By Madhava Smullen
Sana Mittar, a young devotee who attends the ISKCON Punjabi Bagh temple in Delhi with her family, has been honored with the Diana Award. Established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, it is the most prestigious accolade a young person aged 9 to 25 years can receive for their social action or humanitarian work.
Sana was presented with the award for her work on clean water and sanitation; starting GVAN, a non-profit that empowers youth to advocate for social causes; and supporting vulnerable communities in India during the pandemic.
A Hare Krishna devotee, Sana Mittar, 19, grew up in Delhi, India. She and her family were introduced to ISKCON by her grandfather Jagdish Mittar (Jagannath Mantra Das), and began attending the Punjabi Bagh temple. Sana’s mother, Dr. Suruchi Mittar, is a member of the ISKCON Punjabi Bagh Communications team and organizes ISKCON’s Value Education Olympiad, which teaches and tests school children on important values using the Bhagavad-gita. Sana herself, along with her father and brother, has volunteered over several years to staff the Krishna Quiz stall at ISKCON Punjabi Bagh’s Janmashtami festival.
Sana was inspired to begin her work in social action and advocacy while doing community service initiatives at school. She then took up a fellowship with Young Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC India), learning how to use social media and digital campaigning for important causes. That’s when she began advocating for different issues that mattered to her, and doing the work that drew the attention of the Diana Award.
“I began working on number six of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which focuses on clean water and sanitation,” Sana says. “I organized a lot of cleanliness drives in my localities with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. I also organized menstrual hygiene workshops for girls in government-aided schools, and in urban slums.”
In 2020 Sana reached out to like-minded students and young working professionals between 16 and 24, and formed the youth-led non-profit network Global Volunteers Action Network or GVAN, pronounced “Jeevan” after the Hindi word for life. The non-profit aims to inspire, connect, train and mobilize volunteers in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“We had our first cohort of volunteers, working remotely, in the first few months of 2021,” Sana says. “That was something I started during the pandemic, because I saw a lot of helplessness during that time. People who were fortunate enough to be safe wanted to reach out and help those who were in need. So we took this mission upon ourselves to get young people involved with the causes they’re passionate about.”