The 17-year-old Devanshi Rathi is changing the lives of underprivileged and specially-abled children, one chess move at a time.
Studying in 11 std., Devanshi is a national level chess player, an avid reader, writer, and a sports enthusiast. She has also won a Bronze medal in Chess in the Commonwealth games.
“This game has given so much to me and I always wanted to give it back,” Devanshi shared with us.
“So, when our teachers gave us a social project to do, that’s when I decided to work on Project Checkmate,” Devanshi added.
Project Checkmate was initiated in April 2016 with an aim to teach chess to the underprivileged children.
“I started out with teaching the kids of ISHWAR NGO in Delhi. Every week, I take two sessions of two hours where I not only teach them the basics of playing chess but also educate them about its history, tactics, etc.,” discussed Devanshi.
Gradually, Devanshi also started teaching chess to visually-impaired children and also organized tournaments to keep them motivated.
“When I was conducting sessions at ISHWAR NGO, I realized that these children are so passionate to learn and are so motivated. They looked forward to our sessions and were always eager to learn more. It encouraged me to reach out to more kids and I started teaching chess to the visually-impaired. Even the authorities of NGO were highly supportive and realized the importance of chess in the lives of blind children as it’s the only game which they could play with the kids who could see,” said Devanshi.
And, Devanshi didn’t stop at just teaching them chess. She motivated them to participate in various tournaments.
“The underprivileged children came in Top 10, and the visually-impaired children secured the first, the second, and the third spot in the National Schools Chess Championship for the Blind,” revealed Devanshi, “The entire expense of their participation was taken care by the funds I had collected through a fundraiser.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed.
Devanshi has also written a book on the game, Chess Notes, which is also translated in Braille and e-version shall be coming soon.
Apart from teaching chess, she has also created a library in ISHWAR NGO to encourage reading and writing amongst the kids.
“I read a lot, and I have like tons of books and novels. So, I donated these books and my old textbooks to the NGO to put them to better use,” said Devanshi.
The 17-year-old is also an active blogger and follows sports religiously. She is also learning Taekwondo and loves swimming and playing tennis.
Are you, too, thinking, “How does she manage all of it?”
Well, Devanshi told me, “If you are passionate towards something in life, you make time for it. Everything is manageable, you only ought to have the will to do it,” and I was in awe of her compassionate attitude towards life.
Devanshi also busted a myth about sexism in sports when I asked her about the opportunities in sports provided by schools to boys and girls.
“I study in Modern school, and I don’t think that girls are given any less importance in sports. There are equal opportunities in sports for all the students regardless of their gender and I think it’s the same case in most schools, nowadays. All schools are encouraging sports and extra-curricular activities amongst the students,” she replied.
“Then what’s the issue? Why are the girls outnumbered in comparison to the boys in sports?” I enquired.
“I can’t say for everyone, but, I have observed that many girls in our school don’t want to play outdoor games or engage in sports because they are fearful and scared of getting any injuries. Also, sometimes, even the parents don’t allow them to play and want them to focus just on the academics,” explained Devanshi.
“My parents have been my biggest support. My mother also helps me and give new ideas for the Project Checkmate. I think parents support plays an important role in shaping a child’s personality, thoughts, and career,” she said.
Devanshi will be participating in the upcoming Mumbai and Delhi International Chess Tournaments, and inter-school tournaments. She is also planning to conduct a chess competition for the underprivileged children with the Chess Grandmasters soon.
JWB lauds Devanshi’s contribution to the society and sports and wishes her all the best for her future endeavors.
P.S. You can learn more about Devanshi Rathi’s Project Checkmate, here.