Tarini Malhotra: Building Supportive Environments for Neurodiverse Individuals

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In the bustling heart of New Delhi, where stories of success and struggle intertwine daily, emerges a tale that resonates with the spirit of empathy and change. Meet Tarini Malhotra, a young woman whose remarkable journey has taken her from the corridors of academic excellence to the forefront of a national award-winning social start-up, the Nai Subah Foundation. Through her vision and dedication, Tarini is transforming the lives of neurodiverse individuals and redefining the concept of inclusion.

Tarini’s Journey

Tarini Malhotra hails from a Delhi-based family, born to parents who instilled in her a deep sense of sensitivity and social responsibility. Her upbringing in a culture that fostered inclusion was further enriched by her education at The Shri Ram School, where she is currently in Grade 12. Academically inclined and a school topper, Tarini’s creative spirit shines through her pursuits in visual art, Odissi dance, and writing. She has garnered numerous international and national awards for her remarkable talent.

In October 2020, amidst the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tarini’s father received a distress call from an NGO running a school for the neurodiverse in New Delhi. Like many others, the NGO faced a severe financial crisis as all sources of funding dried up during the pandemic. Tarini saw an opportunity to make a difference, and her journey as a changemaker began. She initiated a fundraising effort for the Parivartan Special School, which helped the NGO weather the financial storm and laid the foundation for her social startup, Nai Subah Foundation. The first initiative under NSF, known as Project Nishant, was born.

But Tarini is not just about accolades and achievements; she is a next-generation changemaker with a heart committed to making a difference. In June 2023, she was honoured with The Diana Award (considered one of the most prestigious accolades a young person aged 9-25 years can receive for social or humanitarian actions, the award is established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales),for her outstanding work with the Nai Subah Foundation (NSF), her social startup. She also represented India at the global Emerging Visionaries Summit in New Jersey, USA, after winning the Pramerica Emerging Visionaries National Award in April 2023.

Her former school principal, Manisha Malhotra, aptly described her as someone who explores every avenue when she sets her mind to a task. Tarini possesses strong leadership skills but is equally comfortable letting others take the limelight, showcasing her humility and collaborative spirit. At just 17 years old, her uncommon journey has taught her resilience and determination, qualities that will undoubtedly shape her as a lifelong changemaker.

Genesis

In October 2020, amidst the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tarini’s father received a distress call from an NGO running a school for the neurodiverse in New Delhi. Like many others, the NGO faced a severe financial crisis as all sources of funding dried up during the pandemic. Tarini saw an opportunity to make a difference, and her journey as a changemaker began. She initiated a fundraising effort for the Parivartan Special School, which helped the NGO weather the financial storm and laid the foundation for her social startup, Nai Subah Foundation. The first initiative under NSF, known as Project Nishant, was born.

Project Nishant, located in New Delhi, is dedicated to supporting the neurodiverse community. It has achieved remarkable success in creating awareness, generating employment opportunities, raising funds, developing innovative models, and strengthening the neurodiverse ecosystem. Tarini and her team at NSF work tirelessly in an underserved domain, ensuring quality work and building effective partnerships with the social sector and corporations.

Vision

Nai Subah Foundation envisions a sustainable, diverse, and inclusive society. Beyond Project Nishant, NSF is a broader-purpose NGO supported by like-minded young individuals who share the dream of ushering in a ‘Nai Subah,’ a new morning, for marginalised communities.

The Foundation’s work spans diversity and inclusion for the neurodiverse, income generation for marginalised populations, artistic and creative projects, and fundraising for organisations dedicated to worthy causes. Based in New Delhi, NSF’s initiatives touch the lives of those who need it most.

The individuals benefiting from NSF’s work and their families are overflowing with gratitude. The impact of small steps is reverberating throughout the community, gradually creating sustainable change in society.

Funding and Collaborations

NSF’s journey has been made possible through collaboration and support. The Foundation actively engages with the corporate sector and is exploring crowdfunding avenues to raise funds. To date, it has raised nearly Rs 20 Lakhs for its cause, generated income for over 50 neurodiverse individuals, and formed strong partnerships with six NGOs and 35 companies. Their reach extends to more than five lakh people through social media, and they have created income opportunities for 21 neurodiverse artists through exhibitions.

