Two of India’s top youth volunteers of the year were formally honored May 5 during the 24th annual presentation of the U.S. Prudential Spirit of Community Awards gala.
Krrish Chawla and Chaitanya Venkateswaran, both 17 and from New Delhi, were presented with special commemorative trophies by Prudential financial chairman and CEO Charles Lowrey during the evening event, which is held each spring to present awards to America’s top two youth volunteers from each state.
More than a handful of Indian American and South Asian American kids from the U.S. were earlier named by Prudential Financial Inc. among the 102 State Honorees for the 2019 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards as Top Youth Volunteers (see earlier India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2WBlKEn).
The honorees were also personally congratulated for their outstanding volunteer service by award-winning actress Viola Davis, the news release said.
Chawla and Venkateswaran were named top youth volunteers by India's Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards program in April. They received awards including an all-expense-paid trip to this week’s special recognition events in Washington, D.C., it said.
Chawla, a Class XI student at Modern School, Vasant Vihar, developed “BREATHIFY,” an innovative and low-cost air purifier with a dual goal of benefiting the environment and society.
Suffering from respiratory issues since childhood, Chawla knows firsthand of the perils of polluted air. After working on the air purifier for more than a year, Chawla was able to get the AQI levels down from 250-plus to just under 10 in less than a minute.
Additionally, the air purifier is 90 percent plastic free and made from recycled materials, thereby reducing its carbon footprint, the release said.
Committed to creating an impact, Chawla conducted awareness camps and organized fundraisers to ensure the air purifiers would benefit those in need.
As a result, he donated more than 125 air purifiers to underserved communities in India including hospitals, senior housing and nonprofit organizations.
Chawla, according to the release, would like to share with his peers that it is perseverance that transforms ideas into reality, so it is critical that they believe in themselves and pursue any idea with absolute passion and unshaken spirit.
Venkateswaran, a Class XI student at Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar, started “Project Drishti,” an initiative to help students with visual impairments in inclusive classrooms to reach their full potential.
Her goal is to provide them accessible books, educational tools, kits and devices so they can have an equally enriching classroom experience as their peers.
A key component of “Project Drishti” is the digitization of books for people with visual impairments. Venkateswaran partnered with a local nonprofit organization, Saksham, where individuals are paid to digitize school books.
These books are then converted to audio books or books with larger fonts. Under her leadership, she trained students to digitize books in her own school and as a result they have digitized 1,500 pages as well as implemented day-long digitization marathons in six schools where students digitized more than 6,000 pages.
In addition, she distributed 100 resource kits to children with visual impairments in 10 schools and initiated a crowdfunding campaign and bake sale where the proceeds went towards the purchase of resource kits. Venkateswaran’s message to her peers is to always have faith in their ability to create a positive change in society, the release said.
“We’re impressed and inspired by the way these honorees have identified problems facing their communities and stepped up to the challenge to make a difference,” said Charles Lowrey. “It’s a privilege to celebrate their leadership and compassion, and we look forward to seeing the great things they accomplish in the future.”
During their trip to Washington, D.C., Chawla and Venkateswaran also joined the other international honorees and the American honorees to share volunteering experiences and perspectives, and toured the major sights and landmarks of America’s capital.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created by Prudential in 1995 to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models. The awards program was introduced in India in 2010.