How 500 young volunteers across India are educating 10,000 deprived children


Stuti Gupta completed her schooling from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh and then moved to Bengaluru to pursue her higher education from Christ University. The move jolted her with a tectonic shift in her outlook towards education. She felt the two cities had a massive gap in the style of education. It was then that it struck her. Even after studying from a publicly perceived ‘good’ school in Gwalior, if she can feel the difference then what about the children studying in the government schools?

When Stuti came back to Gwalior in May 2012, during her 1st year summer vacations, she heard about the experiences of her family friend Shubham Singh. Shubham – studying for an engineering degree then – had gone to teach in a village school with some of his friends. Seeing the dire need of a conduit that can help children who were deprived of good education, they started laying down the foundations of an organisation. These seeds gave rise to Gramiksha – a non-profit organization working towards imparting holistic education to the children in the government schools, those living helplessly on the streets, and those belonging to unprivileged and deprived communities.

Stuti came in at this juncture and decided to go to a orphanage with her friends to act as an emissary of Gramiksha. These young individuals started teaching these children some basic topics related to health and hygiene, environmental concerns and behavioural education along with the regular school syllabus. And the experience was both evocative and provocative. It evoked emotions from children in an unprecedented manner and provoked Stuti to join Gramiksha in a prominent capacity.

Image courtesy: Gramiksha
Image courtesy: Gramiksha

This multi-faceted organization didn’t have any defined structure or module initially. But six years down the line, Gramiksha has come up with its own teaching module incorporating extra-curricular activities like art, craft, and sports along with the various subjects by means of its several programs and instructive modules.

Initially, they didn’t have a big set-up. It was around October 2012. They just got permissions, went to a government school and started talking about some basic issues that can be attributed to education. Over time, many individuals joined them and their processes also gained a wider berth and complexity in nature.

 

Image courtesy: Gramiksha
Image courtesy: Gramiksha

Dhiman Talapatra joined Gramiksha as a volunteer while in the first-year of engineering. Dhiman’s parents actively worked all their lives for several social causes and this, in particular, inspired Dhiman to set up a goal in this direction. His dedication and passion for the cause got him a place in the core team. “The best part is the entire process and working style of the organization. Gramiksha believes in working at the ground-level and bringing a change. The number of things learned, passing on these learnings to the other volunteers and creating a positive impact on the youth are the fundamental things we do at Gramiksha. At Gramiksha, efforts don’t go wasted.” says Dhiman.

Over a period of time, more and more volunteers joined Gramiksha, counting to more than 500 at present who are working on its vision. The organization attracts youth, who at a very early stage in their lives get hands-on experience of not only volunteering for education but also in different segments of an organization; be it Marketing, Human Resource Management or Finance. Besides, individuals with professions ranging from engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs, artists, lawyers and many more are also associated with Gramiksha. “It is interesting to see how the right cause can attract and influence so many. A volunteer from Jaipur who worked with Gramiksha in Gwalior went back and started the Jaipur Chapter”, says Stuti.

Volunteers of Gramiksha | Image courtesy: Gramiksha
Volunteers of Gramiksha | Image courtesy: Gramiksha

With its strong base of volunteers Gramiksha is actively working in 6 different cities of India, touching and transforming the lives of some 10,000 children. The community strives to strike a balance between personal and social growth.  They inculcate suitable values and also treat the children with quality. This enables them to come up with great solutions. Various ingenious programs being run by Gramiksha are equipping children with innovative skill-sets.

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Project Udaan is trying to integrate technology and teaching. It also promotes activity-based pedagogy and introduces topics that allow children to think critically, question actively, and form their own perspectives. Another project called Project Swasthya aims to bridge the void between underprivileged communities and quality health care. They also spread awareness on crucial issues, such as, vaccination, diseases, and healthy practices.

Presentation Day at a Gramiksha centre | Image courtesy: Gramiksha
Presentation Day at a Gramiksha centre | Image courtesy: Gramiksha

“Through Gramiksha we not only empower our beneficiaries but also ourselves. Most of us didn’t study social work academically. Yet it is fascinating to watch how amazing ideas are pulled out wonderfully,” mentions Stuti. This culture of self-cultivated ideas for pertinent social issues is what makes Gramiksha special.

To create a depth in this methodology of dual impact – both for the beneficiaries and the volunteers – Stuti and Dhiman took part in a year long leadership programme called Changelooms Learning and Leadership journey. Its is designed and implemented by Delhi based organisation Pravah and supported by Oracle. The motive is to support early stage social enterprises.

“The numerous workshops held during the tenure of Changelooms helped us to work on several frameworks. They guided us towards the exact goal for our organization. Besides, Changelooms also helped us to gain self-awareness and become introspective. Changelooms facilitated so that we can recognize the relationship between personal and professional challenges. Likewise, it assisted us to network with like-minded people and work in collaboration with them. Overall, it gave us a better understanding of ascertaining our goals and community with which we resolve to work for.” says Stuti.

Image courtesy: Gramiksha
Image courtesy: Gramiksha

The gamut of learning and self-discovery by the volunteers show significantly in the development of the children. “A 10th standard student joined us as a photographer and went ahead to establish his start-up in Scotland. We pursue the concept of hit, try and fail and repeat. This renders smooth transitions in our professional and personal lives,” says Dhiman. The organization aims to enable public schools to perform better and make them a superior entity in the future. This can be done by establishing libraries and several other resource centres.

You can know more about Gramiskha and contribute to their cause, in any form, by contacting at stutiashokgupta@gmail.com.

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