Amrut Bang has led the NIRMAN initiative since 2008 and is involved in shaping up the strategy, building partnerships, recruitment, fund raising, and project management. He also fulfils the much needed role of mentor and guide to all those involved in the NIRMAN process. Prior to NIRMAN, he worked in Symantec Corp. for a year after he received his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from Pune University. He also holds an M.S. in Non-Profit Leadership from University of Pennsylvania where he received the prestigious Richard J. Estes Global Citizenship Award for demonstrated commitment to social impact. Besides his role in NIRMAN, he is an RTI activist and has managed to bring a change in the state government’s policy to ensure availability of doctors in tribal and rural areas. He is also a part of the SEARCH Executive Committee, and was an invitee member of the brainstorming group by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of the Government of India to plan national level youth development initiatives.
Amrut is a self-learner and did not go to school till 10th standard. As he was exempted from the stifling influence of schooling, he maintains a healthy curiosity that is exhibited in his wide range of interests, from music and nature to chess and swimming. He is a voracious reader, with a photographic memory, who is particularly interested in physics and evolution. He also writes Bollywood inspired songs on social issues, from hand washing to employment guarantee scheme. He is married to Dr. Aarti Bang who is a NIRMANee and works as a psychiatrist in SEARCH. Amrut is a total- teetotaler and will never say no to a cup of tea!
Sunil Chavan, a.k.a. Sunil Kaka holds an M.Sc. in Statistics and an MBA in Marketing. After working in IT for 17 years, he started his own company in 1996 and then sold it in 2012 to shift to the social sector. While he used to volunteer before, he now works full time in the social sector as a part of NIRMAN executive team and as Head of Operations at ML Dhawale Trust in Palghar. As a keen businessman and entrepreneur himself, armed with his knowledge of finance and economics, he offers strategic and financial advice to the NIRMAN team as well as to the participants of NIRMAN.
With a warm and ever positive personality, he is a mentor to all NIRMANEES in every possible aspect. He is an avid collector of artistic objects brought back from his many travels and has managed to make his home more wondrous than a museum or an art gallery, of particular note is his selection of exotic teas. He enjoys old Hindi songs and reading books.
Satish Girsawle, hails from Rajura tehsil in Chandrapur district and he graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering from Government College of Engineering Chandrapur. He had shown his skills of leadership and organization through college which he now uses to motivate all NIRMANees who haven’t yet found their motivation and purpose. His belief in the need to realize India’s demographic dividend inspires him to work with the youth and his gregarious nature adds great value to NIRMAN’s outreach and selection process. He is actively involved in the planning and functioning of the workshops and he also manages the program’s social media front.
Satish comes from a farming family and is thus keenly aware of the social and political issues of the community which he often channels into his roles as a playwright and an actor. He is a stand up poet who can, on the spot, put in two lines the gist of his keen observations of people and situations. He also loves sports, particularly, talking about it to his large circle of friends.
Gajanan Burde, a.k.a, Gaju, comes from Gunjepar in Lakhandur tahsil of Bhandara district and is trained as an electrical engineer. Before joining the NIRMAN team he was a visiting lecturer at Government Polytechnic, Gondia. His primary role in the team is of an administrator and it is thanks to his skills that the workshop functions smoothly. His calm and soothing presence creates a comforting atmosphere for the participants. He loves meeting and interacting with new people, which is essential to his role of workshop facilitator.
Gajanan is a skilled athlete and his ‘catches’ during cricket matches are a stuff of legends in the NIRMAN team. Apart from being a sportsman, Gajanan also loves to cook and he is among the few people who begin their routine at 5.30 am when the rest of the world is enjoying sleep.
Aditi received her degree in Electrical Engineering from Nagpur University and was among the toppers at the college and University level during all four years. Her technical expertise acquired a job in Hitachi, a multinational technology company, before she joined NIRMAN. She felt that her skills and creativity were better utilized to help those in need instead of being used to increase the profits of a giant corporation. Her interest in education led her to NIRMAN where she gets to work with budding social change makers of her age and contribute to their human development.
As a member of the NIRMAN Team she is responsible for content development including videos, graphics, photos, writing articles, etc. She is also studying positive psychology and the ways in which it relates to NIRMAN process. NIRMAN workshops become a deeper experience because of her ability to form strong emotional bonds with the participants.
Aditi is not only hardworking and sincere but also a very creative and artistic person. Her innovative ideas have led to some amazing gifts for her friends and colleagues. She also loves to paint and sketch in her free time.
