Interview with Vishal Singh Koshiyari, President, MAD, Dehradun Chapter

After receiving global recognition from none other than First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama, Make a Difference (popularly known as MAD) has become a well known youth based-child centric organisation that  aims towards the empowerment of children who don’t possess the basic necessities of life and are at a high risk of becoming victims of the many persistent social issues widespread in the society we live in.

With a network spanning across 23 cities, it’s vision has inspired many young adults and students  to become a part of the common dream of making India rise above it’s social issues and strengthen each child it touches; to rise against all odds and become something in the future.

Excerpts from the interview conducted by Tarunika Rajesh (Campus Ambassador, LexQuest) with Vishal Singh Koshiyari – President, MAD Dehradun Chapter, who talks about the future plan of action, vision and what it means to him to be a part of  the MAD family.

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Picture 1: Children at the RPMV Centre, Dehradun in happy times.

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Vishal Singh Koshiyari, President Make a Difference, Dehradun Chapter 2013-present.

  • What is Make a Difference (MAD) all about? Enlighten readers on its origin in Dehradun, Uttarakhand and what is its primary agenda?

Make a Difference is a youth –based organisation child –centric non-profit organisation that works towards the empowerment of children at risk.

In 2012, Mr. Raghav Bhatnagar (Ex-student of UPES, Dehradun who is currently enrolled as a full-time employee in L&T and is associated with MAD, Dehradun chapter presently in the capacity of a Public Relations fellow) along with one of his friend; took the initiative of starting a chapter in Dehradun .Their first step was to contact the national team (Bangalore, India) who supported them unconditionally by providing them with the necessary social, economical, manual support. Later on, gradually along with his other friends, volunteers and a core –team formed, all of them managed to start a full functioning chapter in the city.

Its primary agenda is to educate children of the lower strata of the society i.e. children-at-risk by acting as a safety net for them which helps them to be sheltered from the problems that plague their personal lives

  • How many people are enrolled in MAD all across India and what is MAD’S plan of action?

Approximately 4000+ youngsters are presently enrolled as volunteers all across India in various cities such as Cochin, Lucknow, Delhi, Gwalior etc.

Our future POA (Plan of Action) is to make sure that each and every city where MAD is present, becomes self-sustaining in the future and each child who is a part of the MAD family , is empowered and fortified to compete in the future with other privileged children for all opportunities available in the society. Btw, the empowerment process is diverse and one medium by which we are trying to achieve this goal through education i.e. educating our children. Also, expansion of MAD in other cities;  is something we are looking forward to in the coming years.

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During Sunday classes, kids take a break to pose for a click-moment.

  • Enlighten us on the Modus Operandi of MAD?

Currently, MAD works in 23 cities of India .There is a national team looking after all the other 22 cities which comprises of 23 people .On the city-level, one core team a.k.a fellows work together on field to make sure the chapter is running smoothly an no volunteer ;associated with this/her city chapter  faces any problem. This core team runs all the operations at city level.

On city level, we have different verticals such as Human Resources, public relations, finance, centre heads, education supporters (Ed –supporters) propel , discover, centre, community-fund raising , event fellows who work towards the city chapter .All such verticals are interconnected and work in sync with each other. Under each fellow, volunteers are enrolled and assigned tasks/ work specific to their vertical which can be more than 1. All these fellows are then headed by a City Team lead and these fellows also constitute the core team of that city chapter.

  • What inspired you to become a ‘MADSTAR’ / ‘MADSTER’?

When I was a volunteer back in 2012 , I used to think that my problems are the biggest and my life is basically nothing but a bag full of problems and I am carrying the most heavy burden on my shoulders , encompassing all the weight of the world. But once I met a kid whose father is an IAS officer yet that kid was in our shelter home due to some personal issues ( not to be disclosed ) So after meeting this kid and discussing his problems,  I felt  extremely stupid as I had categorised my trivial issues as burdensome whereas there are so many children; younger than me; who are facing the hardships of life without the support of their loved ones. Since the occurrence of that incident, MAD has become an inseparable part of my life and such and many other kids are now my family other than my biological one.

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Volunteers engaged in conducting classes for the children at the shelter home. 

  • What are the traits that MAD looks for in a volunteer? 

