On a flight back to India, while watching Swades, in which the protagonist was called to move back home and take care of his people, Amitabh felt compelled to check in on his people. The first person he thought of was his nanny. When he visited her many years later, he was taken back by the conditions she lived in. She had become frail, weak, and barely weighed 60 pounds. She was abused by her drunk son, who had complete control over her life. She was fed tobacco for dinner to quell her hunger. Amitabh couldn’t see this happen to the person he grew up with, the person who cared for him when he was sick, and fed him when he was hungry. So he took her to his home and cared for her. However, in a few days he was to fly back to the US. Before he left, he found her a place in an old-age home where she can peacefully live her life. This incident was the beginning of the movement called YUVA Unstoppable.
Then came the first shock for his parents. He decided to postpone his MBA and instead continue working on his non-profit. His parents discouraged him with the “What about the money” argument. Then the marriage argument (“Who will marry you?”) next. In the following weeks, entrepreneurs, family friends, and successful businessmen echoed the same message – do a non-profit later in life, now is the time to earn money! Amitabh didn’t allow them to deter him. He moved forward with his plans to grow Yuva Unstoppable. ‘Yuva’ means youth. Their mission is to maximize the potential of the youngest nation in the world with over 700 Million youth below the age of 35.
Over the next few months, he planned visits with his parents to old age homes, orphanages, and public schools. These trips changed their minds and realized where the true needs are. His parents became his biggest cheerleaders. With that support, Yuva Unstoppable has 400,000 volunteers across India serving 1.1 million kids in 2100 schools with improved and separate hygiene and sanitation facilities for girls and boys, and smart classrooms with tablets, which has boosted learning outcomes by 4 times and attendance by 15%.
Who are the real beneficiaries?
Everyone involved. Not just the kids, but the volunteers, the donors, the management team and the nation in the long run. Amitabh learned most of his greatest lessons from kids. He mentions a boy named Monit, who was aspiring to study towards a degree in electrical engineering. His father earned $3/day, working as an ice cream vendor. He lived in a 12’ x 12’ room with 3 siblings and his parents. When Amitabh visited his house, he observed the ruckus in the room, with Monit’s younger sibling playing in the middle of the room, his mother chopping vegetables in one corner and his older brother watching TV in the other corner. How did he achieve good grades? Monit took Amitabh to his “room” – the one corner not being used. He would face the corner, tune out the ruckus in the room and focus on his books. Today, Monit is a 3rd year electrical engineering student and donates his time to teach 33 kids in his neighborhood. His ability to see the best in every situation made him resilient to achieve his goals. He is unstoppable!!
Another example of unstoppable is Vaishnavi, who in her senior year of high school, her right hand stopped working because of malnourishment. She had two options: either drop out of school or train her left hand. She only had a few short months left till her exams. She trained her left arm by practicing for 10 hours per day. She gave her senior exams and became #1 throughout the state, amongst millions of kids.
What makes us unstoppable?
Amitabh believes what makes someone unstoppable is finding what brings you joy. When you truly enjoy what you are doing, you’ll want to do it all the time. You’ll want more of it. Amitabh enjoys seeing people donate 1 hour of their time per month to teach kids, receiving $5 or $100,000 donation, or when someone listens to make another feel better. That inspired Amitabh to create a platform where people can donate their time to help the disadvantaged.
Additionally, being unstoppable requires immense belief in yourself, in your capabilities, in your vision and mission, certainly when building a movement of this scale. Amitabh has employed several techniques to enhance his self-belief. Much like your biceps or chest muscles, Amitabh views self-belief as a muscle that has to be worked out consistently. He found these techniques to be helpful:
- “I Am” Affirmations have played a huge role in his journey. Yuva Unstoppable created an anthem with ‘I Am’ Affirmations:
“I Am Young.
I Am Productive.
I Am Good Looking.
I Am Dynamic.
I Am Hard Working.
I Am Creative.
I Am Making A Difference.”
This anthem is imbibed in the volunteers by repeating it 5 – 10 times every morning over years and years. Amitabh has noticed how ‘I Am’ affirmations shift the energy and boost self-initiative.
- Another technique that’s helped self-belief is power poses promoted by Dr. Amy Cuddy. Repeating “YES!” with hands up in the air and the emotion of a win successively 10 times rapidly changes how you feel and rejuvenates your energy. (Try this now!) Check your posture. Stand erect, sit erect. These techniques will increase the serotonin in your body and enhance your self-belief.
- Lastly, writing 10 things that you are grateful for every day and feeling it throughout the exercise. This activity programs us to always see the good in every situation. On a bad day, ending it with a note of gratitude, you are not allowing the events of the day to affect your sleep and it provides strength for another day.
To find out how you can support Yuva Unstoppable in their efforts, please visit Yuva Unstoppable. You can donate your time by teaching kids English, Maths, Music, Arts or anything you’re interested in. Feel free to reach out to Amitabh.
On What’s Your Story, I interview South Asians who have an interesting story to share about their life, who have a message they stand for or who are in an unconventional career. My mission is to amplify voices in our community that are making a difference, and share stories that need to be heard by everyone. The topics I have covered are mental health, body shaming, colorism, spiritual evolution, cultural appropriation of yoga, dismantling hinduphobia, women’s abuse, men’s abuse to name a few. You can find out more at Dr. Varun Gandhi’s website.