Prerana Sethiya hails from a family of doctors in Pune. She studied mechanical engineering from Maharashtra Institute of Technology in Pune and worked for several years with TATA Technologies. Her projects in China, the United Kingdom and the United States of America gave Prerana excellent technical and management expertise. Three years into her job, she felt unsatisfied by the idea of working to make rich companies richer and decided to use her skillset to enhance the efficiency of organizations like NIRMAN, which contribute to the greater social progress. Her dream is to create a platform where youths can come together to solve various challenging social problems effectively and receive mentorship.
Fondly known as ‘Piranha’ by the team, not for her ferocious bite but for her razor-sharp logical reasoning, Prerana is a natural problem solver. In addition to youth development, she is also passionate about the environment and animal conversation which led her to study ornithology and wildlife conservation.
You will often find Prerana snacking, nursing her never-ending cold, debating over the benefits of vegetarianism with non-conformists or reading about the future of professions over a cup of well-made chai! Her ability to name almost any species of birds is astounding.
Jui Jamsandekar is from Kolhapur and holds degrees in computer engineering and clinical psychology. Before joining NIRMAN team she worked in Oracle and Zensar, two giants of the software industry, as a computer programmer. During this time, she pursued her dream of studying psychology, with a particular interest in the 18-28 age group and volunteered for a suicide prevention hotline. With an MA in Clinical Psychology, Jui now provides important inputs to the selection process and to interactions with the participants. Her study of positive psychology and emerging adulthood gives a crucial foundation to NIRMAN and to her work in qualitative analysis of the participants’ growth and development. Jui manages to find the delicate balance between empathy and objectivity which is seen in her unique ability to provide compassionate critiques. She loves to paint and read in her free time.
From the town of Sillod in Aurangabad district, Pratik Surana has the dynamism of a revolutionary and the composure of a Wiseman. He completed his MBBS from GMC Aurangabad. As a socially restless student throughout college, the issues of farmer suicide and injustice against women fueled Pratik’s passion for social activism. Pratik was also an active member of Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption campaign, from where he developed a strong sense of moral social responsibility. Surana wanted his medical career to resonate the ethical values that defined Hazare’s movement.
In college Pratik encountered very few opportunities to channel his practice for social benefit. Thus, upon graduation Pratik took up the position of a medical officer at a primary healthcare Centre (PHC) in the village of Pendhri in Gadchiroli district. His time in Pendhri enriched his character, by making him self-reliant and boosted his confidence to practice professionally. At the PHC Pratik endeavored to elevate the tribal community’s health seeking behavior and conducted village-wide discussions on health awareness.
He learned that understanding health requires one to think beyond the confines of a clinical interaction and examine factors such as poverty and empowerment. Realizing that such opportunities are not available to young doctors, Pratik joined NIRMAN to develop alternative options and create a support system for fresh doctors who wish to practice in needy regions.
Pratik’s appreciation of a beautifully composed poem of love song transforms him to a Marathvada version of a melancholic Arijit Singh and the tune of any dance number channels his inner Prabhudeva.
Suyash Toshniwal is born with fire for activism! He finished his 11th and 12th from Yogeshwari College in Ambajogai. This institution under Swami Ramanand Tirth played a role in the struggle of the Princely State of Hyderabad becoming a part of the Republic of India in 1948. Suyash was born in a politically active household and his reading habits led to further development of his revolutionary ideas. He was a key member of NCC and was a part of the state level team and also a part of the National Integration Camp.
During the college years, he came across the work of Andha Shraddha Nirmulan Samiti and was inspired by the life of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar. He started work with ANIS and was a part of the nationwide performance of the play titled Socrates Te Dabholkar, Pansare via Tukaram. He also revitalized the Vivek Vahini program and headed the social media cell of Maharashtra ANIS.
After completing his B. Tech. in Information Technology, Suyash started working with Persistent Systems, the prestigious multi-national software firm. He quit the cushy IT job after a year to pursue his mission of lifelong social service and joined SEARCH, the parent organization of NIRMAN.
As part of SEARCH, Suyash works in developing software solutions, website development, monitoring and evaluation of various programs, technical training, and handling the social media. He also organizes the youth in colleges of Gadchiroli as part of the anti-tobacco, anti-alcohol movement Muktipath. In the NIRMAN Team, he is responsible for website development, follow up of participants, and as a facilitator in the workshops. His talent for yelling slogans, honed over years of activism, energizes the entire workshop atmosphere!
Mandar Deshpande is from the town of Parli in Beed district and studied mechanical engineering from Latur. Encouraged by his family and experiences in college, Mandar started to think quite early-on about how he could contribute to society without being roped into the loop of a money-making machine.
Part of the Paani Foundation, Mandar was a team coordinator for the Satyamev Jayate Water Cup Competition in Aarvi tehsil (Wardha district). Here he worked to encourage bright minds from Maharashtra’s villages to solve their water related issues. Of all the villages that participated in Maharashtra, the village of Kakadara overseen by Mandar placed first in the entire state! He realized, more than the competition, the process of encouraging and involving individuals to solve its own problems was critical in empowering the entire village.
