I recently had the pleasure of meeting Vimlendu. He is this cool guy with an incredible bio who talks about the thousand things Swechha does with such ease. Walking into the office gives you a unique vibe, much of the decorative items are made out of waste materials, such as tires and so forth.
Vimlendu founded Swechha (We for Change) in 2000 and has turned it into one of India’s most influential organizations on youth matters. India Today and Outlook Magazine, acknowledged Vimlendu as one of the top 25 youth leaders of India. He was selected as one of 6 worldwide change makers by CNN International to be part of the Be the Change program, which followed his work for over a year.
Swechha is more than a youth-focused NGO, but a movement in India that engages in environmental and social development issues. This is from their mission statement: “Our work is done with and through the youth coming from all walks of life, in order to raise awareness and bring about a ‘change’. Our definition of ‘change’ means a revolution in the attitude and perceptions of the masses and simultaneously in the environment -- both social and human. We give the youth a platform to ‘be the change’ themselves for which they are provided with the necessary support and guidance.” Their focus areas include: environment, education and enterprise/employability.
Delhi is the second most polluted city in the world, but Swechha is doing something about the pollution. “Do we really need to cut down trees to broaden our roots or is there a way around the trees?” Vimlendu says. Swechha on average is planting over 1000 trees a year! The organization got its roots with the campaign, “WE for Yamuna” some 15 years ago. 70 percent of Delhi’s water comes from the Yamuna river. The Yamuna is a tributary river of the Ganga in northern India.Yet it is one of the most endangered waterways in India. Vimlendu and friends wanted to do something about the river, because nothing was happening at that time. In college they highlighted this issue of river pollution. The movement started very organically, but grew to be one of the strongest youth campaigns in Delhi. Almost 500 people joined the campaign within a month. The main purpose was to bring Yamuna back to the minds of the general population and highlight the issue of river pollution.
Swechha has numerous projects happening. I’m going to share just a few. A project they have is “Bridge the Gap”. Again they always ask questions, this time it was “can man and nature coexist? As well as can mankind and prosperity coexist?” Vimlendu feels that the education system doesn’t address these issues. One of their programs consists of running a 16-week session for school students on the environment, life skills and citizenship. In many of these programs the individual attitude is essential to the programs. It needs to be personal and local. Vimlendu mentions that there is no point telling a child living in Delhi what a river overseas looks like. He needs to care and take action in regards to his/her local area. Since 2004 this program has been implemented in more than 30 schools and had directly engaged over 30,000 students.
Another event they plan is “The Yamuna Yatra”. This 12-day journey sounds like a life-changing experience. They take 60 to 70 people on a trip down the river. The folks who come are mostly students and participation gives a better and deeper understanding of the river and its impact. I may actually be going on their next trip!
Another project is the right to education. The project “Pagdandi” has gotten over 150 children into schools. They also have a small center downstairs where every day 100 kids come and learn.
The social enterprise initiative “Lunch Box 17” works with under resourced women to make lunch. Basically it is a daily cooking service. Women are employed and create lunch everyday for a 100 to 200 people in south Delhi. I think it is an incredibly effective social enterprise. They are taking a skill that these women have already. Some of these women were working as maids and so they are building on that.
Finally we here at rHope plan to partner with them on products. This was the main purpose of the visit. Products are sustainable, well designed and well made. The products are made by upcycling. Stay tuned to hear about our partnership in regards to products! If you are in India. Be sure to check out their store Green the Gap in Delhi.
Wanna get involved with Swechha? Get in touch with us for volunteer opportunities and more.
Thanks for reading!