Being the change | education | Hindustan Times
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Being the change

These students started social initiatives that have developed into major ventures while they were in college. Here’s how they did it, and how you can help out over the summer.

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:25 IST
Pankti Mehta

Draw inspiration from these success stories of students taking up social issues beyond rhetoric candlelight protests. Volunteer with them over the vacations or learn how you can form your own movement too.

Cycle Chalao

Borne out of the frustration of not being able to find an autorickshaw day after day from home to college, NMIMS students Raj Janagam and Jui Gangan Google-searched places that would allow cycle hire facilities from point A to B on a regular basis. “When we searched, we found that it was a rampant social business model in the west,” says Janagam.

Currently running in Mulund and the areas around, Cycle Chalao offers mountain bicycles between Mulund station and Vaze Kelkar college, which serve as docking stations. For Rs 175 per month, the organization is currently targeting students on their way to college. However, they have also been invited by the Hiranandani Group to set up a similar model in their Powai township, aimed at corporates.

How they did it:

The duo conducted extensive research on the model, and took a year before they actually implemented it. They garnered funds from PUKAR and India Unlimited for their initial costs, and were then given a Rs 2 lakh loan from a Rotary club.

Pitch in:

The group is looking for volunteers that can help develop technology at docking stations. Currently, each member has an ID card, which corresponds with an identification code on the cycle. They now want to implement a more advanced access card system, where swiping a card would automatically unlock a cycle at the docking station.

They are also looking for research analysts who can practically identify other areas in Mumbai where the model can be scaled.


Oscar Foundation

One of the few kids in his slum who had access to private education, Ashok Rathod, student of Siddharth College, saw how his peers, who went to BMC schools, gradually all dropped out of school in lieu of jobs such as fishing. “They were making more money than they needed, and fell prey to gambling and other vices which turned expensive,” he recounts.

At that time, Rathod was in college and had a chance encounter with an NGO that focused on sports. Thus, the idea for the Oscar Foundation was born, an initiative that gives sport facilities and coaching to dropouts, in exchange of them attending classes.

Currently, there are 140 students between 7 – 19 years who come to a community center in Cuffe Parade. Here, they’re taught basic mathematics, English and Hindi, while also coached football.

How they did it:

Rathod received funding from various NGOs, such as India Unlimited. He was also given the ‘Real Hero’ award from a news channel two years ago, which gave him a substantial cash prize to invest in the foundation.

Pitch in:

Rathod is looking for volunteers to teach English and mathematics. If you are interested in football, you can help out with the sports department as well.


My India Empowered

Students of Jai Hind college, Ritika Arya and a couple of her friends saw potential in a model that runs classes within housing societies, for the children of domestic help. Started in 2008, My India Empowered gained more and more momentum, and the team also set up a parallel tribal school and micro-finance unit in the Tumnipada village at Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

Students are taught English, mathematics and life-skills. There are interactive events organised, such as a ‘Camping in a concrete jungle’ session, where the team sets up tents with the students within different housing societies. There are team-building exercises, exposure to leadership activities, games and motivational drills. “We want to teach them more than just academics,” says Arya. “If you create the right balance of fun and education, the children are more likely to be interested in the programme.”

How they did it:

They received funding initially from Ashoka’s Youth Venture programme, then organised independent events that were revenue generating.

Pitch in:

My India Empowered is looking for volunteers who can help with managing a micro-finance project in the Tumnipada village. The tribal women want to make and sell homemade items and need help with research, scaling and profit-making analyses.

They also want volunteers who can serve the purpose of relationship managers, to deal with parents of the students, talk to them about absenteeism, etc.


Make a Difference (MAD)

Started two years ago in Mumbai by students from NMIMS, MAD garnered enough support for Michelle Obama’s attention when she came down to visit. Sprouting 17 chapters in 11 different cities, MAD teaches communication skills to the underprivileged.

The University of Cambridge has especially formulated the syllabus, for listening, speaking and writing English. MAD’s Mumbai chapter currently spans Bandra to Andheri, with over 80 volunteers. The students are made to go through five levels of courses, with 56 two-hour sessions every year.

How they did it:

MAD initially received sponsorship from web-based company ZOHO and then formed a ‘Friends of MAD’ network where young corporate professionals give minimum R200 per month.

Pitch in:

MAD is looking for volunteers, but those who can give them a one-year commitment, to teach English.