Passion for Education Hits Home for Youth in United States
Avni Nirmesh Patel has been involved with Ekal Chicago USA chapter because of her Nana and Nani (Chitranjan and Mayura Desai) since she was seven years old. She has been taking part with other students to lead shlokas to kick-off the Ekal fundraiser program for five successive years. She saw how the community pulled together to support schools in India and that was the beginning of her passion to support Ekal.
For the past two years, Avni has developed and presented a display featuring Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation during the University of Illinois Extension 4H competition. “4-H is one of the largest youth development programs in America with more than 6.5 million young people, age 5–19, and 5,40,000 youth and adult volunteers.” U of I Extension, 4H Youth Development Educator, Brian Williams said. Avni took part in over a dozen 4-H projects. One of her projects was Citizenship where she talks about what Ekal is and the important role it plays in the life of individuals living in rural India. She focused on the active role she has played in fund raising, and even being a Master of Ceremony at the Ekal fundraiser in West Chicago. The 4-H judges were so impressed that she was awarded with a blue and Grand Champion ribbons (top ribbon). “Ms. Patel continues to grow into a young adults that anyone can learn from, not because she is young, but because she is intelligent”, said Mr. Williams. These posters were on display at a recent donor appreciation event lead by Mananiya Shyamji Gupta, Ekal Founder and Dr. C. Satheesh Kumar.
In 2010 at the age of 12, Avni set two goals; to create awareness of Ekal and raise enough funds to sponsor a school. She worked with her Nana and Nani. She wrote letters and followed it up with a phone call to a list of supports. Avni said, “I was very surprised as to how much money I had collected. People wanted to know about Ekal and support the cause.” She collected over $365. That is enough money for 30 children of her age to go to school! She went on to say, “Most of my money was kindly donated by local business and relatives like Rekhaba (aunt).” She also earned $60 that she put towards the cause. “This experience was very rewarding”.
In 2011, Avni emceed one of the two fundraiser held in Chicago, Illinois. She shared her story about her trip to India in 2007, “I was hit with a shock of reality. In India, there were orphan children wearing tattered clothing running around the streets. These children would gaze up curiously at the huge billboards on the roadside and ask people passing by what the sign read. This made me realize how incredibly fortunate I was. I always remember those poor children and I want to do what I can to help them.” Avni presented to over 300 people. The two day fundraiser event resulted in $88,000 of contributions for tribal children in India. "Due to the overwhelming demand, this was the first time we have done back-to-back fundraisers in Chicago. We are delighted with the outcome and tremendous support from the community. We are particularly excited to see our next generation of young children, like Avni, take such an active role. We are proud to have her represent Ekal", said Dr. Hasmukh Shah, Central Regional President. “Our goal next year is raise enough funds to support 500 schools”. Dr. Shah added, “We encourage the community to get involved and support our home country.”
Ekal Vidyalaya Officials in New England
Ma. Shyam Ji & Dr.Satheesh Ji was in New England Region on Sept 25, 2011 & they had a meeting with the Ekal Vidyalaya Volunteers. Dr. Satheesh Ji made a power point presentation about the working & vision of Ekal movement which was extremely informative & helpful & Shyam Ji's talk was a source of inspiration for all. An article on this visit appeared in the largest website in New England area lokvani.com is as under:
Ekal Vidyalaya runs single-teacher schools in Bharat in the most remote or tribal areas on a shoestring budget of $1.00 per day per school educating 30-40 children. A school typically has students up to the level of third grade and a school supported for about five years becomes financially self-sufficient.
On the evening of 25 September 2011, three senior officals of the Ekal Vidyalaya movement were in Lexington, MA. The officials were Mr. Shyam Gupta, Founder of Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, Dr. C.Satheesh Kumar, Ekal Global Coordinator and Mr. Sankaran Sabramanium, Secretary Ekal Chapter in Kerala. Also present was the vice prisedent of Ekal USA, Mr. Vinod Jhunjhanwala who donates over $20,000 every year. Mr. Ram Nehra who is the President of the New England chapter of Ekal Vidyalaya, said that Mr. Shyam Gupta is a visionary who understands the problems of poor aadivasi people in India. He travels extensively in the most remote areas & jungles of India & is a source of inspiration for the hundreds of volunteers.
