Initiating change - Change headline: Social entrepreneur wants to build 'children-inclusive' society

Initiating change - Change headline: Social entrepreneur wants to build 'children-inclusive' society
Child inclusive... Ms Verma wants to get the voice of the children to shape society for a better tomorrow.

SINGAPORE - When Ms Madhu Verma moved to Singapore over six years ago, she had no idea that it would one day become home and a place very close to her heart.

It was here on the island that a small idea took root, one that has grown by leaps and bounds today.

She is a social entrepreneur and the founder of SoCh in Action, an organisation that hopes to build a "children-inclusive society where they play an active role" in driving social change. For her, the road to creating social awareness has been hard, yet very rewarding.

As a child, she recalls, one of her biggest influences was her mother.

"Although she was not religious, my mother had a very strong belief in God. She believed that rituals were not important, but doing good and serving the people of God were. And that's what she always taught me," says Ms Verma.

Growing up in Delhi, there were socio-economic issues everywhere. There were people in desperate need and just watching them made her feel very helpless, she says.

This feeling persisted all through her teenage years but, despite that, she did not recognise her genuine desire to do good until much later.

It was only when she was studying marketing at university that her professor opened her eyes to the possibility of using her skills to benefit a cause.

"Until then I had thought that my marketing skills could be used only in a corporate environment, but my professor introduced me to the possibility of cause-related marketing."

Her commitment to this was rewarded when she received the ANZ Marketing Academy Award in Marketing for her research paper on Cross-Sector Alliances in 2007-08 when she was with Massey University, doing a Masters in Management (Marketing).

After that, there was no looking back.

From then on, her road to social entrepreneurship had few detours. After university, the corporate world claimed her for only a few short years, until she joined Oxfam in New Zealand as part of its marketing team.

"Once I saw that there was an avenue to use my corporate skills in the not-for-profit sector, I made up my mind never to go back," she says.

Ms Verma, who is now a PR, moved to Singapore in 2008 and soon went to work on the Eco-Singapore project. Focused on encouraging consumers to choose "green" products, the project was aimed at promoting Green Consumerism through marketing collaboration and promotional schemes.

When her son turned eight, she was keen to engage him in community work too, but found that there wasn't anything targeted at children. So she came up with an idea for a project that would engage kids and help them inspire the public to make a change.

What began as a casual discussion with a friend quickly became real, and Social Change (SoCh) in Action was born. Initially, a few friends joined her in her effort and over time volunteers, interns and full-time employees became a part of the team.

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