Pahchan – journey of a youth led organization

Siraj holding a frame in front of his face. Around his neck he is wearing a climate justice poster

I grew up watching drunk men gambling away their money, and beating up their wives and children. I knew at a very young age that there was something different about me, something that made me want to bring a positive change to the lives of those around me. It is said that charity begins at home – for me, that has been utterly true.

Way back in 2006, I was a child member of a non-governmental organization that was working to improve living conditions for children and adults in my area. With effective leadership skills, I joined the Youth Group of the same organisation and was then chosen as the leader of that Youth Group. This gave me a wide variety of opportunities to represent the issues of slum and street-dwelling children in various national forums. I participated in a live debate show on Lok Sabha TV – discussing the issue of communal peace and harmony – and represented West Bengal at one of the country’s most prestigious forums.

Transform people’s lives, however, did not come without difficulties. I had significant financial problems which made it difficult to get through higher education and made me worried about supporting my family. My dedication to social work was too strong for me to abandon it, so I started to volunteer with non-governmental organizations during the day, and work for caterers and factories at night to support my family. Hard work sooner or later earns sweet fruit, and that is exactly what I have achieved through labour, love, and dedication. I have been actively working as a volunteer and community leader with various organizations at the state and national level to address children’s needs, community, hunger, and ecology. I have also been tirelessly working at the grass-root level to generate awareness about Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG Goals 13,14 and 15.

Since my childhood, I have been exposed to hundreds of different places and organizations, and I realized even then that everyone was talking about the climate crisis. In 2013, I came into contact with a youth network in West Bengal which was working for ecological rights. Through this, I represented the ecological issues of West Bengal in the National Youth Convention of 2014. I met hundreds of young people from different parts of India and realised just how important the Climate Crisis was to everyone there. It was then that I realised we had to take action. Later on, I started to work with “Youth for Ecological Sustainability” and represented the Ecological and Environmental issues of South Asia in the UN Summit 2019 with the support of Terre des Hommes Germany.

In 2017, I started a youth-led organization named ‘Pahchan Foundation’, an NGO which since then has had a tremendous impact on the lives of more than 200 children. In 2019, we then started a flagship campaign called ‘Insan Teri Ganga Maily’ – meaning ‘People, your river is polluted’. This aims to protect rivers and marine life, and I have started weekly cleanliness drives on the banks of the river to raise awareness among the people around me. The campaign has successfully completed 34 weeks of cleaning, and we have found almost 2000kgs of garbage including plastic, bottles, bangles, hairs, clothes, and blades. We also found old photo frames of goddesses or pictures of family members who are no more. People had left these there because of their religious beliefs, without realising the harm they were doing to the environment. The Parchan Foundation team collects the frames and recycles them. We now give them to our supporters on their birthdays and anniversaries.  And, of course, we also engage in tree plantation and are building up an awareness program to save the trees around us.

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