Mandar is currently working as an organic farmer in Wardha district and is passionate about generating awareness on organic farming’s impact on health and the environment among youth and urban dwellers. He feels that educated youth can be engaged in this mission and give it the attention it rightly deserves. He believes that social transformation is a journey of self-change with the people.
He pretends to read books but actually reads articles on how the science of organic agriculture can be combined with one’s lifestyle! He loves to pen beautiful handwritten letters to his friends and connecting with like-minded people. Mandar’s remarkable ability to engage a crowd and seamlessly morph into any character from Sherlock Holmes to Amitabh Bachchan on que leaves you in splits of laughter. The man behind the energetic, witty and spontaneous persona has chosen a completely unbeaten life path. Mandar transmits the spirit and culture of NIRMAN through his innovative naarebaaji.
Often mistaken for being Australian, Mitali Thatte’s wit and logic are certainly not foreign to those who know her. Mitali completed her master’s in mathematics from IISER Pune, her hometown, and found that studying pure maths ‘was like having a fling- it was fun and exciting, but ultimately not meaningful.’ Her pursuit to bring value to her skills, led her to work as an impact analyst with Quality Education Support Trust (QUEST), an NGO based in Palghar addressing elementary education and professional development in teachers. At QUEST, Mitali could deeply relate to the leadership, vision, methods, and cause of the organization as she was drawn to the challenge of applying her abilities to socially relevant issues. This led her to join NIRMAN's team as a research associate, where she is analyzing the impact and effectiveness of NIRMAN’s approach on the development of social purpose, drive, and meaning in today’s youth.
Mitali is an ardent enthusiast of Sam Harris and the mere mention of his name makes her swell with pride and reverence. She enjoys solving mindless math’s riddles, discussing philosophical theory and morality over whipped coffee. You will often find her listening to podcasts in her spare time, experimenting with quirky food combinations, and paraphrasing quotes from one of her favorite books- ‘life is a b**** and then you die’.
A psychiatrist by training and romantic by nature, Aarti Bang’s contagious energy, warmth and keen sense of judgement embrace you instantly. She is from Nashik and her journey as a disillusioned medical graduate to the head of the mental health department at SEARCH is indeed an unexpected turn of events. After completing her MBBS at BJ Medical College in Pune, Aarti found conventional medicine to be quite monotonous and was disheartened by the questionable clinical practices she witnessed.
However, as a medical officer in the rural hospitals of Harsul (Nashik) and Dhanora taluka in Gadchiroli, Aarti found her interests gravitated towards psychiatry, a field she’d never considered in her realm of career possibilities. Propelled by the thrill to understand the human mind and behavior led her to complete her post-graduation in psychiatry from Bhavnagar Medical College. She is most fascinated by the subtle yet crucial influences of culture and society on mental health.
Uniquely placed as the lead of the mental health department at SEARCH and as a member of the NIRMAN team, Aarti’s coveted insight into the mental health struggles and emotional growth of youth enriches the dynamic of our team. She is particularly passionate about facilitating the emotional growth of youth by encouraging them to introspect and make conscious choices for the betterment of society. Observing Aarti weave her magic during counselling sessions would indeed make the likes of Helen Boyle proud and attests to the marvel that Aarti and psychiatry found each other.
Addressing mental health in Gadchiroli has given her the conviction to think beyond the mainstream model of mental disorders and which led her to plan and execute the first mental health survey in Gadchiroli’s tribal population. On a light day at the clinic Aarti loves to bake, read, watch and re-enact Korean dramas, exercise and enjoys her sleep.
Swanand Khanapurkar is from India’s Orange City of Nagpur. Being a student of theoretical physics has earned him the nickname Brahmaand meaning universe in Sanskrit. Swanand completed his post-graduation from IISER Pune and also worked as a researcher at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai. With his head in the cosmos and his feet firmly rooted in culture and spirituality Swanand, is heartening to those who know him. In NIRMAN, he spends his days thinking about orienting emerging adults to think about social progress, and his nights contemplating the physical laws that govern the universe’s function. Swanand has been working to see how exposing young minds to the idea of an infinite universe, the ‘Big Picture’, and the emergence of humanity as a mere chance in the randomness of space can influence youth to perceive existence beyond the myopic lens of consumerism and utilitarianism.
Swanand can just as effortlessly tune a tabla as he can assemble a telescope. You’ll find his work desk adorned with pictures of his heroes, Einstein and Sagan, and catch the wonder in his eyes when he questions the why of everything. Swanand is currently pursuing his PhD in theoretical physics at Arizona State University.