By Christy Lau
Compassionate co-founder of the Aboli Foundation, Saloni More, is dedicated to improving the lives of the impoverished.
“If I don’t do something about this inequality, then who will?”
Age should never deﬁne a person’s ability to accomplish any given goal. Whether that’s becoming a successful entrepreneur in your early 20s, or winning an award for a breakthrough acting role, the sky is really the limit for anyone who has the imagination to think big and the conﬁ dence to go for it.
And no one personiﬁes this more than 18-year-old Saloni More, a recent graduate of KIS International School. In 2016, together with her older sister Saniya, she established the Aboli Foundation as a way to help the underprivileged children of Mahim, a small village 100km north of Mumbai. Although it initially began as a project to raise funds for school supplies, the Aboli Foundation has since expanded its scope to include other programmes targeted at bettering the health and overall welfare of the poverty-stricken youth, gaining NGO status in the process.
In a world where issues like this still slip under the radar, it’s admirable to see someone take action to fulﬁl basic human needs, shining a bright light of hope into the lives of the less fortunate.
Why did you start the Aboli Foundation?
I had always wanted to do something that would beneﬁt the Zilla Parishad (ZP) government-run schools in Mahim. My mother’s side of the family comes from that village and we visit every year. It was a goal I procrastinated on until the IB Middle Years Programme Personal Project, a year-long assignment that all 10th-graders have to complete. I ﬁgured that it was the perfect opportunity to kickstart the Foundation. I knew the deadlines would keep me in line and prevent me from any sort of procrastination — and they did!
What is the story behind the name of the Foundation?
There are two meanings behind the name. Aboli is the name of a ﬂower commonly found in Mahim. It also means ‘unspoken’ in Marathi, the local language. When developing our mission statement for the Foundation, we thought about how a lot of the issues we wanted to help solve weren’t heavily publicised, but that didn’t mean they weren’t present. Thus, we felt Aboli was the perfect name.
After interacting with children from schools in the area, you realised they needed much more than school supplies. What exactly did you feel students were lacking?
These students come from relatively poor backgrounds. Their parents are farm-workers and labourers and the students are inadvertently caught in this cycle of following in their parents’ footsteps because they feel they must. The Aboli Foundation wants to show children that they shouldn’t feel they are restricted to any one profession.
Healthcare is also an important concern. It’s diﬃcult for the Indian government to provide detailed check-ups to all the ZP schools because of the sheer number of them. Furthermore, a lot of families can’t aﬀ ord to take their children to hospitals for treatment. Thus, we hope to supplement the government’s eﬀ orts to ensure that these needs are met, too.
What is the Aboli Foundation doing to tackle these issues?
Every year, the Aboli Foundation takes the third- and fourth-graders on one-day ﬁeld trips to visit the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and the Nehru Planetarium, in an eﬀort to expand the children’s horizons.
With regards to healthcare, the Aboli Foundation organises an annual health camp where two paediatricians and a dentist provide check-ups for about 100 students from three ZP schools. We record their weight, height and general health, and medicine is prescribed and provided if necessary.
What do you think is the best part of your work, and what keeps you going every day?
There are so many wonderful things about my work, I don’t know where to start! I love spending time with the children and getting to know them. I love seeing their smiles and excitement when we play a game or do something new, but it’s also the thought that if I don’t do something about this inequality, then who will? I was privileged enough to have access to all these incredible opportunities—going to school in Bangkok, being able to study abroad. It’s unfair that these children don’t have the same opportunities.
Who is your personal hero and why?
Malala Yousafzai has always been my personal hero. I love how passionate and determined she is about advocating education for all girls. I also love that she hasn’t allowed her youth to come in the way of what she believes in. There have been thousands of obstacles, yet she has always managed to overcome them all. I think she is a truly remarkable young woman and I hope to emulate her spirit.
What university are you interested in attending? Do you hope to still be as involved with Aboli while pursuing your degree?
I will be attending the University of Edinburgh in September to study medicine. I really want to become a doctor because it combines my love for the sciences with my passion to make a diﬀerence in people’s lives. As for continuing my work with Aboli, I will deﬁnitely still be involved, but probably with more of the behind-the-scenes stuﬀ, as I’m not sure how often I will be able to visit India. Thankfully, we do have a growing number of volunteers and I am conﬁdent that they will be able to carry out our projects as planned.
What other activities or campaigns are you planning for the Aboli Foundation in the future?
We want to organise star-gazing camps where students can look at the night sky through a telescope and learn some astronomy. We also want to organise a Plant-A-Tree drive where students will be responsible for planting a seed and looking after it.
Feeling inspired to support Saloni’s cause? Check out www.abolifoundation.org if you’d like to donate or volunteer. Alternatively, you can email Saloni directly at email@example.com.