About ten years back, once Krishnan and I climbed out of the financial pothole that we got into due to our entrepreneurial venture, we decided that when Krishnan turned 50, he will step out of the corporate rat race and create the vehicle through which we give back to the society. And exactly a year later on April 4, we launched “ShikshaDaan” our vehicle of giving back. The date is also significant because it is the birthday of the man who truly gifted education, my father-in-law, Sri Govindachari.
The past one year has been about a lot about giving but even more about what we got back … We learnt about 15 interesting people from far off places, their lives, their aspirations and how important education was for them. All 15 of them will continue to be sponsored this year too. We realised that getting the 80G certification that allowed our donors to get tax exemptions takes three years of operation. We learnt more about our amazing partners.. First about Aadharshila, a school in a remote village near Lucknow, now educating 250 children. We ran the “Pustak” campaign to collect books for this school and one of the organizations actually packed the books neatly, labelled it and dropped it off at our house … Charity done well. And my first ever glimpse of Tihar Jail as we went to drop off the books at Vijay’s house.
Second, OM foundation… And our first receiver Mala, my namesake. I have spoken before about Mala, but never about Sanjay Drabu who runs OM Foundation. He is a lesson in enthusiasm and speed of execution. I am yet to have an email/call unanswered by Sanjay within minutes while I have missed answering him some times. OM is imbued with his spirit… And what an amazing coincidence that my dear Prashant Bhardwaj who always had an OM symbol at his desk took the pictures at OM foundation.
Goonj, Deepalaya, Salaam Baalak Trust and Vidya Poshak the rest of our partners – each teaching us valuable lessons.. Anshu and Mini founders of Goonj but for us our friends and inspiration told us “get a thick skin” … You have chosen to do good, but the society will doubt your intentions 🙂 and how true was that lesson !!
Sudha at Deepalaya brought to us Mangal for sponsorship and gave us the opportunity to sponsor a budding artist. My father wanted to be a painter, but was forced to earn a living because of his family’s economic condition and in a way it was poetic justice that ShikshaDaan could sponsor Mangal. Life does give you the opportunity to bring your dreams alive … Sometimes differently from how you think.
Vidya Poshak and the five students we sponsored – another lesson for us as we read about these children. We read that all children are born intelligent, and we saw it with these five students – many of them from utterly poor backgrounds, uneducated parents and working to make ends meet, but have scored more than 90% studying in regular schools ! There is no limit to human potential and circumstances are just a backdrop – what you can do is never decided by your station in the society.
We also learnt that there are jobs to take up but the way of thievery was more interesting than doing an honest job – through the work that Prabhaav Foundation is doing. Many youngsters prefer to pilfer and prosper than work hard and earn – unbelievable ? But true. And there is a huge gap between education and employability too.
So as you can see … ShikshaDaan also happened and in exchange of funding deserving students we also got Shiksha – a very fair exchange.