Gurgaon teen girl raises Rs 10 lakh to build libraries and playgrounds in Leh

Gurgaon teen girl raises Rs 10 lakh to build libraries and playgrounds in Leh

Gurgaon, June6:Ananya Saluja was just like any other teenager till she was 15. That was two years back. Around that time, the Sri Ram School student in Gurgaon visited Leh in Ladakh as a part of the school’s community programme. The programme involved teaching underprivileged children. During the process, Ananya discovered her true happiness lay in this direction. In the next three summer breaks, Ananya kept returning to Leh and found the girls and boys – her students – were waiting for her. She did not go empty-handed. On her own, Ananya raised Rs 10 lakh to build libraries and playgrounds in Leh – 17,000 feet up in the Himalayas.

Ananya received help from her former teacher, Sujata Sahu, who runs a foundation for children in Leh. In the last three years, Ananya has been spending her summer break in various villages in Ladakh. She has been to remote villages like Liktsey, Turtuk, Tailing, and Matho. The girl has been widely interviewed since in the media. In her interviews, her fondness for the children up in the mountain comes across clearly: “During the programme, I got really close to the kids. Their happiness at being taught is a rewarding experience. I decided this is what I want to do.”

Sahu has been Ananya’s inspiration. Sahu founded the 17000 Ft Foundation in 2012 to help the children in Leh get a proper education. She had famously trekked three days up and down steep paths with 1,500kg of study-related materials carried on the back of 25 horses in sub-zero temperature to 100 odd children waiting for her arrival.

Aananya was guided by Sahu’s foundation. The foundation’s focuses to provide better opportunities for indigenous tribes of Ladakh, so they do not have to migrate helplessly into big cities far away from their ecosystem without any grounding in education. Teaching the kids and imparting skills in them also means future employment could be indigenously generated. Books by Pratham Education Foundation and Scholastic India have contributed to the foundation’s work.

In an interview, Ananya said, “I had seen the incredible work the 17000 Ft Foundation was doing. And since I couldn’t give more than a few weeks of my time every year, I decided to help by raising money to expand their reach beyond Leh to set up libraries in the Kargil district of Ladakh.”

Ananya writes an active blog that records her experiences with the children of Ladakh. One of the most striking thing about her students, she says, is the sense of joy and wonder at the many things boys and girls in cities like Delhi take for granted.  “To us, a tablet is an everyday object. But to these children who rarely see a computer, a tablet is a little magicscreen working without any cord.” Her primary aim is to build 19 libraries in the region.

Ananya spends most of her time down in the city of Gurgaon. But her head is up in the clouds with the kids of Ladakh, who wait for her with the same eagerness that they wait for summer.

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