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Meet Vivek, Pune’s eco-warrior

Vivek Gurav, a software developer, wears multiple hats and is quite eager to add more feathers to his cap as well. In Pune and nearby areas, Vivek has been undertaking clean-up missions, besides adopting a government school, thus changing the lives of many schoolchildren forever. Recently, he took up plogging, removing over 500 kg of plastic from Pune city in the last four weeks.

In a chat with Team Fayz, Vivek narrates his incredible journey from a lower-middle-class family to a social activist who aspires to change society and lives.

I was born in Jaysingpur, a small town, close to Kolhapur. I belong to a family of farmers. My father supported my mother and helped her become a teacher in a primary school. That’s how the transformational journey of a lower-middle-class family from a remote area in Maharashtra began.

My brother and I joined the same school, Chandranarayan Baldewa English School, where our mother worked as a teacher. It was really difficult for my parents to support our education. The school supported free education for us, with my mother selflessly working for the same school for the last 26 years.

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Since the school supported me in my education, I made sure that I topped the result chart every year. The actual struggle started later when it came to choosing the right career. I always wanted to be a techie and had a great passion for recent trends and technologies. Keeping my career aspirations in mind, I chose to be a Computer Engineer and enrolled myself at MIT Academy of Engineering in Alandi, Pune. College life was a rollercoaster journey with all my friends and academics.

Like every other engineer, I had a big dream and passion in my mind and it never allowed me to settle for anything less. A very small but impactful thought played on my mind when I was in Class 4: if a man is a social animal, why is he so selfish? I always felt we owe everything to society we are a part of, be our school, family, country or even mother earth.

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With such a thought in my mind, I had started teaching my school juniors right from when I was in class. Whenever I was free, I helped them in their studies, arts, and even exam preparations. Many of them became my regular study partners for years.

PUNE, THE CITY OF DREAMS

Going to Pune, a city of dreams for youngsters like me from small towns, was a big achievement and I am grateful to Geeta Pariwar, an organisation working in field of Indian Culture and Value-Based Education for supporting me with scholarships for my academic expenses and helping me pursue my engineering degree.

One of the first things I did when I came to Pune was to spot a nearby government school where children from marginalized sections studied. I adopted a government school in Alandi for Smart School Initiative and other development projects for students like Skill Development, Neurobics Training, Health and Value Education including Yoga and Meditation. These activities were conducted for school students for a full semester regularly and proved to be a bigger contribution to transforming the lives of schoolchildren.

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I teamed up with like-minded college mates and co-founded a youth volunteers’ community called ‘Visionary Fighters’. The basic principle the team believed in was “We Rise By Lifting Others”. With more than 50 initiatives covering multiple social issues, the team has been active for the last six years and has continued to grow. Over 1,000 volunteers have been a part of these social campaigns.

The area around my college in Alandi had been battling many major issues for years. Alandi is home to 4 lakh ‘waarkari’ devotees visiting every year for their annual festival, but the town had no facilities to accommodate the huge crowd in government facilities. Open defecation was a huge problem, besides huge garbage getting dumped at public places. My team took this as a challenge to volunteer during the festival to promote hygiene, cleanliness, waste management and use of mobile toilets installed by the state government. We have been successful in reaching out to more than 2.5 lakh people in the last four years and we plan to continue the trend to achieve zero open defecation in Alandi.

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Let me also tell you all that the journey has not been fully rosy.

I have also been through mental stress and depression at times when I was pursuing my engineering. Exam backlogs and poor academic performance during the initial days made me feel lost and I looked for support everywhere. These initiatives made me invest some time in personal growth as well as helped me recover from the trauma I had been going through. I found a way to improve my situation by getting involved in the cultural club of college , focussing on studies and ended up getting the Best Outgoing Student award, improved results and a good placement in an MNC.

I am working as a software developer at Accenture Services Ltd. and life has been different since I have started earning on my own. It’s all about right choices you need to make at right time and then you’re all set to lead a successful personal, social and professional life. To support your own dreams you need to reach a position that can help you achieve them. A long week at work and a weekend dedicated to philanthropy have balanced my life and this has been a huge support to me in my emotional moments as well.

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Plogging in Pune

This year on the occasion of 150th Gandhi Jayanti, I came up with a very unique idea and one-of-its-kind initiative in Pune named: ‘PUNE PLOGGERS’. Plogging , a term which has recently gained wide publicity across world, is a Swedish term “Plockka Up”, meaning jogging and picking litter while jogging. More than 50 volunteers joined this plogging run which was organised in partnership with Ministry Of Sports and Youth Affairs, Government of India under the combined initiative of ‘Swacchata Hi Sewa’ and ‘Fit India Movement’. I believe cleanliness and health go hand in hand and plogging is the best thing an individual can do to achieve fitness and hygiene. I have personally accepted the #30DaysPloggingChallenge and my team is also a part of this daily plogging run we do early morning. We have already been able to collect more than 500 kg of plastic waste in the last four weeks.

I aim to make Pune free of plastic and garbage, of course with the help of public. College youth can join me in my mission and get associated with Pune Ploggers to contribute to the efforts undergoing to Save Mother Earth.

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Current Appointments:

  • Global Youth Ambassador at Theirworld , London
  • Global Peace Ambassador at Global Peace Chain
  • Assistant Country Director at International Youth Society
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Awards and Achievements

  • Indian Youth Award 2019 by Yuva Khel Kud Maha Sangh supported by NITI Aayog
  • REX Global Karmaveer Chakra Award instituted by United Nations and iCONGO
  • I am Xtraordinary Peace Ambassador Medal awarded at Chennai International Youth Forum at Chennai by the Minister Of State, Minister of Health, Ashwini Kumar Chaubey.
  • Represented India as a Youth Delegate at Telangana Jagruthi International Youth Leadership Summit 2018 in Telangana, Hyderabad, India
  • Youth Delegate at India-Korea Youth Dialogue at Korean Cultural Centre, Embassy of Korea in New Delhi
  • Represented India at International Youth Forum on Health, Social Justice, Peace and Sustainable Development Goals organized by Commonwealth Youth Council and Youth for Human rights International and supported by Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.
  • Invited to represent Theirworld at the South Asian Youth Skills and Solutions Forum in Mumbai cohosted by UNICEF South Asia and the Global Business Coalition for Education on 29-30-31 October 2019.
  • Interviewed for ‘Yuvawani’ a segment to support youth-based initiatives by Aakashwani ( All India Radio ) at Pune.

If you wish to contact Vivek Gurav, please do so at:

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