I’m Anav Mehta, an 8th grader at Hyde Middle School in Cupertino, California. My family runs a charity called Grameen Pragati for which we raise funds by running marathons to fund projects. Grameen Pragati was founded in 2011 in San Jose, California by my parents Reena and Huzefa Mehta. The goal of this organization is to support people in need. Our way is through providing lights, lanterns and water filtration systems which are run on solar energy.

Installing Water Filteration System

In the middle of the rainy, hot summer of 2017, my brother and I went to India to help out at a village called Chinchani in the state of Maharashtra, (where my grandmother grew up in) along with my aunt. During the seven day visit, we made multiple trips to the village from the city of Dhanu, Maharashtra. We took a group taxi and train as transportation. Visiting the school village was interesting as we saw kids playing games and running around. I felt glad when I saw the children having fun even though they remained in need of so much.  I found out that, thanks to an energy shortfall, power cuts in schools and villages are common during the summer months. This shortage hits school children the hardest as it disrupts their study schedule. So this year Grameen Pragati undertook projects of installing hybrid Solar Tube Lights and a Solar filtration filter at Ranchet Ashramshala, a boarding school of about 750 boys and girls located near our village The projects comprised of 7W DC LED in each of the 8 rooms for the girls and boys; 14 feet tube light in the common area; 18 W tube light in the kitchen with 12 hour backup and a Solar Water Drinking Plant. 

Installed Lights in Girls sleeping area

We also went to an Adivasi village school situated at Sagdevpada, Dhabhon, in Thane, Maharashtra. We chose this school due to our deep family roots in the region. The school was in a much poorer and smaller village without any electricity. With the help of the school Chairman, Shri Rajnikant Shroff, and the teachers the needs of the students were identified. After a bumpy ride on a non-paved road, we arrived to a small welcome ceremony and then gave Solar Lanterns to students who had come with their parents. The Solar lanterns were for students to utilize for studies during the night and to stay safe. The kids in this village have barely any time to study before it gets dark as they also have to do housework. I saw kids washing their own clothes by hand unlike, here in Cupertino, where we have electric machines washing our clothes. I also saw some  kids cooking their food on fire, unlike here where we use gas and electricity to cook.

Also, not being able to see at night can be hazardous. Villagers sometimes get lost or injured by snake bites as they venture out at night without any light. I thought that even though I can’t give them what I have, I can help them improve their lives a little bit through the solar lanterns..

Last day of the project

After we returned to the United States, my aunt received this feedback from the Ranshet school: “Since last Saturday there is absolutely no light at the Ashram Shala and the Grameen Pragati Solar Lights have helped the kids and students feel secure, especially girls and helped them to have dinner instead of being in complete darkness or just with candles!”

Most of the money collected for these projects was by running half marathons, full marathons, and ultramarathons. For this project, my family ran the Sacramento full marathon and five half marathons! The trip made me feel grateful for what I have in my life because I know there are people out in the world that don’t have enough.