By Bhavini Joneja | Opening Doorz Editorial | August 28, 2021
Saburi Chopra is a 16-year-old volunteer from New Delhi, India, currently studying in Grade XII at Tagore International School. Since the age of eight, Saburi developed a keen sense of reaching out to others. She started her journey of volunteering by performing on the streets of Delhi to raise awareness about victims of acid attacks, violence against women, drug abuse, discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities and child abuse.
She has also been actively involved in the road safety revolution with PVR cinemas, advocating the safest behaviour that people should follow on the road. Apart from that, she has also been a part of the “Youth for No Tobacco Campaign” organized by the Public Health Foundation of India. This gave rise to ‘Team Awaam’.
Saburi is constantly on the move looking out to see where her presence can add value. When just her presence is not enough and there is a need for some money, Saburi steps in here as well. Recently, when she was part of a campaign for support for differently-abled children, she realised that emotional support and motivation alone was not enough. They needed financial support too. For this, she started an annual fair called ‘Disha’ in local parks. “We ran a fundraiser with the help of the art department of my school where we managed to raise Rs 30,000/- by selling paintings,” she reveals.
Balancing studies with her passion for reaching out, Saburi manages both with a fervour that belies her age. Focussed, dedicated and wanting to be the change she wants to see, Saburi works through her day to make an impact in all of the areas she is helping out. “It’s all about balance, discipline and having an ideology. Being a teenager (an age where everything feels possible), I knew that my work will improve the condition of our society. Loving what you’re doing can be infectious and motivating to others. Ultimately, that’s leadership,” says Saburi.
Opening Doorz met up with the enthusiastic teen.
What were the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown on ‘Disha’?
When the lockdown was first announced, we were disappointed that we would not be able to conduct the fair. We soon realised that ‘Disha’ could take place online too! So, to uplift the spirits of the people and continue the tradition of Disha, we organized a virtual fair in which we incorporated competitions that were compatible online and were in the spirit of creative entertainment. The competitions included singing, dancing, mask making, photography etc. Disha 3.0 and 4.0 were both conducted virtually.
What motivated you to start Team Awaam and take part in volunteer events?
I started volunteering in activities to create social change because I wanted to make the world a better place than how I saw it. I needed to do my small bit. I was guided by the authorities of our school. To bring about a change, I needed a team of people as passionate as I am. My teachers helped me find the perfect students for this job and we established Team Awaam.
In a country where acid attacks, drug abuse, child abuse, etc. are social taboos, how did you start with your projects?
I strongly believe in the power of entertainment for spreading awareness. Keeping that in mind, Team Awaam would go to different public settings to promote the message for social wellbeing through street plays. After seeing our work and dedication, we were invited to UNICEF to perform. Later, we were invited for three consecutive years to perform on the streets of Kolkata by the SREI Foundation in partnership with the Acid Attack Survivor Foundation of India. After that, everything just fell into place: we got more opportunities to increase our reach.
I also got the chance to speak at the world Confluence of Human Power in Kolkatta. I attended the confluence for three consecutive years and was appreciated for my thoughts on humanity and spirituality.
You have also worked with differently-abled children; would you tell us more about the same?
Ever since I started with Team Awaam, I have been working to make this a discrimination-free world and fight social taboos, especially when it comes to differently-abled individuals. In 2016, I partnered with Special Olympics Bharat which is recognized by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and The Government of India, as a National Sports Federation in the Priority Category, for the development of Sports for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities. I was made a youth leader for promoting other youth my age, to become youth leaders themselves and for successfully campaigning for a discrimination-free world.
What do you plan to do in the future; is it related to your volunteer work?
After Grade XII, I plan to continue with my volunteer activities. I have prepared a plan which will help me maintain the balance between my academics and my volunteering. I will be carrying out social media campaigns since social media is one of the most powerful tools to reach out to people and make your voice heard.
How would you like to motivate youngsters to use their platforms to make a change?
When I started working with Special Olympics Bharat I was just 10 years old. I didn’t understand the concept of intellectual disabilities. All I knew was that no one deserved to be treated badly. So, I started working with them because then, there would be one less person in this world they had to worry about. Over time, I learned how to conduct myself with them. I realized how grateful I should be for all the facilities and opportunities I have been provided with. I learned how those “forever” bonds are formed. And most of all, I learnt how to love.
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