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November 2, 2010 > Rohan Chandra wins for his 'big idea'

Rohan Chandra wins for his 'big idea'

Story and Photo by Miriam G. Mazliach

Thinking about his grandmother, who visits frequently from India, Rohan Chandra, a 15-year-old from Fremont, wondered what would happen if she was home alone during an earthquake. "I know we live in a high earthquake prone area. Our community is ethnically diverse with many recent immigrants who may not know the language here, especially senior citizens," said Chandra. "If an earthquake were to happen, my grandmother wouldn't know what to do."

With that beginning seed of an idea, and at the suggestion of the Community Service Director, Kerry Enzensperger, at The Harker School, which he attends, Chandra discovered the right direction to follow. He decided to enter Scholastic's 2nd Annual Clifford the Big Red Dog "Be BIG in Your Community." The contest encourages people to submit their creative ideas on civic engagement programs for a chance to win a community grant to be used towards the winning selections.

For the application process, Chandra had to fill out a questionnaire and answer questions explaining how his BIG idea - personalized earthquake kits for seniors containing safety instructions written in their native language - would help the community.

"I was thinking I would like to give back to the community and that my main idea for a project should include our seniors," added Chandra.

From across the country, over 1,000 project ideas were received by Scholastic from 25,000 applicants of all ages. Response time was relatively short. After submitting his idea at the end of June, Chandra was notified in October that although he wasn't the Grand Prize Winner, he had been selected as one of the First Place winners of this national contest. Chandra stated, "I was really excited to win the $2,500 grant for my BIG idea."

The next step is to speak with staff at generationOn, affiliated with the larger volunteer organization HandsOn Network, which has been assigned by Scholastic to assist the winners in implementing their winning projects.

In the next two months, Chandra needs to formulate short and long-term plans as well as develop a budget, before forwarding it on to Scholastic for final approval, after which time he will receive the $2,500 grant to put his plan into action.

Items being considered for inclusion in the earthquake kits are: water, a flashlight, a first-aid kit, medicine dispenser, and non-perishable foods. Instruction booklets would be created and translated into the various languages widely spoken in the Fremont/Tri-Cities area, such as Spanish, Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Farsi and Tagalog.

Chandra also hopes to get donations of merchandise and added funds for the kits, and to recruit volunteers from the many senior and social service groups in the community to assist with translation services, putting the initial 250 kits together and distribution. With a bit of help and luck, Chandra hopes to be able to complete the kits within the next 6 months or even sooner.

Yet, as busy as he is, Chandra still has time for other pursuits, such as theatre arts, sports, the school jazz band and achieving his Eagle project as part of Boy Scout Troop 125. As an additional honor, he was recently inducted into the National Honor Society.

"When I see my BIG idea coming to life, I imagine a senior-friendly community," says Chandra, "one that is pro-active in supporting our most vulnerable seniors; an intergenerational project being executed; community partners and businesses contributing; and, a village supporting seniors."

If you are interested in donating to the earthquake kits project, Rohan Chandra can be emailed at:

A complete list of all the finalists, and profiles about their BIG ideas, can be found at

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