CHANGE leaders do great things, and often that is all we know about them. Here we want to get a different glimpse of the personalities that constitute the development space. Every month we get one leader to answer four questions, not necessarily about their work, but about themselves. This week we catch up with Aditi P. Kaur, President of Mountain Children’s Foundation.

Often neglected by the government, rural mountain communities with dwindling basic resources and lack of economic opportunities struggle to survive – and children face the brunt of it.  Founded in 2002 with the belief that young people can be the agents of change in their communities, MCF empower children through knowledge and training so they can address local issues and take collective action.

Aditi (pictured above, fourth from left) strongly believes it is important to involve children in issues that affect them directly or indirectly and it is through tapping their energy and idealism that new ideas and methods can be formed to improve the quality of life of these mountain communities.

MCF started with 300 children. Today they have directly impacted to around  5,000 young people and about 31,000 adults.

Small Change: Why does this cause matter to you? Why now in particular?

Aditi Kaur: Working with mountain children has always been important for me. I have lived in the mountains all my life and have seen the reluctance of the children to come forward and speak, their drive and intelligence hidden by the verticality of their mountains.

Also, the remote communities have started forgetting their strengths as a collective and started depending more and more on a government that never reaches them. To change this we decided to focus on the children to help them transform their own lives along with their communities.

The children have proved that true, outward-focused citizenship is possible, that they can change their communities from inside out, that they are amazing, inspiring leaders and can defy the gender bias that is a part of their life, and that their parents and communities respect and listen to them.

Now is important because we are slowly evolving into a world that does not respect or trust the other, does not believe in the power of collective action for positive change. We must stop this before the rot becomes permanent and before we lose another generation to apathy and helplessness. The children have shown the way – they are not motivated by self-interest but work instead for a greater good.

SC: What’s the book or film you would recommend to someone so they can better understand your cause?

AK: What comes to mind immediately are videos of the high school children in Florida US who peacefully protested for gun control. And the films that I would recommend are Nil Battey Sannata, Stanley Ka Dabba and Chak De India!

SC: Name one thing you are really bad at.

AK: Driving a car in traffic!

SC: You have been forced to eat only four things for the rest of your life. Which four items would you choose?

AK: Lots of fruit – fresh and yummy, curd, coconut water and sea fish.

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