The drum roll is gathering tempo and is expected to reach a crescendo on 22 February when the cast and crew of Slumdog Millionaire walk down the red carpet at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre to collect (hopefully) a handful of Academy Awards. Once the applause dies down and the din subsides, if young Jamal’s desperate dash down a shit hole in pursuit of his dream continues to haunt you, then here are two organizations you could get in touch with to do your bit to help the millions of Jamals, Salims and Latikas.
In 1991, Victor and Rajashri Bansiwar, both educators set out to teach a handful of shoeshine boys at three of the busiest local railway stations in Mumbai the basics of reading, writing and mathematics. What started as a small initiative to help the children find their voice, has grown into an organization with programmes ranging from imparting vocational skills to building shelters for girls, Sanjivani, at Vashi. According to Rajashri Bansiwar, rather than just literacy, VOICE stresses on overall development and imparting life-skills. She estimates that in the years since its inception, at least 5,000 children have benefited from VOICE programmes.
Quality education can change their lives. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Rahul Rajput, 34, had always wanted to make a difference but didn’t know where to begin till he had a chat with a director of the IT firm he worked for. The director, who is a VOICE trustee, suggested Rajput help out at the Vashi chapter. Rajput has been volunteering at VOICE since May. A trained martial artist, Rajuput’s Saturdays are spent teaching the children basics of self-defence and computer. “I have also helped with the website. But my main job is basically to be counsellor to these children.”
Dipti Rao, 24, has always been keen on helping underprivileged children. “I went for a visit to VOICE in September and loved the atmosphere. The way the children react to affection is so moving. I opted to teach computers since I believe in today’s world it is as important as knowing to read or do maths.” Rao teaches them for about 45 minutes and lets them play online games for about 15 minutes during each session.
To volunteer or donate funds: Contact 09819831753 or 09819851049 or log on to www.voiceofchildren.org
When a group of 40 super-successful investment bankers in their early 30s introspected on the secret of their success, they realized it was the quality of education they had received that was responsible for their winning streak. Thus was born the idea of a foundation to ensure thousands more would receive such education, too. Smile Foundation, set up in 2002, introduced the idea of venture capitalism to the social welfare sector. It describes itself as a “social venture philanthropy” that “identifies, handholds and build capacities of genuine grassroots NGOs”, according to Neha Agrawal, senior officer, communication, Smile Foundation.
Children at the Smile Foundation. Image: Smile Foundation
Headquartered in New Delhi, the foundation has reached out to more than 30,000 beneficiaries through more than 150 basic education and health care initiatives under their Mission Education programme across India.
When Bhanupriya Chadha, 21, finished her bachelor’s in commerce, she wanted to take a year off from studies. An amateur photographer who had worked with NGOs earlier and as part of her gap-year experience, she chose to join the Smile Foundation. She’s the official photographer at various Smile events and is currently working on the annual reports. Chadha says that wherever she is, “the experience of working with Smile will stay with me”.
To volunteer or donate funds: Contact 011-41354565 or email SMILE at firstname.lastname@example.org