It was the day of the Mumbai cyclone. Thirteen-year-old Avantika Swali , a student at the Bombay International school, was sitting in her bedroom, starring at the rains lashing at her window when her mind wandered to the underprivileged children who didn’t have the kind of protection and safety she had. After spending a few restless hours, Avantika decided to help these kids. “I wanted find a way to protect these children from the harsh Mumbai monsoon and the diseases that are associated with it,” Avantika says. That’s how The Raincoat Project was born. These raincoats, of international quality, are designed by Avantika herself, with no help from adults! “I love art and want to be a Fashion Designer,” she quips.
The raincoats are being distributed across Mumbai among the underprivileged children through the NGO, ACE (All Care for Everyone), which Avantika started when she was seven years old. ACE has collaborated with four other child protection NGOs so that the raincoats reach a lot of children. In Mumbai, around 1800 raincoats have been distributed so far. The children have managed to collect Rs 31 lakhs for 6333 raincoats. And the aim is to reach 10,000 children.
Currently, 21 children are helping out with the campaign. Some are Avantika’s classmates, while others are her friends scattered throughout the city and some are from out of India. These children are actively making sure they help as many needy children as possible by personally making calls to people, explaining their campaign and convincing them to help these children.
One of their youngest participant is 11-year-old Saira Singh. Little Saira has so far managed to raise over 3.5 lakh rupees. Saira was so excited about the project that she didn’t sleep for the first few days. So far, Saira has got around 80 people on board, without any help from her parents. She makes the calls her self, persuades people to make donations and also calls them again to thank them for the same. Not just this, Saira, along with Miraya Dalmia, 11, also designed the outer bag for the raincoat.
Speaking with utmost honesty, Avantika’s classmate Yohan Zubin Dubash (who harbours dreams of becoming a Theatre actor or director) says, “My mom came to me and said, ‘You have to do this project. It’s for helping street kids.’ At that time I felt a bit forced. But then my dad said, ‘You are sharing something with these kids that you have but they don’t and you are in a way making yourself a part of their lives,’ which really motivated me. And the Zoom call we had Mr Ranga of Fuel A Dream, helped me understand a bit more about the project and crowdfunding. Now, I actually like doing this project.”
Sharing her motivation of participating in the campaign, 13-year-old Vidhushi Karnani and Avantika’s classmate says, “The main motive was helping the society in whatever little way I could. One thing that drove me to do my best for this campaign was imagining the children’s faces on receiving the raincoats. Another reason I wanted to be a part of this project was the fact that we as a group of school children had the opportunity to help and impact the lives (in a small way) of other children our age. During the training Zoom call we had before the campaign I learnt that even small funding can make such a large difference and nothing is less.”
Ajinkya Dange, 13, is quite frank like Yohan. He says, “In the past I had never been part of any social work because the goal or the idea never motivated me. But, I found The Raincoat Project interesting and unique. I believed it could be effective in saving lives of street children. These thoughts inspired me to take part in the project.” But, for Mustafa Furniturewala, 13, it was a personal experience that led him to get involved with the project. “Last year, during one of the rainy days, while commuting to school I saw a few kids going to school all drenched. While I had the luxury of transport, they didn’t which made me sad. This memory pushed me to help them.” Adding to this, Vianah Kothari, 13, philosophically says, “I liked the idea that small gestures can make a huge difference.”
One might think children will see their peers and follow suit, but these kids have a mind of their own. And talking to Ariaan Bajaj, 13, brought on this realisation. “After I heard about it, I realised this could be my chance at helping people. Why I felt like doing this project and not others like distributing, food, etc., because the government and many people, organisations are already doing that. This was something different. This was about giving them protection from monsoon.”
Myra Vaid, 13, says “During the lockdown, I became aware of the condition of the slums in Mumbai and the difficulties faced by these children. I wanted to help these children who didn’t have the same privileges and opportunities as I did.” Other kids who are a part of the campaign are Arjun Doshi, 14 (Bombay International School), Arjun Somani, 13 (Bombay International School), Diya Bafna, 10 (B.D. Somani International School), Myra Vaid, 13 (Bombay International School), Mysha Jhaveri, 14 (Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School), Samara Sujan, 13 (The Cathedral and John Connon School), Sanah Shah, 11 (Basis Independant Mclean, USA) Shawn Aga, 14 (Bombay International School), Siddharth Shah, 16 (American School of Bombay), Veer Sumaya, 12 (American School of Dubai), Vishwaroop Chabaria, 16 (Dhirubhai Ambani International School), Yash Asudani, 13 (Bombay International School).
All the children had a very inspiring training session with Ranganath Thota, Founder of Fueladream.com, which has pioneered the school crowdfunding programme. “Students learn and grasp the concept of crowdfunding very quickly. They are then able to unleash its power to make a dramatic impact. It’s wonderful that these 21students have been able to impact 6000 plus street kids. These students will grow up to be changemakers and definitely make the world a better place,” he says. A project by children for children
How you can help: One raincoat costs Rs 500. To make donation you can visit https://www.fueladream.com/