In March 2017, Wedu invited Rising Stars to participate in a special pilot initiative known as the Wedu Rising Star Special Project. This project challenged Rising Stars to propose a social impact idea involving the construction of a community space. After months of selection, Wedu shortlisted two awardees—Alinery Lalngilneii Lianhlawng and Passang Dema, who will be receiving grants of approximately USD$7,500 for their respective projects. Alinery’s project involves the construction of Mangil’s Library for Blue Mountain Higher Secondary School (BMHSS) in Sangau, India. Passang, together with Rising Star Pratika Pradhan, will be leading the construction of P&P Community Centre in Passang’s village, Wangdi Phodrang, Bhutan.
Alinery: Besides the construction of Mangil’s Library, my project will also include a critical thinking curriculum for students in BMHSS. These classes are meant to foster English communication and problem-solving skills. To ensure long-term sustainability of the library, students will also be trained to run and maintain it. I hope that students will learn important skills through this project and go on to continue learning and developing themselves.
Passang: “Build Community, Cherish Differences, Give Hope.” That is the goal for P&P Community Centre. Open to all, the community centre will provide a communal space where people from different walks of life can congregate. The community centre will serve different purposes throughout the year. From religious to social activities, education to community services, all sorts of events can be accommodated under a single roof.
What is the inspiration behind your project?
Alinery: There was a very personal motivation for me to start this project. Growing up in this underprivileged community, I remembered making spicy-salty water to exchange for writing paper. Notebooks were too expensive for me, and textbooks were completely out of the question. Many students in my community are still using old books passed down to them by their siblings or relatives. These students are struggling to access basic education and without education, they will be trapped in the poverty cycle. Manglis’s Library will provide students with resources that will enhance their education which will hopefully uplift them from poverty.
Passang: I started thinking about the problem of isolation within my community and realized that it was due to a lack of community space. People have to sit outdoors under harsh weather conditions, which discourages them from participating in social gatherings or public events. This has created a vicious cycle of isolation. With P&P Community Centre, I hope to reduce isolation, increase engagement and build social cohesion. The community centre will play a critical role in fostering a bonded community where people can call home.
What do you hope to achieve with your project?
Alinery: Through this project, I want to increase awareness of the vital role that school libraries play in fostering a love for education and inspire other changemakers to undertake the construction of school libraries. In the long term, I hope to create a lasting impact on students of BMHSS. My wish is that these students will grow to become leaders and changemakers, tirelessly working together to uplift their community.
Passang: As the first woman in my community to pursue higher education abroad, I aspire to be a good role model for other young women. On a personal level, I hope that this project will inspire young women to come forward to be leaders within their communities. By leading this project, I am showing my community that women can be leaders and changemakers, encouraging them to support women empowerment and independence.
Do you have any advice for Rising Stars or young women leaders like yourself?
Alinery: Everything you do, do it with perseverance. Everyone faces challenges and the critical tool to overcome these difficulties is perseverance. I would like to encourage all Rising Stars and young women with this age-old saying: “if there is a will, there is a way.” Anyone with the right values and good intentions can be a leader and bring positive change to the world.
Passang: To all Rising Stars, we are lucky to be part of the Wedu family as they have supported us greatly in all our endeavours. I have grown a lot with mentor’s help and I am sure all of you have developed too. To all the young women aspiring to become leaders, I would like to quote Theodore Roosevelt: “Believe you can and you are halfway there.” If you believe you are a leader, then you can be one.