How these young Global Indian achievers made their mark in 2020

How these young Global Indian achievers made their mark in 2020

The year 2020 may have been dominated by the pandemic and lockdown after lockdown but amid the crisis there are always some beacons of light.

In this special feature, ‘iGlobal’ reflects on some of the high-achieving young Global Indians who went above and beyond to make a mark on the world during the course of a year that was largely under siege by an invisible enemy.

Gitanjali Rao

This 15-year-old Indian American from Colorado became the first to earn the title of Time Magazine’s “2020 Kid of the Year”.

The teen scientist was recognised for her outstanding and ground-breaking work, as both an innovator and scientist, using technology to tackle issues as varied as contaminated water to cyber bulling and opioid addiction.

Selected from more than 5,000 nominees for the title, she was chosen as she “stood out for creating a global community of young innovators and inspiring them to pursue their goals,” the ‘Time’ magazine noted.

In an interview with actor-activist Angelina Jolie, she said: “I was always someone who wanted to put a smile on someone’s face. That was my everyday goal, just to make someone happy. And it soon turned into, How can we bring positivity and community to the place we live?

“And then when I was in second or third grade, I started thinking about how can we use science and technology to create social change.”

Dhillon Manku

Six-year-old Dhillon Manku raised a staggering £19,000 for a new incubator for the hospital that saved his life.

Born prematurely at Kingston Hospital in London in 2013, Dhillon got to know of the lifesaving care he received in the Neonatal Unit (NNU) of the hospital when he was a little older. The Liverpool FC fan still had £5,000 of his target figure to go when the coronavirus lockdown struck back in March.

Determined to not give up and attracted by the colourful designs of Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing online retailers, the inspiring youngster aimed an Instagram video directly at their founders – the Kamani family – where he detailed his idea to make slime and sell it.

Aisha Kamani, one of the owners, messaged Dhillon his efforts and also to say how much they loved his presentation. It resulted in the family donating the remainder of the funds he needed for the incubator.

His dedication and kind act of humanity was rewarded by ‘iGlobal’ as he became the first Global Indian to be honoured with the Community Champion of the Year Award.

Ishwar Sharma

Ten-year-old UK-based Yoga prodigy Ishwar Sharma took the trophy home after winning the UK edition of the ‘My Life My Yoga’ video blog contest launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Organised by the Indian Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) and Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), the “My Life, My Yoga” contest was open to participants from across the world and conducted across different categories including professional, adult (18+ years) and youth (under 18).

The three-time world champion facilitated free online yoga sessions in March when Covid-19 lockdown rules came into force. Children, including those with special needs, joined in from as far as India, the US and Australia.

“I am proud of myself on winning the award, but I am more interested in the number of people who are inspired by me when I win,” says the young Yoga guru.

Jajini Varghese

British Indian cancer specialist and surgeon, Dr Jajini Varghese, was named ‘Outstanding Young Person of the World 2020’ by non-profit NGO Junior Chamber International (JCI) for her incredible scientific contributions to diagnosing and treating breast cancer.

The Consultant in Oncoplastic Breast Surgery at Royal Free Hospital and University College London was lauded in the ‘Medical Innovation’ category for making it her personal mission to attempt to restore the lives of millions of women affected by breast cancer.

Dr Varghese, 39, is one of 10 nominations from the UK for the international award which honours outstanding young people under the age of 40 every year from across 110 countries for extraordinary accomplishments in various fields.

“I am only an ordinary individual with an extraordinary urge to succeed and to alleviate suffering. I count excellence as the eventual result of a continual striving to do better. I count myself fortunate to be healthy, to love what I do and to be able to help others,” she says.

Rekesh Chauhan

A world-renowned pianist, an accomplished artist and an inspiring TEDx speaker, British Indian Rekesh Chauhan throughout the Covid-19 lockdown has been using art as a medium to help those who are vulnerable during these tumultuous times.

In collaboration with the British Asian Trust, Rekesh produced a touching musical and dance production titled ‘Neelam’s Story’, to help raise awareness on mental health within the British Indian community.

Released on World Mental Health Day (October 10), and directed by Sima Gonsai, the video features dancer and NHS frontline worker Shree Savani, Saylee Talwaker, a classical vocalist and Daniel Alexander, an award-winning cinematographer.

“There's not a lack of talent, there's a lack of push, education and network within the British Indian community,” he says.

Chandrabali Datta

“We Indians are rocking the world and ‘iGlobal’ is a great platform that connects us Global Indians,” said Chandrabali Datta after she was named the iGlobal Science & Tech Champion of the Year.

Datta, 34, is a Quality Assurance Manager at the Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility at the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute, behind the fast-track trials of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 – a vaccine nearing regulatory approval to protect against coronavirus. The young scientist, who was born and grew up in Kolkata before moving to the UK to complete her Masters in Biotech at the University of Leeds, was the Global Indian drive behind a large team of experts working on the world's most important healthcare mission this year and hopes for other young girls to consider the excitement of a career in bioscience.

*For many more such inspiring young Global Indians covered by ‘iGlobal’ during the course of the year, click here

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