Packaging Panthers: A Unique Initiative

In its pursuit of meaningful employment for the neurodiverse, NSF introduced “Packaging Panthers.” Partnering with Anandkand Paramount Products, NSF outsourced production and packing work to the Shaurya Foundation Trust (SFT), offering employment and life skills training to neurodiverse individuals.

This groundbreaking initiative is known as an assisted-employment programme. Instead of requiring employees to go to a workplace, the workplace comes to them. The project is situated in SFT’s residential site in Palwal, Haryana, where neurodiverse young adults live. A production and packaging line was established, complete with training in filling and packing work. SFT provides essential resources, skill training, and daily monitoring support, ensuring the project’s success.

Remarkably, the neurodiverse workforce excelled in their roles, outperforming neurotypical individuals. They take pride in their work, with some even becoming supervisors. The income they generate has transformed their lives, making them more confident, capable, and focused on self-improvement.

Feedback and Gratitude

The individuals benefiting from NSF’s work and their families are overflowing with gratitude. The impact of small steps is reverberating throughout the community, gradually creating sustainable change in society.

Advaita: Celebrating Neurodiverse Artistry

Recognising the remarkable creativity of neurodiverse individuals, NSF launched Advaita. This platform showcases the breathtaking artistry of young neurodiverse artists through art exhibitions. The initiative propels these talented individuals toward self-reliance and raises awareness about the project.

 

In December 2021, a virtual art exhibition featuring art by young neurodiverse artists garnered immense support, with nearly 50 artworks sold in just a few days. Emboldened by this success, NSF organised Advaita in January 2023, showcasing over 90 paintings, digital art, and photographs in New Delhi’s Art Sastra art gallery during a sell-out event. The resounding success of Advaita has prompted NSF to make it an annual event, with plans for the next edition in April 2024, after Tarini’s Grade 12 Board Exams.

As we reflect on Tarini’s remarkable journey and the transformative work of the Nai Subah Foundation, we are reminded that true change begins with individuals who possess the compassion, vision, and determination to make a difference. Tarini is one such individual and her story is a testament to the power of empathy and action in shaping a brighter, more inclusive future for all.

Sustaining and Advancing the Work

Tarini’s mission through the Nai Subah Foundation is to destigmatise disability. Today, candidates are securing good jobs in multinational corporations, and a pipeline of opportunities is continuously evolving. While some progress has been made, there is much to be done to ensure full support for neurodiverse individuals in the workplace.

NSF is also pioneering neurodiverse entrepreneurship, assisting young neurodiverse photographers in turning their skills into business ventures. Additionally, they are working on a new art project that promises year-round business opportunities for more than 50 neurodiverse artists.

Expanding Horizons

While many would think of expanding to other States and regions, Tarini would like to focus on deepening the Foundations’s impact in Delhi-NCR. She plans to establish a significant project in Gurugram, employing over 50 neurodiverse talents in an enabling environment. She also plans to provide scholarships for deserving neurodiverse candidates from marginalised sections of society shortly, alongside providing seed capital for at least one microentrepreneur annually.

Tarini’s Message

Tarini leaves us with a powerful message: “Diversity and Inclusion may be topical issues, but there is little progress in India in terms of employment for the neurodiverse. Tackling this problem is of utmost importance. By strengthening the abilities and opportunities available to the neurodiverse, we will end up empowering our community and indeed the country.”

She emphasises the need for governments, corporations, and the social sector to collaborate in creating a sustainable, diverse, and inclusive society. In this grand endeavour, social startups like NSF, working at the grassroots level, play a vital role in unlocking exponential possibilities for the neurodiverse. 

As we reflect on Tarini’s remarkable journey and the transformative work of the Nai Subah Foundation, we are reminded that true change begins with individuals who possess the compassion, vision, and determination to make a difference. Tarini is one such individual and her story is a testament to the power of empathy and action in shaping a brighter, more inclusive future for all.