a GGI policy fellow. Alongside volunteering, he is also developing a vegan leather good startup that focuses on driving profitability with sustainability along with tackling a full-time job. In his own words, he continues to find fulfilment in helping to create a more sustainable, equitable and sensitive society - one that works towards highlighting the most intrinsic quality in us all - our humanity.
VOLUNTEERING FOR ME
To me, volunteering is about giving a voice to those that can’t speak for themselves (environment) and giving a platform to those who can (marginalised groups). Volunteering compels us to push beyond our comfort zone and confront the realities of our society. Helping to create a positive impact brings with it a deep sense of fulfilment - a volunteer’s fuel. Volunteering isn’t just about what we, as educated, privileged people can give to society but also how we can learn from the world.
I have volunteered for nearly 6 years, starting as a college student and now, as a working professional. My childhood was very sheltered, and I was protected from the world’s vulnerabilities. However, during college, through the National Service Scheme club, I was exposed to the lack of resources, safety and stability that many still struggle with. Interacting with people in low-income communities and experiencing their optimism despite overwhelming hardships is what inspired me to do better.
I started my volunteering journey with Hindu College's National Service Scheme in 2016, where I taught Maths, English and Science to Govt school children. I deeply cherished working with and helping children understand new concepts. My students' willingness to learn, despite limited opportunities and often unwelcoming home lives, greatly inspired me. Consecutively, I volunteered with New Delhi's WWF on their environmental projects. These platforms helped me kickstart Delhi University's first-ever university-wide youth social service organisation, Leo Club, DU. I led the team from 18 to 150 members and within a year of our inception we were able to impact 45,000 people through volunteering activities targeting community issues like education, hunger, sustainability and health. Through volunteering, I evolved from a shy teenager to an initiator and change-maker. Aiming to increase my impact in our community, I contested and was elected as Leo District President 2020-21, leading 1200+ members across 4 Indian states. Together, my team and I were able to help 60,00,000 + people through 450+ volunteering activities. I was able to channel the learnings from my professional space to further our initiative and mentor other young change-makers. To me, volunteering will always remain a powerful experience that has helped me cultivate patience, learn to collaborate with like-minded, driven individuals globally, and given me the happiness of creating a positive impact in my community. This year, I'm continuing my volunteer journey as the Multiple-District President at Leo Club leading 3000+ volunteers along with which, I am also conceptualising a sustainable product startup that believes in driving profitability through an environment- conscious sensibility.
PROJECT Kaagaz Kalam
ORGANISATION Leo Club, District 321-A2
MISSION & VISION
Kaagaz Kalam' (translates to "paper pen") was aimed at making education and related supplements accessible to children with limited means or from marginalised/low-income communities across India. We leveraged physical & digital mediums to offer clear, simple lessons to kids aged 10 - 13. We wanted to encourage children to develop positive reading habits - we also established libraries within low-income communities nationally. Our vision was to create safe spaces for children in India to grow and learn through the written word.
Initiated in 2020, Kaagaz Kalam was conceptualised under my leadership as District President of Leo District 321-A2 . My team and I, successfully served 6 lakh students across the country by leveraging both physical and digital mediums. Our high reach was attributed largely to an out-of-the-box idea - airing 300 pre-recorded lessons on regional TV channels in tier-2 and tier-3 cities across 7 Indian states. This proved to be exceptionally useful during the pandemic when schools had shut down and children had limited access to education. Through this initiative, we also wanted to create a physical platform that allowed for more hands-on lessons and interactions with students in low-income communities. To make the impact of the additional tutorials more lasting, we dug out our real aim - making children interested in studying and creating a space where reading and writing is encouraged. We then established 11 libraries with 70 books across low-income communities in several Indian cities. These books had been donated through the Leo Club member network. Through in-person story time sessions, we were able to help children practice reading, gain confidence and ultimately employ this skill-set independently. My role involved everything from conceptualisation to coordinating with 50 core members as well as our project partners eVidyaloka along with media houses to ensure the smooth functioning of this initiative. The idea was not just about good quality education but education for all. We made sure to increase and encourage participation of female students - who often had a higher dropout rate. By leveraging my former volunteering experience as a teacher, I was able to mentor members to better interact with the young students. I was also responsible for the research-work conducted to find the right partners that could help us to create the recorded curriculum. I was the first to introduce the idea of pre-recorded footage, understanding its huge impact and its future use - knowing that the central syllabus doesn't alter as frequently. This initiative continues to survive through newer members and is one of the key flagship projects that I continue to supervise.
