Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SPARK THE RISE grant finale

It was 20th April 2012 evening.  Venue was Prince of Wales museum lawn, Mumbai.   Weather was hot and humid.   I was one of the 18 project champions sitting on the dais representing Divyadeepa, Mysore.    The occasion was announcement of grant finale grant winners of the event, SPARK THE RISE. Spark the Rise is a platform created by Mahindra, the automobile giant to help put ideas into action to drive positive change in India.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear my name announced by Ms. Parvathy Menon.  Yes, we got 2nd runner up grant of Rupees 20 lakhs.   Needless to say that I was very happy!   I thanked Mahindra for pouring oil into Divyadeepa which in turn help us to light up the lives of many OUT OF SYSTEM children.  

I came to know about this through one of our volunteers Ananth Nag.    Our project, ‘Education of OUT OF SYSTEM’ children emerged as a winning entry in the month of November garnering maximum number of votes.   Architects of this were volunteers.   At 12 midnight of 30th November, the tone and tenor of the calls I received from the volunteers echoed a feeling of joy, jubilation and their emotional commitment to Divyadeepa.  On the last day alone our project got 1300 votes.  Volunteers bunked classes, went to schools, colleges, software companies explained the concept of Spark The Rise and sought votes for our project.

Naturally preparation for the grand finale was even more joshful.  We sent mails to all patrons and well-wishers, requested all the visitors to this rural project to vote.  Volunteers prepared meaningful posters.   This time we got more votes within 50% of time.  We did our best.   Our volunteer’s spirit was very high.  But other project champions bettered our best!  Hats off to them for all the hard work!  As per the number of votes, we stood in 6th place, so chances of getting the grants were bleak.  Naturally our volunteers were disappointed.  But I think we got the support of the jury.  Our project is innovative, its impact is very high and has sustained without Government’s support for 7 years.  I’m sure; we have the God’s Grace.  We will continue to have It, as long as we remain sincere.

In the afternoon session, prior to the grant giving ceremony was a fruitful discussion session with TIE and Mahindra staff members.   The Indus Enterprises (TIE) provide mentorship to project champions.   The discussions were more or less general in nature.  There were 6 tables.  Project champions were made to move from one table to another for discussing different topics.  Some topics were interesting: What are the common pitfalls during establishing any organisation?, How to attract volunteers? Why innovations are not encouraged in India?, How profits and non-profits cooperate?... Visiting cards were exchanged so that project-specific mentorship could be sought in future.

Prior to this at Mahindra Guest house where all the project champions stayed, we had an informal group discussion in the morning.  I came to know about the inspirational work of other members.  Each project has its own unique challenges and solution has to be found out by the person who is working at the grass root level.  

Thanks to Mahindra for organising the event so well.  As usual it was a great learning experience for me.  Our gratitude to all who supported Divyadeepa in this event.  This grant will take care of our entire operational cost for one year.   Or if we keep this amount in corpus, the interest can take care of the life cycle of six children including their food, clothing, medical expenses and quality education.  This event helped me to understand our own work in different perspectives.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Detailed document about our school

People ask many difficult questions about our school. But once they visit our school, they go out with a feeling, “Oh, I got all the answers”. Some FAQ :

Who are OUT OF SYSTEM children?
Children for whom there is no proper school. (Except mentally retarded)
From what standard to what standard?
Children are not divided into rigid standards.
Is this a Kannada medium school or an English medium school?
Neither a Kannada medium school nor an English medium school in a conventional sense.
Why you don't have exams?
Unnecessary. We have a system to evaluate the child’s progress and to fix the curriculum
Is your school ICSE / CBSE / State Government recognized?
No. But children, parents/guardians have recognised. We are going to seek recognition as a grass root level rural educational research home/alternative school.
How do you sustain this?
This is growing from strength to strength since 7 years. But still a long way to go…

Please, click on the following link for a 27 page detailed document on our project.