Founder stories - Giving for Good Foundation

Small-Town Roots, Big-Time Impact: How a Near-Death Experience Transformed Sandy Khanda’s Life!

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Things would be different if I hadn’t experienced the worst in life. My second life gave me the perspective I didn’t realize I needed, and I am grateful for it.  

I belong to a small village, Khanda, in Haryana, where I spent most of my childhood. My father was a farmer, while my mother was a homemaker. After I completed my primary education, my family moved to Delhi so I could pursue a better education. 

Growing up, there were many things that I noticed happening around me that struck me as wrong. Coming from a rural region, I noticed a huge gap in the sex ratio and an even bigger gap between the rights of the genders. Women had much fewer rights than men and were given little to no power to take decisions in their own lives. These disparities started bothering me as I grew up, and I wanted them to change. 

When I moved to Delhi to pursue my engineering degree, I thought the city would be different. It was different, but here I was introduced to a whole new world of problems which I did not know about. The environment was the biggest concern in urban settings due to the ignorance towards environmental conservation. Hundreds of trees were cut down in the name of development, and poverty not seeing its end. The situation required urgent attention. 

The life-changing catastrophe 

I started volunteering with an institution working for education, where I understood the issues deeply. People had little to no knowledge about the Right to Education policies, which was one of the major reasons for illiteracy in most regions. Since I was also a college student at that time, I would often juggle between studies and social work. So, my schedule was 5 days in college, and 2 days in the slums teaching kids the entire day.  

After I graduated from college, I continued working with the NGO along with my job, and everything was going well until I got into a road accident. The accident was severe enough to put me in the ICU for 6 months straight. I underwent over 16 surgeries, and the time was physically and mentally challenging for me and my family. When my weight dropped to 25 kg, my family knew I wouldn’t make it. Miraculously, after half a year of battling, I was finally out of the blues of the hospital.  

I had bounced back from something fatal and was given a brand-new life. It was my second chance in life, and I was determined not to waste it. I made the decision to quit my job and dedicate my entire life to the service of others, doing what I loved for the most part of my life.

The Green Pencil Foundation

I founded the Green Pencil Foundation in 2019 with the aim of attending to the backlogs of society. We started off with initiatives concerning education, mental health, climate change, and menstrual health. In the year of the launch, we were awarded the Environment Noble Award by the Bulland Welfare Society and Municipal Corporation of Gurugram for our work towards environmental preservation. This award was all the motivation I needed to keep moving forward. 

In 2020, when we were all confined to our own homes, we started a home tree plantation drive under our campaign ‘One Home, One Tree’. The idea was to be able to take a step towards the environment even when the world was put on pause. The campaign reached a huge number of people, and we received an amazing response where over 10,000 plants were planted by people across India. This was a huge success for us and for the people who took the small but crucial step against climate change. We also celebrated World Environment Day 2020 by organizing a plantation drive in Mewat. 

Our most significant initiatives encompass the ‘Slum to School’ initiative, where we help the kids in the slums get admission into one of our integrated government schools, where they receive proper education along with free uniforms, books, and midday meals. Living in slums, the kids have no experience of a conventional classroom, which might lead to trouble settling into the school. Hence, to better familiarize the kids with the environment of a classroom, we visit the slums and provide the kids with soft skills, preparing them to tackle the new environment better.

Our ‘Slum to School' initiative isn’t just limited to the cities of India but has also spread its wings in Indonesia. Our team teaches the kids in various Indonesian slums to provide them with better access to education and a secure future.

Another major initiative is the ’Period Pride’ campaign, where we visit remote villages and conduct menstrual health awareness camps and educate young girls and women while also distributing pads. Since our inception, we have managed to impact over 10,000 girls across 25 cities in India.  

Our prominent climate change initiatives include beach cleaning drives spread across the year and cycling drives, which promote the usage of cycles to better protect the environment. The Green Pencil Foundation’s team in Manipur recently conducted a ‘Light Up Cycles’ initiative, where 15 cyclists rode for the cause.

Through these years, we have faced many setbacks where people initially did not believe us and our causes. But we persevered. Today, we are functional in over 25 cities in India and in Indonesia. It makes me proud to be a farmer’s son from a remote village, able to impact thousands of lives. We have been honoured for our work through awards and features in various newspapers. But the most valuable reward remains the smiles we can spread and the lives we can change! 

Exclusively written for Giving for Good Foundation by Bhairavi Hiremath

Bhairavi Hiremath

Bhairavi Hiremath

With words as her medium and a diary full of scribbled ideas, she is usually found looking for ways to use her writing to impact for Good. If she’s out of sight, she’s probably either reading, petting cats, jamming to retro Bollywood, or of course, writing!

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