Mr. Puran Dang, being the chairman of the New England Chapter of Ekal Vidyalaya, greeted them at his home where he and his wife Kamlesh ji, also hosted a dinner for the participants in the gathering. The gathering comprised volunteers and supporters of the movement and also a many who were introduced to the movement for the first time.
The major portion of the meeting was a presentation by Dr. Kumar on the progress the movement was making. He said that Ekal movement is the largest, grassroots, non - government education movement in India, operating in over 36,000 villages and educating over ONE MILLION aadivasi children in rural India. He added that Ekal Foundation is a secular, non-partisan (or non-religious, non-political) 501 (c) (3) registered non-profit charity education organization.
He described the nationwide growth, a few hurdles being faced, and how a steady progress was being made to keep the villagers motivated to remain with their lands while becoming literate and healthier. He further said that Ekal’s goal is to reach 100,000 villages by 2015 in line with the UN Millennium Development goals & asked every one for the support to reach this goal.
Mr. Shyam Gupta, Dr. C.Satheesh Kumar and Mr. Sankaran also fielded the questions of the attendees. They underlined that owing to an extremely efficient use of donations and by keeping the management highly localized for the villagers, the movement was able to achieve many goals otherwise difficult for a government or a typical non-profit or not-for-profit organization. A great transparency in the use of resources and schools always welcoming the donors were reasons further to strengthen the movement.
Mrs. Geeta Singh thanked the officials for including New England in their itinerary and Mrs. and Mr. Dang to be the hosts. The officials concluded the event with a request for the time of the volunteers to spread the idea even further.
An Initiative of Ekal Sansthan
Mission of Ekal goes even beyond spreading education in tribal and rural areas since it involves greater attention and advocacy for promotion of education amongst those who matter most to the policy framework as well as its implementers at the grassroots level.
Ekal Santhan, an integral part of Ekal Movement, is holding its Second National Seminar on 'Education for Empowerment - A Gateway to Develop Tribal and Rural Bharat', at India International Centre, New Delhi, on January 12, 2012. It coincides with the Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekanand. The purpose of the seminar is to bring together ideas and experiences of eminent practitioners and scholars from the field of basic education, and draw in lessons as to how these hierarchies of access, especially with respect to rural areas and tribal social groups can be bridged.
The session is structured in the form of two panel discussions, each of which puts together frontline thinking on the issues of reaching the unreached and mproving the quality of learning, so that the 'Bharat' lagging behind can be empowered.
The seminar has a competitive edge. Students and professionals are invited to share original theses/papers written on the subject of the seminar i.e ‘Education for Empowerment - A Gateway to Develop Tribal and Rural Bharat'.
A panel of eminent educationists and thinkers from the field will judge the papers presented, and the selected first, second and third entries will be given an award ofRs 21,000/-, Rs.15,000/- and Rs.10,000/- respectively. Besides, there will be five consolation prizes of Rs. 5,000/- each. November 30, 2011 has been kept as the last date for submitting theses/papers. Nominations for registration to attend the Seminar are invited primarily from organizations working in related fields. However, self nominations are also welcome. Since the numbers of seats are limited the registration will be done on a first come first serve basis.
For details of registration to attend and participate in the competition, log on to www. ekalsansthan.org
FTS Bhopal organizes Vanbhoj
Friends of Tribals Society, Bhopal organized a Vanbhoj (Picnic) at Leela Farm House, Bhopal on 18th September, 2011. A total of 200 people participated in he event including 50 new families. Well known citizens and donors of the city including the Executive Committee members of FTS Bhopal took active part in the programme. Sri Suresh Kumar Chauksey, Patron, FTS Bhopal, Sri Sanjeev Agarwal, President, FTS Bhopal, Sri Ajay Chhajed, Secretary, FTS Bhopal and other members welcomed all the guests. Sri L.N. Gupta, Former Patron, FTS Bhopal sponsored the lunch for all the members present. Mahila Samiti, FST Bhopal also rganized different interesting programmes like Antakshri, Ekal Quiz and games etc. Everyone enjoyed it. Fulltime volunteer Sri Raj Kumar Singh, (Chapter Pabhari, Bhopal) and Sri Sanjay Malviya were also present during the programme. After completing the picnic programmes, all took lunch together. All participants praised this event and resolved to support Friends of Tribals Society to achieve the goal of spreading education in remote areas of India. In the end Sri Ajay Kumar Chhajed, Secretary, FTS Bhopal gave a vote of thanks.