Maya Ajmera, Activist and Educator

People sometimes find inspiration in unusual places. For Maya Ajmera, that inspiration came on a train station platform. Ajmera was on a trip to her parents’ home country of India. While waiting for a train there, she saw a teacher asking questions to a group of children sitting in a circle on the train platform. This was called a train platform school, and it served 40 students a year. Ajmera learned that the children lived near the train station and could not afford to go to school. The teachers provided the children with free education, clothing, and food. Ajmera was moved by what she saw and decided to devote her life to helping underprivileged children around the world.

In 1993, Maya Ajmera decided not to go to medical school as she had been planning, and instead to focus her efforts on helping children. She founded the Global Fund for Children (GFC) when she was 25 years old. This organization invests in and supports local community organizations that help vulnerable children around the world. Ajmera believed that giving money to local groups was the best way to help children within those communities.

In 1997, the GFC partnered with Charlesbridge Publishing to create children’s books. Ajmera helped write more than 15 of these books and won many awards! A portion of the money made from these books went to the GFC. The GFC also invested in several documentary films to share the stories of children and raise awareness about the issues they face.

Over the course of 18 years, Maya Ajmera made the GFC into a prospering, worldwide organization. The GFC has raised more than $40 million to give to over 700 organizations in more than 75 countries. One of these organizations is the Afghan Institute of Learning in Kabul, Afghanistan. This organization helps educate more than 400,000 Afghan women and children a year.

Even though Ajmera did not go to medical school, her passion for science and learning never left her. In 2014, Ajmera joined the Society for Science & the Public as its president and CEO. The goal of this organization is to get people excited about how science can change the world. One of the ways the Society educates people is through Science News, an award-winning magazine. Maya Ajmera is the publisher of the magazine. The Society for Science & the Public also holds competitions to inspire and educate students who love science.

Maya Ajmera speaks to students and teachers all around the world about the importance of education. During that trip to India, Ajmera saw firsthand how education could empower children who have limited resources. She has spent many years making sure more children have access to these opportunities so that they can learn, grow, and change the world.