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Dreams beyond the finish line
Aashna Kaul, will run to support children’s education
Last Updated : 27 Nov 2011 10:32:42 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Fourteen-year-old Aashna Kaul is putting Facebook to good use. She is reaching out to
her friends and family through the social network with a simple appeal to help her raise money for a
cause she strongly believes in: educating underprivileged children.
A visit to a neighbourhood school with her mom made her realise that there were several children who
were not as lucky as she was. It instilled in her a desire to do something for them. When she heard
her parents discussing her father’s participation in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon as a Dream Maker,
she decided she wanted to be one too. Her father Ajay Kaul is CEO of Jubilant Foodworks Ltd. Dream
Makers are those who are running to raise a minimum of Rs 1.5 lakh for the cause they support.
Aashna, newly annointed Dream Maker, is still collecting cheques. She has collected `2 lakh so far.
She says that the visit to the school for the underpriviledged, and her own subsequent fundraising
effort, has made her a better person. The student of Lotus Valley International School, Noida, says
she values her own studies a lot more now, and puts more effort in her school work. Her grades have
improved and she is seriously considering a career in social work. “I’ve stopped taking things for
granted. I appreciate my own family and their support a lot more,” she says. “I really want to do
volunteer work regularly now, preferably at a school,” she adds earnestly.
Salma and Deepak Udayan are a little different from Aashna. These 17-year-old Dream Makers grew
up in the NGO-run Udayan Ghars of Mehrauli and Gurgaon, and have always wanted to give back to
the organisation that gave them a home and family. Their Udayan Care family has given them a good
education, and they now aspire for well-paying careers. Salma wants to be a visual merchandiser and
will pursue applied arts in college. Deepak wants to be a MBA and a chartered accountant after
college. They will run as Dream Makers for the first time this year. So far, they have collected `3.3
lakh, but target `5 lakh each.
Salma is a student of Bloom Public School, and enjoys participating in all kinds of extra-curricular
activities. She realised early on that fluency in English would help her to a better career. She began in
a Hindi-medium school, but aspired to join an English-medium one to improve her language skills.
She is now in Class XI, a student of humanities in an English-medium school. She heard about the
marathon from her ‘mentor mother’ Anisha, and agreed to participate.
“I love to do all kinds of things. I’ve always grabbed every opportunity that came my way. For this run,
I went to other classes in my school to spread the message. I also got in touch with friends in the US
for contribution,” she says, explaining how she collected the money. She was invited to attend a
women’s conference in California in 2010 as the keynote speaker for the session: ‘Because I am a
girl’. She spoke about her difficult early years growing up in India, especially as a girl, and the
importance on investing in girls to end poverty. She wants to raise money for her siblings at Udayan
Care and says she’ll keep coming back to there to help, even after she moves out.
Deepak came to Udayan, Gurgaon, as a nine-year-old. He had run away from his home in Bihar and
worked in a Delhi tea stall. Someone from a computer training centre nearby contacted Udayan Care,
and he was taken to the home in Gurgaon where he began life afresh. He has strong ties with the
home and feels especially close to two younger boys there. “When I have my own house, I’ll get my
younger brothers to stay with me,” he says. Salma is one of Deepak’s close friends, and introduced
him to the marathon. Initially, he faced difficulty when some friends at school did not take him
seriously or offer to contribute. He turned to foreign volunteers who had stayed at his home earlier.
Some of them have sent money to him.