LENGTH OF SERVICE
The project kicked off in Feb 2020 and is currently ongoing. There were 50 volunteers who worked on this case for an average time of 20 hours per month. This continues to go on with volunteers visiting low-income communities for in-person sessions as well.
ROLE IN PROJECT
From its conceptualisation, implementation to its upgradation - Kaagaz Kalma is the brainchild of my core team and I. As the President of Leo District 321-A2, I was leading the project and was responsible for both ideation and problem solving. My day to day ambit involved everything from managing administrative hurdles like seeking permissions from local authorities, planning schedules for volunteer visits, handling and raising funds for project execution, creating relationships with social service partners to more intrinsic ones like building trust among the elders in the community, planning activities to increase students' involvement. I was responsible for representing my very capable team and helping them carry out service activities with ease. I was able to employ my previous volunteering experience as a teacher to mentor members and help them research, curate and structure the content of the in-person lessons. I used my experience in communication, message dispensation and fund-raising as the President of Hindu College's Entrepreneurship Cell and successfully employed it into the project. This project was a huge development curve, I learned from the difficulty of undertaking a nationwide project. Everything from seeking permission from authorities to researching teaching curriculum was all new to me. Apart from practical organisational skills, I was privileged enough to experience the infectious energy of young students and learn from them to optimistically tackle life's challenges.
IMPACT OF PROJECT
I'm glad to report that through our initiative, Kaagaz Kalam, we have helped 6 lakh students (both boys & girls) in low-income communities nationally. This program had 2 phases. Phase 1 was centred on in-person teaching sessions and the set up of libraries in low-income communities to encourage the development of positive reading habits. Phase 2, especially crucial during the pandemic, was via Television, where we along with our partners eVidyaloka launched bi-weekly pre-recorded lessons on regional TV channels. This included 300 pre-recorded sessions for 5th - 8th standard Maths & Science. It aired across 7 Indian states including AP, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, UP, and Maharashtra targeting 147 districts. This was aimed at filling the gap for the tuition classes/1 on 1 attention towards education in the domestic space which young students in such communities often miss out on but deserve in order to flourish. Out of average monthly viewership of 20+ Lakh - 30% watched the sessions. Our next step would be to launch digital sessions on YouTube, which can be accessed from handheld smartphone devices. We would further also launch digital literacy campaigns to equip parents/elders in the communities, who babysit after school hours to help with accessing these sessions. The digital enablement, especially during the pandemic, should help us tap into another huge segment in need of this benefit. We also plan to raise funds to provide one TV/handheld device for common areas in such communities to encourage learning.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 5: Gender Equality
Diana Award 2019
Duke of Edinburgh Award
Mentor, Asian Undergraduate Summit
Mentor for Change - Atal Innovation Mission
Delegate, Youth SDG Summit - UNITE 2030
GGI Policy Fellow
In the next 5 years, I intend to initiate two major social projects. First, I would like to create a TGF chapter in New Delhi. The idea is rooted in helping to expand the efforts and create a cohesive, collaborative exchange of ideas between the two entities - TGF and Leo International. We would be expanding the reach of our existing projects and also creating projects centred specifically in the southern region of India to double down on the impact of our projects. Secondly, the opportunity of learning from existing mentors would really help me expand on my social entrepreneurship project - creating vegan leather products. The prominent goal for the organisation is to prioritise profitability along with sustainability.
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