India’s developmental sector is growing at a good pace and there is a mild trend of the youngsters from elite colleges deciding to join NGOs instead of climbing a corporate ladder. Meet Shiv Poojan who joined as a teacher in a municipal school in Delhi via Teach For India Fellowship Program just after graduating from National Institute of Technology, Raipur in 2014. Currently, he is raising funds to support the education of 300 children in Munirka Village, Delhi via a small but committed grassroots non-profit, Centre for Education and Health Research Organization also called CEHRO INDIA. The crowdfunding campaign is on Crowdera and anyone can contribute an amount as small as 100 INR.
CEHRO INDIA strives to bring similar opportunities to the children from a developing community (Munirka Village) as their counterparts with an affluent background would get. It has impacted lives of over 1500 children by relentlessly working for last 6 years.
Shiv, you work in the education sector. What is the status of India’s Education (Schools) today?
The public education sector of India is going through a crisis. On a large scale, be it government schools or private schools, one of the biggest indicators of their failure is the ASER report which in 2014, among other things, reported that 52% of grade 5 children could not read a grade 2 text. In the same year, I finished my engineering, I was disheartened to know 76% of our students do not make it to the higher education system at all.
In last 3 years, I am being exposed to the realities of the system. My projects have impacted around 10,000 students and I have directly worked with around 2000 students and 300 teachers. On a closure look into the schools brings forth so many intermingled problems that lead to a dismal condition of education. It is a situation which needs urgent attention from everyone because I quote “education is everyone’s business” and these children are our future.
There are so many challenges when working in the social sector. What motivates you to continue (personally)?
Personally, I think, I can relate to what children are going through as I have a first-hand experience of it. I came to Delhi when I was 6 years old from a village in Uttar Pradesh and lived in a small slum situated near Chanakyapuri (A posh area of South Delhi) and studied in government schools. When I was 14 years old, I considered myself to be less fortunate seeing lavish houses near my home. There was a large garbage bin on the way to my school. Every morning and afternoon I tried to avoid going near it due to the foul smell it emitted. To add to my agony few people started living inside it while pushing the garbage towards the road as much as possible. I had some sense of hatred towards them but one fine morning everything has to change. The people who were living inside were a family and I could see a newborn child in the lap of a lady in her twenties. It shocked me to the core and whenever I think of the face of the child I still can’t stop crying. I couldn’t figure out what to do and also couldn’t bear the thought of the child living inside that garbage bin. Within few days the family disappeared and hence the child, never to be seen again.
You see, I could not change the fate of the child born there. I could not change a thing but that child changed everything in me. I started appreciating what I had and I started thinking ways to give back to the society so that hopefully someday I can reach that child. Even after around 10 years, children are in similar situations at traffic lights, flyovers and in slums in the heart of India and elsewhere. I try to reach the maximum number of children living in slums to equip them with education so that they can guide their way out of it. It was difficult telling the world all this but this is my motivation to continue the work I do in small grassroots local organizations working for the cause of uplifting children from poverty through education.
That was very intense. What are your focus areas for the children you work with?
The belief that each child is unique with unique interests, abilities and personalities lead me to draft programs which integrate multiple elements into one. For instance, the musical that we are preparing, named ‘Zareen- A Girl With The Golden Eyes’ inculcates English reading and speaking, dance, singing, music, painting, and acting. It heavily focuses on children recognizing themselves, developing as leaders and understanding social nuances. It is the kind of education which kids can apply in their lives to bring about the change that we wish to see happening. I am sure with the guidance, exposure and resources children here can realize the potential they have and break away from a general mindset that children from underprivileged backgrounds cannot achieve much.
Any particular incident that left a mark on you while working at CEHRO INDIA.
Yes, it is a story narrated by an Ed-Mentor (Teacher) happened on his very first day of joining. In between the classes kids get something to eat, that day it was sliced bread with jam. Siddharth wrote on his facebook wall that “Isha, she goes takes her share and sits. Then she opens her plastic sack and keeps the bread in it. I asked her, why aren’t you having it? Isha’s reply still gives me chill, I’ll share with my brother.” This kindness is what kids naturally have and Siddharth got here supposedly to teach children but left learning so much about life from his students. Later on Siddharth gifted her a bag It is not the big things that leave mark on me but instead the smaller acts happening almost on daily basis. The kids learning fearlessly, appreciating and encouraging each other and growing together gives me a lot of joy.
That’s truly wonderful! You are raising funds to support education of kids such as Isha. Tell us something about that.
The lack of funds is one of the major obstacles. We have to bear the cost of classroom supplies, the space and the cost of teacher’s traveling to our location. I believe smaller organizations directly working within the community can do better innovative and contextualized work at a lower cost than any large scale organization. We only need INR 2000 to support education of 1 child for one year. Our target is to raise INR 6,50,000 to support the education of 300 children at our center and for that we choose to ask money from individuals instead of going to a funding agency. The concept is called crowdfunding that uses internet to make funds available to any organization from generous individual donors across the globe. Anyone can contribute any amount according their will and capacity. You can go to our crowdfunding page and follow few simple steps to complete the process of donation. Apart from donations there are other ways to contribute to the cause of education and development. You can volunteer with us or with any other good organization or just spread the message to people. Every contribution has its unique value in the overall work that we do.
What would be your message to your fellow NITians?
I would say this to the NIT alumni community, current students and to anyone who was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to study in such prestigious colleges. Education is the cornerstone of developing any thoughtful society and you can be the torch bearers of the cause. You can do small things, one of them could be reflecting upon your own actions and responsibilities.
How many times do we meet such individuals who can devote their life for a cause? Isn’t what Shiv is doing is worth supporting? You can go to their Crowdfunding Page to make your contribution and you can visit www.cehroindia.org to connect with CEHRO INDIA. Please share this article to spread the message.
|About the author: Eric Frank is a freelance artist, designer, philanthropist and a stage performer. He loves to use art in order to bring smiles to little hearts and train the world to do so. He just wish to empower a child to smile.|