Richa Gupta, GSE’21 and co-founder of the Labhya Foundation, has no shortage of ambitious goals. By 2030, she hopes to reach 30-million underserved children with a new “happiness curriculum” in some of the most unserved corners of India. The effort to bring social-emotional learning grew out of her own experiences on the frontlines as a teacher in under-resourced schools for more than a decade.
She and her co-founders, who also brought their life experiences to the founding, now run the Labhya Foundation and received a Mittal Institute Seed for Change grant to catalyze their efforts. Gupta was recently named one of 17 New Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations. We spoke with her about founding the organization, how the Seed for Change grant helped expand their efforts and what’s on the horizon.
For our first Alumni Spotlight, we spoke with the Founder and CEO of SaveLIFE Foundation, Piyush Tewari. His story is one of sheer resilience. Piyush turned tragedy into a relentless quest to save lives on India’s roads, which are some of the most dangerous in the world. India holds the global top spot in road crash fatalities and its crash severity of over 31–denoting the deaths per hundred crashes–is the highest amongst the top 20 countries registering the maximum number of road crashes. He also is the driving force behind the groundbreaking Good Samaritan Law that provides bystanders the safety from legal and procedural hassles in the event that they step up to help road crash victims. Piyush graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School with a Masters in Public Administration in 2017.
Each year, the Mittal Institute’s Seed for Change competition encourages Harvard students to develop a vibrant ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship in India and Pakistan. Grant prizes are awarded to interdisciplinary student projects that positively impact societal, economic, and environmental issues in India and Pakistan. One Winter 2020 recipient was “Sahayak,” the brainchild of Ambika Malhortra ’20, Aeshna Prasad ’21, Harvard Graduate School of Design alumnae who both earned a Master of Architecture in Urban Design.
In 2019, the Mittal Institute’s Seed for Change competition awarded the Gramhal team, composed of members Vikas Birhma and Pankaj Mahalle, first place. Over the past year, the funding from the competition has helped take their social enterprise initiative off the ground, and Gramhal has already had a significant impact on the lives of smallholder farmers in India. In the last few months of 2019, over 50 farmers sold their produce — worth USD 100,000 — through Gramhal, receiving a fair and higher price.
In 1979, an organization named Gram Vikas emerged in Odisha with the goal of supporting marginalized communities in India — from providing cleaner ways to access water and sanitation, to the construction of schools and renewable energy sources. Today, Gram Vikas is working on a project to revive a solar micro-grid in Maligaon that had broken down in 2013 after its power source became depleted. Without improvement of the micro-grid, electricity in the community is unstable, and blackouts can last months at a time. Eshaan Patheria, a Harvard College ’18 alumnus, joined the organization as an SBI Youth for India Fellow in 2018, and now oversees the micro-grid renewal project in Maligaon. In partnership with the local community, Patheria’s team is using modern technologies to improve quality of life throughout the district.
If you’re the first in your family to attend college and you’re based in South Asia, the Middle East or Africa, apply now for our Second Annual Crossroads Emerging Leaders Program. It’s a collaboration with an important alumni organization, the Harvard Business School Club of the Gulf Cooperation Council, to create a fantastic, fully-funded opportunity for talented students.
“I remember first seeing her when I was a freshman at Kinnaird College, an all-women institution in Lahore, Pakistan. I sat at the very back of a large hall packed with young women waiting to hear the great Asma Jahangir speak. We sat in awe of her bravery and most of us were also afraid for her life.”
ACSAA symposia occur in alternating years, and serve as opportunities to meet colleagues, reconnect with mentors and graduate school cohorts, and share one’s current research with the field.
On Feb. 3, SAI hosted a discussion forum in Delhi to facilitate a personalized dialogue about Partition. Professor Uma Chakravarti, who moderated the discussion, showed how these stories connect to the present and inform our understanding of history, nation, community, and religion.
The weekly seminars, starting February 1, will explore issues that have often been ignored in the context of the Partition as well as discuss their relevance and impact today, both in South Asia and in other parts of the world.
We offer our full support to Harvard students, faculty, staff and affiliates, regardless of their country of origin or religious background, alongside the Harvard International Office and the university’s Global Support Services.
SAI and Harvard affiliates react to India’s decision to withdraw the legal status of certain cash notes.