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THE YOUNG FOR THE OLD

Last updated on April 27, 2019

Old people who face poverty and abandonment now have a young champion of their rights: 16-year-old Vivhan Rekhi, a school student

“If you call me in two years, and ask me what I’m doing, I’ll show you. I’ll prove to you that I really do plan on seeing this through,” assures Vivhan Rekhi, 16 years old, currently dealing with an extremely stressful milestone of adolescence: Board exams. However, this is not what seems to be occupying the majority of his thoughts.

Vivhan’s venture to rescue and provide aid to the elderly on the streets is his focus. He talks to Patriot about his initiative, how it came to be, and what his plans for the future are. He comes across determined and confident, and extremely polite.

Having raised surprisingly significant funds for his initiative in a matter of a month, Vivhan didn’t waste any time in setting the wheels in motion.

It started for him in 2017, when he visited the Guru Vishram Vridh Ashram, where his father was engaged in work. This is where the elderly are brought in and treated, following which they are sent to the Garh Mukhteshwar counterpart of the old age home. Vivhan has been volunteering here for a year now.

“Most people see taking care of elders as a chore, but it wasn’t like that for me,” he says. He explains that they deal with poverty and abandonment, and need company aside from the monotony that sets into the lives of these aged men and women. So, he decided that he would take measures to the best of his ability to make conditions for them easier in the old age homes.

Vivhan lives in a joint family, and recalls an incident that really shook him into action. Used to seeing his own grandparents in a home environment, he was not expecting to see what he saw on his way back from a friend’s birthday party. An old couple, frail and shivering, trying to fight with dogs for leftovers on the street.

On doing a little research, he found that the number of old age homes, and the way they are run, is less than ideal. He decided then that he wanted to do something to correct this situation.

Vivhan proceeded to start a crowdfunding campaign on Ketto, where he had set a target amount of Rs 5 lakh. The amount collected however, stands at Rs 11.75 lakh. This money would be used to fund vans equipped with medical supplies that can travel around the city and rescue more distressed senior citizens. These vans would be able to rescue 3,000 people in a decade.

Some of the balance amount is being used to create a medical kit for senior citizens at the old age homes — something he created in partnership with a friend. Medical professionals have been consulted and a prototype has been made. Vivhan expects the circulation to start fairly soon too.

He used social media to popularise his venture and garner more attention. He posted on Instagram, Facebook and Snap-chat, and has received over 300 shares online already. He even made a video, so as to appeal to a larger demographic. He plans on taking up Business Management in college, and it’s fairly clear that he has a knack for it.

Vivhan likes to maintain a personal touch, and visits the old age home once a week during lunch time, to spend time with the senior citizens there. He defends strongly but calmly when asked about how far he wants to see this fledgling project. He informs that he has already been in touch with about 20 NGOs that he wants to collaborate with.

He has started a foundation called the Rescuing Wisdom Foundation. People with missing family members who suspect that their elderly have been picked up by an old age home, get in touch with pictures and details, which are then distributed among this network of NGOs. Not only is he  trying to create a safer and more comfortable atmosphere for struggling sector citizens, but he is also attempting to reunite them with their families, if they are so willing.

“I founded the Drama Club at school,” he says when asked about whether or not he spends any time being an actual teenager. But as it turns out, his acumen for social work has wiggled its way into this domain of his life too. He has been in the process of arranging for Grade 9 students to visit the ashram for five hours over eight days, and perform theatre for those living there, on topics relevant to them and their conditions.

“I’m doing as much as I can now, because I want to make sure that even when I go off to college, and cannot be this directly involved, the whole thing is running smoothly,” explains Vivhan. He has big plans for social work in this regard — rescuing and helping the distressed senior citizens on the streets, and seems to be trailing a blaze to his end goal.