From Mother Teresa to Anne Besant, India has charmed the heart of foreign souls from time to time. While no one can compare the services of such social reformers, the following lesser-known foreigners are nevertheless leaving their own mark in building new India for us:

  • Franz Gastler

Franz Gastler - 10 foreign nationals who are lending help to build New India - KulharA US citizen and Harvard Law School graduate, Franz came to India in 2009 to work with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), but soon got involved with an NGO in Ranchi district, Jharkhand, to work for tribal people in the area. Now he runs his own organization called Yuwa, which combats issues like human trafficking and child marriages though football. Jharkhand is one of the major hunting grounds of child traffickers with about 147 cases reported in 2014 alone.

With around 250 members, today Yuwa is one of the largest girl’s football programs in India. With Franz’s help, Jharkhand’s national ranking in women’s football has gone up from 20th to 4th position. Yuwa’s girls played their first international match in Spain in 2013, and at present their female coaches are being trained by top La Liga club Real Sociedad. Read more: Yuwa


  • Mathieu Fortier

Mathieu Fortier - 10 foreign nationals who are lending help to build New India - KulharFascinated by Hindustani classical music, Mathieu Fortier (Canada) with his wife Agathe Meurisse (France) moved to India to start a residential school, Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya in Karnataka. The school offers free lessons in classical music to poor children from nearby villages, with side by side free full-fledged schooling. Many of the children are from Dalit and tribal families. From harmonium to tabla, violin, sitar and flute, this school trains approximately 200 students in all traditional instruments. Read more: Kalkeri Sangeet Vidhyalaya


  • Ulrike Reinhard

Ulrike Reinhard - 10 foreign nationals who are lending help to build New India - KulharUlrike Reinhard, a German citizen, has established Janwaar Castle, rural India’s first skate-park for children in Panna district of Madhya Pradesh. Divided between Yadav and Adivasi communities, this small district was a victim of the caste system. When Ulrike set up the skatepark, she ensured two rules are always followed, ‘girls first’ and ‘no school, no skateboarding’, the rest was left to the kids. Within a year, the attendance levels in school rose and kids alone changed the village’s social dynamics. The initiative has won numerous accolades in bringing the social change through community mobilization. Some of the kids are now on their way to Europe to learn from international skateboarders. Read more: Janwaar Castle


  • Andrea Thumshirn

Andrea Thumshirn - 10 foreign nationals who are lending help to build New India - KulharAndrea Thumshirn was a German Premier League hockey player before she quit the game due to an injury. She left Berlin and shifted to Dausa, Rajasthan as a tour operator. Her love for hockey, however, drew her again and soon she started training village kids in the game by setting up an organization, Hockey Village India. Her organization also works under the Panchayat Yuva Krida Aur Khel Abhiyan (PYKKA), a central government programme to promote sports in rural areas. Five of Andrea’s girls were selected for the state team in the Under-16 category. Read more: Hockey Village India


  • Christopher Turillo

Christopher Turillo - 10 foreign nationals who are lending help to build New India - KulharA US citizen, Christopher Turillo, moved to India in 2007 to work in the microfinance sector. He joined the SKS Microfinance in Hyderabad, before getting settled in Lucknow to start Medha, an NGO that trains undergraduate students in job skills. His organization has collaborated with over 200 leading employers, and has trained and placed over 3000 students across 35 educational institutes. Read more: Medha


  • Sally Holkar

Sally Holkar - 10 foreign nationals who are lending help to build New India - KulharStanford University Graduate, Sally Holkar came to India as the daughter-in-law of Maharaja of Indore. The royal family was a patron of Maheshwari saree weavers in Madhya Pradesh. After her divorce, Sally worked to empower rural women through her organization Women Weave in Maheshwar. She broke the stereotype that weaving is a stronghold of men and today her organization sells clothing online in 29 countries. Her organisationWomen Weave also trains weavers in Maheshwar, Kota weavers in Rajasthan, Chanderi weavers in Maharashtra and weavers in Kumaon. Read more: Women Weave


  • Juleha

Juleha - 10 foreign nationals who are lending help to build New India - KulharJuleha was working at a rehabilitation center in Turkey before an Indian friend invited her to help him with children with learning disabilities. Juleha accepted the invitation and began the work in Kota, Rajasthan. Quitting her high-paying job in Turkey, Juleha has made Kota her home for the past two years. Talking about her journey, Juleha says, “I like this city and feel very satisfied after coming here. These children are my soul and I want to continue working for them selflessly.” Today, she is bringing joy to 800-odd children with disabilities and their families. Read more: YourStory


  • Erin Zaikis

Erin Zaikis - 10 foreign nationals who are lending help to build New India - KulharErin, a University of Michigan graduate, moved to India after the movie Slumdog Millionaire left her awestruck. She started working in an orphanage and met kids who didn’t know what soap was. From there, she had the inspiration to recycle soaps and distribute them in slums to maintain hygiene. For this, she started an organization, Sundara, that employs women from the slums of Mumbai to recycle soap collected from 15 hotels nearby. Today, her organization delivers soaps to over 30 schools and community centers in Mumbai. Read more: Sundara


  • Didi Contractor

Didi Contactor - 10 foreign nationals who are lending help to build New India - KulharDalia or Didi, as people call her, was raised in Texas (US) and came to India six decades ago when she married an Indian national. After her divorce, she moved to Sidhbari, in the valley below Dharamsala, with her three kids. Inspired by the valley’s local tradition, she developed her own technique of building sustainable houses. The houses she built are made of mud and stone, eco-friendly, earthquake proof and self-regulate their temperature. In the past thirty years, she has built numerous such houses and has trained young artisans in local skills. Read more: Didi


  • Alexander Medin

Alexander Medin - 10 foreign nationals who are lending help to build New India - KulharAlexander Mendin has been a yoga teacher in India for over 22 years and has noticed Indian women suffering because of lack of toilets. In a bid to help them, in March this year, Alexander led a group of 15 volunteers all the way from Norway to build a women’s toilet in Mumbai’s Grand Central. Out of the project cost of Rs 25 lakh, the group pitched in Rs 15 lakhs from their pockets and the remaining came from the JSW foundation. “We undertook the project with a humble intention to give something to the society and make the world a better place for women to live in,” said Mendin. Read more: The Hindu