Pavan Kumar Sriram

All twelve regional winning entries in the Shine International Student Awards 2011 were posted here on the British Council Voices blog. The overall winner was James Xi Xu.

This is the South East of England regional winner by Pavan Kumar Sriram, who comes from India and studies at Southampton University.

My dearest Aunt,

I do hope you are keeping well. Recently I have been revisiting childhood and remembering those crucial elements of growing up under such hardships. Without your support and encouragement I could not have grown into SUCH a responsible individual. But now I am very excited to share with you MY wonderful experiences during the last two years of stay in UK: A truly insightful and an eye opening experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It has opened my mind to possibilities of what can actually be achieved, if we change our way of thinking. I graduated MSc with first class distinction and received Dorothy Hodgkin’s award to pursue a PhD at University of Southampton. Besides excelling in my academic endeavors, I have always nurtured a deep desire to contribute towards the much needed social change.

Being in the UK has made me believe that the most important contribution I can make to the world is to become a changemaker myself and influence other youths. Working towards my motto, I have created Youth Venture at the University to combat trafficking and violence against women, which is the third largest crime in the world. In this initiative, we are engaged in educational campaign, creating awareness on how youths can play an active role in stopping human trafficking. We sensitized the community against stigmatization of trafficked victims/survivors by conducting workshops and sessions. We have been creating employment opportunities and conducting training for the victims on developing life-skills necessary to experience freedom. Our youth venture supports NGO’s Prajwala India and Freeset Trust, located in Soton UK and Sonagacchi, the largest sex district in Kolkata, India where within a few square miles more than 10,000 women ‘stand in line’ selling their bodies daily to thousands of men because of poverty, lack of education, abduction, taking care of families and being trafficked by their own family members. It is nothing but modern day slavery.

Our Youth team has started a reusable bag campaign wherein we sell the bags produced by women from Freeset. In this way, we try to provide them with financial assistance and help them start new lives, regain dignity in their communities and begin a journey towards healing and economic independence. Our strategy was to involve the whole community, encourage giant supermarkets like ASDA, TESCO and Sainsbury’s to promote these eco-friendly bags, which not only advocates for reduction in the use of plastic bags but makes a difference to lives of these women and children. The local MP’s and University have given us full support and we have applied for grants from the UN trust fund, Unltd and European commission’s youth for action programme. If the applications get accepted then we can contribute towards transformation of more inclusive community that respects the dignity of women and offers new opportunities to their children through a 400,000 $ funding. My aim is to inspire as many people to become Social Entrepreneurs, who want to provide innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems.

I have also involved myself in several other volunteering projects like City life education and action for refugees (CLEAR) which aim to improve the quality of life for refugees and asylum seekers in Southampton and the Community Cafe where we cook up a variety of creative, tasty Sunday dinners to serve more than 100 vulnerable/homeless people. It is extremely humbling to be part of such initiatives. I have been selected as Sustainable Energy Mentor for year 10 students at a local School, which I visit and also do e-mentoring to help them prepare projects on sustainability theme. I have been chosen as Student Ambassador at University to work with young people to help raise their aspirations and give them knowledge they need to make informed choices about Higher Education. I have been elected as VP for Erasmus Mundus Indian Chapter by EMA (EC), to work along with European delegation promoting and encouraging Europe as the centre of excellence for higher education in India. I have created a website which provides more information.

I had the best Christmas of my life spending entire day with a local family celebrating Christmas in a truly British way. I could not ask for more!! I just love everything about UK, the pace and feel of the city, its social life, its people, its inclusiveness to accommodate people from all walks of life and regions.

Aunt, I hope and confident that our collective-sustained efforts would unite the global communities to combat social issues. I already see this heading in the positive path with the wonderful support and encouragement from the local community and MP’s. They are always willing to take this to next step, which is essential for a better planet. I hope your words of advice will continue to guide me in these initiatives.

Love you and miss you.

Take Care,

Read all the Shine Winners.


Total 11 Comments Add your comment


Posted on April 9th, 2011 Report abuse

Pavan it was awesome to get an insight into your efforts for removing injustices in the world. Reading your letter to your aunt, I feel encouraged and motivated to be a part of generation which is attempting to realize its potential with a humane face in academic and social world. Keep up the good work and do let me know, if I could do anything to help you in your endeavours!


Posted on April 9th, 2011 Report abuse

Indeed, combating human trafficking should be prioritized at all levels and contexts along with making visible the consequences of the global market at all levels and spaces.

Not bad.

Chamonix crew

Posted on April 9th, 2011 Report abuse

Bonjeur Pavan Kumar,
You left us 45 hours ago and we are already missing you. We miss your easygoing and curiosity about everything. We are impressed by your commitment trying everything, skiing, cooking, knowing more people and etc. We did not realize all the deeds you have done so far but knowing your passion, we are not surprised by it. We hope everyone appreciates your dedication to change the world. Have fun in Brussels and good luck. Hope we are still friends when we are 45 years old.


Posted on April 10th, 2011 Report abuse

Pretty sure that the “educated” generation of youths will lend their best support towards these initiatives!.. Count me IN!..

Congrats on winning your region!

Much Luck!


Posted on April 10th, 2011 Report abuse

Good one……truly inspiring!


Posted on April 11th, 2011 Report abuse

Dear Pavan,
Read your letter and was really touched. Iam really proud to be your aunt. Iam amazed by the initiatives that you have been taking for the social causes. I would be very happy if i can help you in any way. My wishes and blessings are always with you. All the best and come out with flying colors as the WINNER of Shine International Student Award 2011.


Posted on April 11th, 2011 Report abuse

Lovely article, truly representing your indepth feelings and dreams to be a change maker. Hearty congratulations, you make us proud.
God bless you


Posted on April 11th, 2011 Report abuse

very inspiring indeed Pavan. All the best!!


Posted on April 11th, 2011 Report abuse

Fantastic man! Keep the good work going. should I say that in German? :-)

Jennifer Lenhart

Posted on April 12th, 2011 Report abuse

Wonderful words, and glad to hear you are still shining! EMA has so many great people and I am happy to say I know you! I wish you all the best with this and all your endevours!


Posted on November 15th, 2011 Report abuse

Pavan, encouraged to read your thoughts. Pleasure to have discussed with you during our last sojourn from Madrid to Bilbao…best wishe