First, a MADSTAR/ MADSTER must be empathetic towards our children and their needs and not sympathetic. I believe that a person who is sympathetic usually considers himself/herself better than the other person for whom he/she has the feeling of sympathy for.  So, empathy is an important trait.

He/she must be devoted to the cause and work with utmost dedication and passion towards the upliftment of the child and the chapter at large. He/she must put the cause above self because without this happening, you cannot be a part of the social sector.

Most important trait is ‘’Leadership through Ownership’ wherein he/she must find solutions to a problem that frequently arise in MAD due to the nature of work.

Kindness and love is an omnipresent trait to all MADSTERS without which our organisation itself won’t function.

  • With child abuse, child labour and other such social problems existing in our society, what is MAD doing to bring about a change in such prevalent circumstances in the lives of such underprivileged children who are the most endangered?

If you ask me about these problems, I would like to bring to your notice that children who reside in such shelter homes (private or government-run), orphanages, schools, etc are all at ‘high-risk’, facing the danger of becoming victims of the stated issues. Since MAD believes in the holistic development of the child via education and other medians, (education being our top-most priority), I can assure you that we are doing a decent rather good job towards the removal of such ailments by protecting our kids by means of becoming the ‘safety net’, shielding our children and opening their eyes towards the ill- effects of these rampant social problems .

  • As the President, how does the future of MAD, Dehradun chapter look to you; now that you are almost on the brink of completing your college years and gearing up for the professional world?

The future looks very dark to me. Since Dehradun is an all-out student hub and with the ever-booming education sector here, we see an inflow of so many young adults amongst whom we manage to find ample number of generous and empathetic youngsters who are increasing in number with every passing year, which makes me extremely proud as we faced a lot of difficulties in the initial years during the set-up of the chapter. Look, it’s not about just the Doon chapter. It’s about every city chapter who is united by the thread of MAD. I can share from personal experience (after visiting many Mad chapters and meeting many people associated with their respective chapters) that we looking towards a vivid , promising  and eventful future .Seeing the sheer brilliance and enthusiasm of the new breed of MADSTERS fills me with optimism  .They don’t crib nor shy away from responsibilities .They believe in being the change..Making a difference.

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Vishal, during one of the classes.

  • One city chapter that has managed to leave an impact on not only on you, as a City leader, but also in terms of its social impact?

The chapter of Delhi is the biggest in India and because of its sheer size, faced innumerable problems of varied forms that can fill the pages of a novel in terms of volunteers, management and what not. But seeing the chapter blossoming today inspires me and pushes me to do more and give it more. The sheer brilliance of the management of the MAD, Delhi chapter and the impact they leave on so many children associated with them, casts a motivational lesson for all other chapters.

  • A story /incident that you would like to share with our readers?

We have a girl in our shelter home (RPMV, Dehradun) that is physically challenged (absence of one arm and leg). When she was bought to the shelter home, she did not study or even tried to as she belonged to one of the organised beggary clan/ group who had moulded her little brain to disregard any form of education and filled her with lessons of how education is useless and how one can earn without studying and how she doesn’t need it at all because she was handicapped and no one would accept her in any way. But slowly and gradually, she opened herself to volunteers who would teach her and try to inspire her which overtime changed her psychology impacting her positively as she opened herself to the vistas of opportunities that she was being offered specially by MAD. Mind you, it’s not like we tried to ‘brainwash’ her or grill in her head .But the efforts of the volunteers wherein each one of them tried to slowly enter her life and tried to educate her, be friends to her etc..such steps helped in bringing about the positive impact / required change in her life; which was worth the wait for all of us.

  • How is MAD different than the numerous Non-profit, child welfare organisations existing in India?

I don’t have much idea about other such similar child-welfare organisations but the one thing that separates MAD from the other organisations is OUR VALUES. We hold our values at the highest zenith without which no volunteer/MADSTAR would have been able to impact a child’s life. It is these traits/ values that propel us to make every child connected with us to free him from the dangers that he/she comes with.

  • According to you, how can a person (not associated with MAD) make a difference and bring about a change in an affected child’s life/ the life of a ‘high-at-risk’ child?

For bringing about a change in society by making a difference in a child’s life, one does not have to be a part of an organisation. Just being positive and empathetic towards the needs of the less-privileged will automatically motivate you to do something for the betterment of that person’s life and that is the beginning to make a difference.

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