Mamta school engages students’ imaginations

Video by Elisabeth Loeck

The Mamta School in Khanipur, India offers a unique education for local children. This school specializes in teaching young, underprivileged students about producing newspapers. By encouraging the exploration of various subjects, students are free to express themselves through various mediums. With this opportunity, these children have an outlet to use their imagination and creativity.

Delhi school promotes autism acceptance

Artwork made by students lines the hallway of Action for Autism, the National Center for Autism. Students range from 18 months to adults. | Photo by Elisabeth Loeck

Story by Elisabeth Loeck

Two couches and an assortment of chairs furnished the lobby.

A 6-year-old boy sat shyly with his parents. A tiny wave caused the boy to grin widely, revealing a gap-toothed smile.

A nudge from his parents encouraged Eshan to come over and extend his hand for a shake. Diagnosed with autism at age 2, Eshan and his parents were waiting to tour the facility and apply for admission into the educational programs at Action for Autism (AFA).

Established in 1991, AFA organization for India that specializes in the care for those diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Reaching across the age and socioeconomic spectrum, AFA offers support to anyone diagnosed with autism, such as children like Eshan.

The program includes children from as young as 18 months old to adults with ASD working in the office. Payment for services is pro-rated on an income-based scale.

“It doesn’t matter what background you come from,” said Nidhi Singhal, director of the program. “At the end of the day, it’s the child that matters.”

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Frustration inspires youth led news-site

Shiv Bhaskar Dravid leads The Viewspaper: The Voice of the Youth, a news-site for youthful citizen journalists. Launched in May 2007, the website has over 6,000 contributors and 149,000 Facebook followers. | Photo by Ryan Bramhall

Story by Elisabeth Loeck

Shiv Bhaskar Dravid sat in his mother’s room watching a debate on an Indian news channel. The government had ordered public buses to use natural gas to help the environment, and bus drivers had gone on strike. On the television, politicians and TV analysts railed on both sides of the issue. Then Dravid railed at the television.

Seven years later, Dravid runs his own online newspaper, which covers India and the United Kingdom for readers 30 and younger, and may soon serve other continents.

Dravid wanted young Indians to have a voice in government and societal issues. He rode buses more than an hour to and from college each day, and those people on TV “hadn’t ridden a bus in 25 years,” he said.

At age 18, he found no outlet to communicate his thoughts on issues affecting the population. In India, 70 percent of the people are 35 and younger while 70 percent of the politicians leading the country are 75 or older, Dravid said.

To fight those numbers, Dravid founded three years later, at age 21, to give youth an opportunity to share their opinions on important issues. After four years, it is a self-sustaining and nationally recognized media outlet for youth.

Contributors have been as young as 13 and but cannot exceed age 35.

Writers and readers come to The Viewspaper: The Voice of the Youth to share and receive opinions on every subject matter.

“Young people are really questioning representative democracy because you don’t have connectivity,” Dravid said. “Now, I don’t need a representative, I can have my say.”

According to Dravid, formal protests in support of an anti-corruption bill have shown the attitude of young people who feel disconnected from the political class and even from the media. While many good things are happening in India, the corruption is eating it up from the inside and there is a need for change, he says.

The Viewspaper supports itself partially through online advertising, but mostly through creative revenue streams, such as helping colleges set up online newspapers or providing other IT or editorial support. The company works closely with grants that generate readership and uses campaigns and Google ads to earn funds for production. It broke even in late 2010.

The most active base for the site is at the college level. Unpaid writers from the top colleges in the country contribute, but as the venture has grown, less and less continued response is from the older end of the spectrum. To reach contributors of the 25- to 30-year-old age range, The Viewspaper implements niche advertisements online.

While unsure of what the future will hold for The Viewspaper, Dravid wants to expand versions of the website to include the U.S., Australia and Singapore.

With 6,000 contributors and 149,000 followers on Facebook, The Viewspaper is an internationally recognized entity.

“On a basic level, that we got these 6,000 people to start thinking is an accomplishment,” Dravid said. “Everyone has coffee table talk, but to sit down and write it out takes effort. People are noticing.”