A small seed, even if it is an initial dissatisfaction or sadness, can grow into much larger dreams and outcomes – a lesson that Pramiti Upadhyay, a 19-year-old student of mechatronics engineering at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) in India, learned three years ago when she started her nonprofit organization, one that has now reached more than 3,000 Indian youth. SOCH, which stands for Samaritans’ Organization for Citizens’ Happiness and also means “thought” in Hindi, seeks to bring motivational and educational programs to some of the poorest children in India.
“I realized that I had so much to offer others during one of the most difficult times in my life,” Upadhyay said. It was in her gap year before going to university that she experienced a bout of depression and began to volunteer as a way to lift her spirits. The joy she found in this volunteering led her to start SOCH, and the effort has grown to involve more than 60 volunteers, many of whom are UPES students, working in two cities.
SOCH’s programs range from literacy initiatives to raising awareness about child labor and mental health to working to reduce dropout rates in government schools. The success of the programs has been profound. Upadhyay knows she is also “giving volunteers a purpose” and showing both them and the children they serve that they can be change agents in their communities, something that she has taken to heart herself.