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Das Kahaniyaan – 10 – A Catalyst of Change – Ayush Sarda

The Sundarbans, a 4,000-square-mile swampland that straddles the India-Bangladesh border, are thought to be the world’s largest continuous mangrove forest. There are about 102 islands in the area, which is connected by a complex network of waterways, often suffering from massive cyclones. As the first wave of the Coronavirus outbreak hit, and the world stood still, the magnitude of destruction caused by the Cyclone Amphan was unprecedented, Empathetic to the adversity and determined to actively bring positive change and work on the rehabilitation of the Sunderbans – Ayush Sarda, a 22-year-old, began collecting funds to build and repair 1200 homes in the Sunderban with his Nonprofit, Ek Packet Umeed. In our conversation with Ayush, we talked to him about his journey at starting a successful student-run social enterprise, his insights on the communities he worked with, and the story of his growth. 

Ayush’s interest in volunteering and non-profit work began in high school when he and his classmates from school gathered relief supplies to deliver to Nepal earthquake victims in 2015.

Ayush chose to leverage the area’s traditional economic stream (Bali village) by launching an organic honey brand through which residents could sell hibiscus honey. Because of its high pollen concentration, the flower grows abundantly in the area and is a favourite of the bees. “The honey is organic and completely cruelty-free. Most big companies need more honey than the hive can produce so they extract the entire honey and leave nothing for the bees. In the process, they end up killing the bees. The villagers give enough time for the bees to leave the comb before gathering the honey.” He observes. This was thus, the beginning of Ek Packet Umeed. 

“We undertake a lot of activities as part of the NGO, and did not want Sweetness of Ethics to get lost in that,” he says. 70 percent of the proceeds from the sales go back into the community while the remaining 30 percent is used to sustain the brand. 

The charity assists widows of fishermen murdered by tigers by training them, educating their children, and providing medical assistance, including free eye exams and the delivery of spectacles to those who require them. 

“We have created a scenario where both men and women are earning and children are getting an education. Today, the average income of the villagers in Bali village has increased from Rs 2,500 to Rs 10,000,” Ayush remarks.

A firm believer of the power of student-run initiative, he talks about his journey as a catalyst of change, inspiring young people to explore the social enterprise space, and furthering causes they care about. 

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