initiative to help - add life to years
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Senior Citizen Awards by CNN-IBN Tribute to india's ageless achievers


In a first-of-a-kind initiative, CNN-IBN, in partnership with Paranjape Schemes Construction Limited, honoured 12 unsung senior citizens of India at the Senior Citizen Awards – The Unstoppables. At a glittering awards ceremony held at Taj Land's End Hotel in Mumbai on 2nd December 2013, Chief Guest Amitabh Bachchan felicitated the winners for their brave and inspirational endeavours. It is an effort to recognize individuals who have demonstrated how to live to the fullest regardless of age. The series culminates in to a ground event – where the best ones are felicitated / awarded. These special awardees, well past their retirement age, have been working tirelessly to improve the lives of people around them, thereby making themselves valuable partners in India's progress.

The recipients of this award were as follows:

Keepu Tsering Lepcha: With just 45,000 Lepchas left in Sikkim, Keepu Lepcha has taken it upon herself to save her community from extinction. The Lepcha Cottage is home to almost 75 orphaned and semi orphaned Lepcha children. Here every child is getting a shot to good education and a better life. What Miss Keepu gets in return is the undying love of these children who call her Nikun or grandmother.

Girish Bhardwaj: Girish is fondly called the Bridge Man in this town near the coastal city of Mangalore. For him, it is a social movement to connect the people and their spirit, bridging a bond. Girish, a mechanical engineer, is perhaps the only person in the country to build low-cost hanging bridges across the rivers in the Western Ghats. He has built over 80 hanging bridges in a span of two decades in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Girish uses local, eco-friendly material to build these cost-effective hanging bridges. People of the connecting villages assist him in building most of them using their own resources.

Chandrashekhar Sankurathri: After losing his wife and two children to terrorist bombings aboard a flight from Ottawa to Mumbai in 1985, Dr. Chandra lost the will to live. He quit his job as a biologist in Ottawa, and returned to his village in Andhra Pradesh. It is here that he found a reason to live. He set up the Sarada School in 1992. Named after his daughter, it has helped to educate more than 1200 students. He also started the Srikiran Eye hospital, named after his late 4 yr old son. 90% of cataract surgeries performed in this hospital are free of cost.

Hirbaiben Ibrahimbhai Lobi: Hirbaiben Ibrahimbhai Lobi is a true grass root entrepreneur. She comes from a tribal clan, the Siddi community that has lived with meager resources and no real opportunity. Hirbai decided to change all of that. She took a loan to start an organic compost farm and employed women of her community. In no time the women of Jambur village were on their feet. Hirbai was determined to improve the condition of her people. She got the tribals to take tips on scientific ways of farming. She then set up a kindergarten school, and is now aiming for a high school and college for the children in their area.

Dr. Joyce Siromoni: A gynecologist by profession. She has felt the real plight of mentally challenged women. Joyce set up a home for women confined in jails and mental asylums. Here they are rehabilitated and given vocational training so they can be financially independent. Joyce's eventual aim is to reintegrate them with their families and with society.

HS D'Lima: HS D'Lima had the courage to take on the mighty Land Mafia of Mumbai and expose his illegal constructions in the city. For the last decade, D'Lima has been battling illegal construction in his Andheri West neighbourhood in Mumbai. His complaints were ignored for years, but in November 2004, the authorities acted on one. D'Lima confronted the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) with photographs and got a stay order issued. Soon, house No. 77 in Lane 1 of Andheri was demolished. It was a small victory, but a sign that larger things could happen.

Merzaban Patel: Merzaban Patel is on a mission to hunt out for the best hockey talent in the country. He then coaches them into world-class players. With 35 years of coaching experience Merzaban trains children free of cost, takes care of their transport, even sporting gear for those who can't afford it. Merzaban has produced Hockey Olympians like Adrian D'Souza and Gavin Pereira. A part time coach at two schools, he earns a paltry 6000 rupees as salary.

Dr. Shantuben Patel: Dr. Patel - A paediatrician, who started the "Dhanvantri School" for mentally and physically challenged kids in Bhuj. The school was founded on 1 September 1996, in one of the rooms of her nursing home. It grew in time, adding students and a team of special educators. The school, which was then located inside her ancestral home in Bhuj, turned to rubble after the Bhuj earthquake. Her team and students stuck together during that horrific time, with almost no external support for a while. The school has since grown to 163 students in three departments (hearing impaired, mentally challenged, and cerebral palsy) from in and around Bhuj, and 15 trained teachers.

Sindhutai Sapkal: Sindhutai Sapkal is a mother to over a 1000 orphaned children in Pune. Married off at the age of 10 to an abusive husband, Sindhubai and her young daughter were left to fend for themselves. Sindhutai found her life's calling in taking care of abandoned children of Adivasis. She runs 5 ashrams across Pune and Wardha districts. The children are not given up for adoption. Today they are doctors, engineers and teachers.

Tulasi Munda: From an illiterate tribal girl born at the cusp of freedom to a woman leading the education revolution amongst tribals in Orissa, Tulasi Munda's story is an inspiration for all of us. She was 12 when she went to live with her sister in Serenda, 65 kms away where she earned Rs 2 from cutting stones and sifting iron from the waste. In her free time, she would try and teach herself the alphabet. In 1961, her passion for learning catapulted her into the orbit of Gandhians like Malti Chaudhary, Roma Devi and Nirmala Deshpande. These women were committed to social work, especially educating women. She joined them and participated in their village forays across the country. She met Vinoba Bhave and was inspired by his vision to donate land and improve the lives of the poor. In 1964 she returned to Serenda and started an evening school for children of adivasis. In the next 40 years Tulasi helped establish 17 schools and succeeded in educating 20,000 boys and girls. Currently her school that provides education up to the 10th standard, has over 500 students, half of whom are girls. Tulasi has received a Padma Shri award for her commendable work.

Anjina Rajagopal: Anjina Rajagopal runs a home, Sai Kripa, for abandoned and orphaned children, on the outskirts of the Capital in Noida. A mother to them, Anjina takes care of the children, educates them and even marries them off.