Mumbai, India -- First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off her shoes within minutes of arriving at the University of Mumbai library, where she played a game of educational hop scotch and danced with a group of street children and orphans

Michelle Obama dancing with kids from Make a Difference program.

The event placed a spotlight on Make a Difference (MAD), which works with highly vulnerable youth in 10 cities across India. Jithin Nedumala, 23 years old and recently selected by IYF as a 2010 YouthActionNet® Fellow, leads MAD. In addition to dancing and playing with the children, the First Lady offered a more serious message about the importance of education in every young person’s life. “I didn’t grow up with a lot of money,” she said. “I never even imagined being the First Lady of the United States; but because I had an education, when the time came to do this, I was ready.”  

The MAD program recruits college student volunteers to work with highly vulnerable children, providing them with a quality education—with an emphasis on basic Englishas well as mentoring.  Nedumala said he hoped the First Lady’s visit would inspire the children to be leaders in their community. “We are here to tell the children to dream big,” he said. “They’re in orphanages and street shelters where they don’t have their parents to push them; not many people believe in these kids.” On at least one day last week, these children had the full attention of America’s First Lady, who clearly believed in their potential to be successful, even against the odds. 

During her trip to Mexico earlier this year, the First Lady met with another group of youth leaders that included 2007 YouthActionNetGlobal Fellow Maritza Morales, who leads an educational program in Mexico to educate her peers about protecting the environment.

Learn more about Jithin’s work through Make a Difference.

Learn more about YouthActionNet.