Brainfeed in conversation with Alice Sharma, 22 YO from New Delhi, a young founder and CEO of an NGO and youngest Indian writer to write and publish four books in a day
Please brief us about your journey as an author to wearing the crown of “100 Leading Ladies of India”
I come from a background of legal tribe, so leaving behind the predestined tribe and struggling into a field that is already predominated by the leading writers, wasn’t an easy decision at all. But great things don’t come easy. I had my battles. From representing India twice to bringing the National Literary Award “100 Inspiring authors of India” home to being India’s youngest writer and publish four books in a day, I made the tables around for me.
What led to establishment of Vastra Aur Zindagiyan Foundation?
Well, the idea behind Vastra Aur Zindagiyan is to “Make lives less vulnerable and more bearable.”
I am one of the survivors in the unfortunate Uttrakhand tragedy that took place in 2013. I was stuck for 7 nights in a small ravaged room, that was a roof to 17 other people. We were on the third floor of our hotel, the ground floor and the first floor were completely submerged in water. With no access to washrooms, food or even water, I’ve seen buildings collapsing into dust, I’ve seen people weeping over the dead bodies, I’ve seen people abandoning the bodies of their loved ones because they had to save their own lives.
I was lucky enough to survive. When you are exposed to situations that show you the very end of life, you transform. You learn gratitude. You learn how to go out of your way to help people.
When you are exposed to situations that show you the very end of life, you transform. You learn gratitude. You learn how to go out of your way to help people.
Headquartered in Delhi, VAZ aims to uplift the unprivileged sections and provide them with clothes, sanitation facilities & education. We at VAZ are currently working in various segments that deal with diverse fronts. A segment of our organization works entirely at the educational front of the unprivileged children living in the unimaginably vulnerable circumstances, while the other segment works towards providing meals, clothes and sanitation products to the people residing in the bpl areas. We compile the data of various unprivileged sections and areas, and organise monthly events accordingly.
The success of any organization is entirely driven by its core team. I’ve been extremely blessed to be surrounded with people who come from various backgrounds, with diverse mindsets and dynamics yet working on the same mission – to make lives less vulnerable. The only thing that makes VAZ a success is the team that is backing it up at every step.
Tell us about your exposure and experience with the reality of the underprivileged. How does Vastra reach out to them?
There’s a massive difference between the reality and perception. There’s an entire stigma attached with the people living on the roadsides, abandoned areas and slums. We at VAZ aim to break through those perceptions and portray things for what they really are.
Vastra Aur Zindagiyan, is directly involved with meeting the needs of the children, i.e. providing them with clothes and food. We provide them with the study material and help them strengthen their leadership potential. We conduct workshops in the unprivileged areas where we help them realise their passion and reach full potential.
Our primary focus from March has been to provide aid to the people who have been the most affected due to the COVID-19 crisis. Till this month, we have successfully fed over five thousand helpless people, provided them with meals, ration kits, sanitation products, masks and clothes
Who inspired you to commit to social work?
I’ve seen life at the ending edge. When you the ending edge of life, you learn compassion. When you see people suffering and dying, you learn to go out of your way to take people out of their miseries.
What were the primary challenges of running an NGO?
The most important part of any organization is a team. For successful working of an organization, you have to build a strong team strong. This was my main challenge because all it takes to build an organization is an idea, but what takes it ahead is a team that relates to your mission. It took me over eight months to build the right team and settle down.
Another challenge that we faced as a team was how to get ourselves associated with the other NGOs. It took us a complete year of endless efforts and on-field work to build a name in the social sector. We entered into the sector as a youth oriented organization that had passion and was looking for opportunities. Today, we’re working with the leading NGOs and with projects that help us liberate thousands of lives each month.
You are India’s youngest writer to write four books in a day. That must be a life-changing experience?
The feeling of being the only one in a country of over 135 crores to do one specific thing is a matter of honour and pride. I just followed my gut. I failed at it three times. There’s a thing about dreams that are wild and unsettling, they give you an unmatchable boost.
As an author and social worker, what would be your message to our young readers?
“Go with your gut.” Is something that I say to myself each time things get difficult. I could navigate my way from being nothing to something, because I chose to go with my gut. I dropped out from a safe and secure future to navigate my way to something that was meant for me. I stopped being a commercial writer, to go for the India Book of Records. I turned down the offers from the biggest publishing houses, because my terms weren’t met. Most importantly, help people around you in whatever way you can. Being humans, we’re entitled to life each other up.