'Model' of a different kind

Rashi Anand could have chosen a successful career in modelling, but she took to bettering the lives of underprivileged women and children through her earnest social endeavours, discovers Sharmila Chand .

Rashi Anand is a successful model, who realised early in life that the ramp was too small a platform for what she wanted to do in life. She was destined to drive a positive change in the lives of the under-privileged. 

Rashi was fortunate to have an icon right from her childhood. Her mother Poonam Anand’s NGO, Lakshya, operated in Ranchi, where they lived. Encouraged by her, Rashi volunteered for various activities of the NGO through her growing years. “I accompanied her on her missions, went with her to villages and helped with the camps,” shares Rashi.

“I still remember one woman whose story affected me deeply. Her husband suspected her of infidelity, and so, he stitched up her private parts. When she went to complain in the local police station, the police officers there raped her,” narrates a disturbed Rashi. No doubt what she saw at that age shaped her thinking and resolve.
 It got further instigated by the sight of street children at Delhi traffic lights. She recalls, vividly, a scene of street children playing enthusiastically, cheering and chirping. But what did they play with? Discarded tyres, empty plastic bottles and stones. She compared the picture with kids more privileged who are blessed with real toys and play inside swanky homes.

This instigated her to start a campaign named ‘Lakshyam Toy Library’, under which, huge boxes were placed in 12 esteemed schools of Delhi and students were motivated to donate their toys. The response was surprisingly huge with a collection of over 60,000 toys and books in the boxes, which were distributed among street children in Delhi. 

Lakshya, her mother’s NGO became ‘Lakshyam’ in 2004, after Rashi resolved to expand its activities across India. Her vision was clear: to work for uplifting the lives of under-privileged women and children.

But the going was far from smooth. “A major problem I found was that few took me seriously, as I was young, compared to my peers working in this field. Establishing the authenticity of the NGO was tough because of that,” she says. 

To begin with, Rashi tried to work with the kids who stay under flyovers, to brighten up their lives with toys, clothes, and the like. To her shock, she found out that the kids take drugs, and that’s not all; they take drugs because their parents make them take it, in order to help curb hunger and cold, during winters! Says Rashi, “Talking to the parents was the most difficult task. Making them see alternative ways of life was more than just difficult.”

Under the aegis of Lakshyam, Rashi set up a school, ‘Sakshyam’, in South Delhi, in a slum area where around 300 children are taught various subjects, including arts and crafts. The organisation also conducts workshops with street children under the flyovers, in the red light areas, and at the railway stations, to make them aware of the ill-effects of drug and tobacco addiction.

Lakshyam has also adopted a blind school in Ranchi, providing vocational training for the children there. 

Through their women empowerment wing, they organise interactive workshops in villages of Jharkhand and the outskirts of Bangalore. They give training in stitching and legalities, as well as provide basic education. 

Rashi's aim is to see every woman stand on her feet and every kid enjoy a normal childhood. “Most people think that we should reach the pinnacle of a flourishing livelihood ourselves, before we begin any social work. But I have seen enough to know that neither age nor status are required, to give back to the society,”  she maintains.

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