Announcing the Chennai Youth Challenge Award Recipients

citiesRISE is proud to present the recipients of the first Chennai Youth Challenge Award! Three youth-led initiatives have been selected to receive seed grant funding as well as technical and organizational development support for one year.

The Youth Challenge Award (YCA) Chennai was launched on October 21, 2019 to support emerging young leaders and youth-focused organizations focused on improving mental health for and with young people in Chennai. The call was made for project submissions that were designed and implemented by youth (age 15-35) and that addressed one or more of four areas:

  1. Removing stigma from the narrative around mental health so that it is valued
  2. Increasing access to care and support for everyone
  3. Building social connectedness
  4. Creating environments that support mental health and well-being

The awardees in Chennai were selected from a pool of 20 applications by a diverse and global team of mental health, youth, and community and systems development experts who assessed proposals based on their feasibility for implementation and benefit to young people and the local community. So many original and exciting ideas were presented and after a two month review and deliberation period, grants were awarded to three Chennai-based organizations. In their words:

 Theatre Nisha

Theatre Nisha was established in 2000 with our debut performance of Harold Pinter’s “Ashes to Ashes.” Since the beginning, we have chosen scripts that reflect society in its truest forms and have performed over 100 plays by international playwrights such as Albert Camus, Harold Pinter, Sarah Kane, Simon Stephens, Samuel Beckett, Jean Anouilh, Stephen Berkoff, Jean Genet, Dario Fo, ancient playwrights like Bhasa, Kalidasa, Seneca, Euripides, and modern Indian playwrights like Girish Karnad, Rajiv Naik, Chandrashekara Kambara. We also perform original plays written by the in-house team. We have been invited to perform at several international, national and regional theatre festivals including Bonjour India, Bharat Rang Mahotsav, Sunday to Sunday Theatre Festival, The Hindu Theatre Festival, TIFLI International Festival for Young Audiences. In 2014, we premiered one of our solo performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and have performed in English, Hindi, Tamil and Sanskrit.

We regularly conduct workshops on acting, design, movement and playwriting for students, professional actors and anyone who is interested in the craft and have directed more than 80 plays for schools and colleges. Workshops in colleges will be a key component of our Youth Challenge Award work with citiesRISE.

The Safe Place 

The Safe Place is a Chennai-based community of young people that promotes mental health awareness by catering to people directly through live events and providing educational content about mental health via our social media platforms. The events are a non-judgmental space for people of every gender and sex to express their thoughts, feelings and perspectives on mental health. We carry out our events with a mental health-based agenda and create content in a creative and thoughtful manner so that it is understandable and will resonate with our audience easily.

As part of our work with the Youth Challenge Award and citiesRISE, we plan to expand our awareness campaigns and launch digital tools to connect as many young people as possible. Share with us here: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.

Thrive Foundation

Thrive Foundation is an educational nonprofit based in Chennai. We aim to address the lack of positive, preventive and protective mental health services in low income schools. Through classes in social and emotional skills for students, teacher and parent training workshops, and child-centric policy making at a whole school level, we seek to build psychological resilience in every school community in order to provide children with internal and systemic resources to overcome the multiple psychosocial risk factors they face in their impoverished neighbourhoods. We are a team of three psychologists and educators currently working with 350 children and 16 teachers in both low-income private and government schools. Partnering with citiesRISE and the Youth Challenge Award, we will strengthen our Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) work in schools and look forward to introducing new elements to enhance it.

The History of the Youth Challenge Award

Established in 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya, the Youth Challenge Award is a citiesRISE implementation that provides funding, skills training and leadership capacity building to young people driving change in the mental health landscape where they live. Each Youth Challenge Award begins with a call for project submissions that are designed and implemented by young people and provides an opportunity to accelerate and amplify the impact of youth leaders by giving them the tools and skills to drive change in their communities. Core to the initiative is empowering youth with the resources and support to make their ideas a reality. In practice, this means seed-funding ideas, providing technical support to formalize and operationalize initiatives, and connecting their efforts to other initiatives for scale and sustainability. It also means sustaining a connected network of young people passionate about transforming mental health in their community and globally.

Every YCA applicant becomes part of a global network of youth leaders to enable cross pollination of ideas and best practices, and encourage young people around the world to offer collaborative support to change the narrative in mental health – with concepts driven by them. The YCA is currently operating in: Sacramento, California; Seattle, Washington; Nairobi, Kenya; Bogota, Colombia; and Chennai, India.

Acknowledgements and Gratitude

We would like to express our gratitude and acknowledge SCARF, NalandaWay, The Banyan and SNEHA as collaborating partners in Chennai who helped us reach this point. Our local partners are instrumental to the work of citiesRISE and to the success of the YCA via organizational support as well as technical assistance and skills building.

citiesRISE is a multi-stakeholder initiative that includes many of the world’s leading mental health experts and practitioners working to increase hope, inclusion, and access to care for young people through a network of cities, generously supported by a group of progressive funders including Sutter Health, Pivotal Ventures, Co-Impact, and The Hans Foundation.