miscellany - The changemakers

miscellany - The changemakers

miscellany - The changemakers

Sudhanshu Nath Mishra and Arjun Gandhi certainly believe in the power of full butterfly effect. These two students, barely in their twenties, and currently studying at the prestigious MIT and Washington University, respectively, have set off a chain of do-good gestures that has impacted hundreds of tribal children in the heart of Odisha and economically-deprived children of Karnataka. Yes, that is how far the grip of ‘Share your Books’ extends even as these two students monitor from thousands of miles away.

Four years ago, while still studying in school in Bengaluru, Sudhanshu realised that his huge collection of academic and storybooks could be shared with those in need. As a teenager, he started a library of sorts by lending books for free to nearby slum-dwellers and construction-site kids. But the idea of ‘Share your Books’ was formed on a trip to his hometown Khandasai in Odisham where he realised that the tribal children did not have access to even quality textbooks in government schools. To bridge the urban-rural divide, Sudhanshu started a service initiative to generate book donation drives. Partnering with the Ramakrishna Mission, he managed to source 3,500-plus books in his first drive. Enthused by the success of this resource-sharing, he roped in his friend Arjun Gandhi to expand the activities of the organisation. 

The rigours of studies in the US did not dim the enthusiasm of both Sudhanshu and Arjun. Distance was never a constraint. The youngsters aimed at building a team in Bengaluru to further the cause. They never let go of their ideals. While holidaying in Bengaluru during college breaks, both Sudhanshu and Arjun used the time to strengthen the network for book campaigns, to identify schools and institutions as partners and to organise substantial donation drives. 

They are helped by Prapti Mishra, the Odisha director and Prithvin Manjunathaswamy, the Karnataka director, both of whom identify potential partner schools and civil society organisations, design and promote marketing strategies and oversee all Odisha and Karnataka specific operations. A young team of four people run this setup in a professional and competitive manner with impressive corporate designations to boot. While Sudhanshu is the founder-cum-co-president, Arjun is the erstwhile co-president!

Today, Share your Books has donated over 8,000 books worth 16 lakh to more than 25,000 tribal children, as well as a sizeable number of children across slums and orphanages in Bengaluru. Starting off by partnering with their own alma mater, the National Public School and its sister institutions, the organisation is currently supporting a host of established organisations that include Parikrma Humanity Foundation, Goonj and The Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences.

Juggling time, academics and long distance location, both Sudhanshu and Arjun still say it is easy to co-ordinate and delegate responsibilities to the team in India with social media tools and setting up meetings for Prithvin and Prapti. Besides, both find the college environment a very motivating experience, which helps them stay true to their passion and commitment to India.

Looking ahead, both Sudhanshu and Arjun envisage a time when every private school in India will organise periodic book donation drives to inculcate the habit of giving and sharing among students. They are also looking at an online marketplace to source and distribute books to the underprivileged. They dream of a time when books sourced across the US can be shipped to India. A global platform to receive and distribute books to the needy, no less.

You can contact the organisation at snmishra@mit.edu.

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