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Our Hearts, Their Minds, One Hope- Why I volunteer for Asha …

I have been trying my friends to contribute for my blog for a while. So here is the first contributed post from Sanketh. In this article he talks about his volunteering experience with non for profit organization Asha for Education. Asha, of which I am also a volunteer, works for raising awareness and providing education to underprivileged kids in India. Thanks Sanketh for the contribution.

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Our Hearts, Their Minds, One Hope

Why I volunteer for Asha …

By Sanketh Bhat

“Education frees us and gives us wings to fly”– Anonymous

Almost 49 million school-age children in India do not attend school and conservative estimates are that over 11 million Indian children under 14 are engaged in child-labor. Unfortunately, 29% (over 317 million) of India’s population lives below the national poverty line and 35% (over 329 million) of the global illiterate population lives in India.

Are these just statistics? Or Must something be done?

America calling

I arrived at Gainesville, FL to pursue my graduate studies in the University of Florida in mid-December 2006. Being holiday season, one of the largest university towns of US having a population of over about 0.2 million with over 55000 students had a deserted look. Just when I was getting bored having nothing to do, with commencement of classes a good 3 weeks away, I got an e-mail on the Indian students group of the university. It said ‘Shramadaan – come and volunteer in the basketball event’ and help the underprivileged children in India. Basketball and football are huge events in the ‘Gator Nation’ (gator is the UF mascot) winning three national championships in a year. With the initial excitement to see and meet new people, I agreed to volunteer for the event. That’s when I got introduced to Asha UFlorida popularly known as ‘Gators for Asha’, the University of Florida (UF) chapter of Asha for Education.

The Gators roar

‘Asha for Education’ is an all-volunteer global non-profit organization. It was born out of the desire to bring hope to the lives of underprivileged children in India. Gators for Asha (Asha UFlorida) was started by five UF students back late in 2003 and in a span of seven years, we have grown and have supported many educational and health care projects in our country.

Why do I volunteer for Asha ?

India has the highest number of NGO’s in the world. Among the plethora of NGO’s, why did I choose Asha ?

Being a volunteer of Asha for 3 years now, having been associated with a few projects, speaking to people outside Asha about the organization, my motivation to volunteer with this organization has only grown and I am proud to be associated with a part of this group.

  • Asha exists for projects – The group being made up of students and professionals from different fields are sufficiently motivated to see our projects and children in our projects are doing well
  • Flat structure, non-hierarchical, bottom-up approach – In this age of globalization and top-down corporate structures, here we are shaking of the this trend and silently and steadily inching towards our goal. Asha will soon be entering its 20th year.
  • Volunteer driven – Being completely volunteer driven, every volunteer has a choice on how much time or what (s)he wants to contribute to, of course, within the frameworks of Asha
  • Zero-overhead policy – Asha has a zero-overhead policy so every penny of donations go directly towards projects.

These are some of the more generic reasons most volunteers will give. But what gravitated me to Asha UFlorida are some of the reasons listed below:

  • Asha UFlorida consciously makes an effort to support support smaller NGO’s and pilot projects
  • We don’t want our project partners to do the government’s job. We proactively make an effort to make sure our project partner are an extended part of the local governing bodies and supplement governments work
  • We understand that big is not always better, it is not always beneficial to talk about scalability and that no development is possible unless the local community wants it. One of Asha’s strengths in my opinion is that we motivate individuals and groups who want to be facilitators of such a positive change in their community.

But a question lurks in my mind, ‘Is what we are doing enough?’, then I understand a journey of thousand steps begins with the first one..this is only the beginning.

And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

-Robert Frost

Leave a Comment June 4, 2010

Go Team Asha UFlorida!!

All the best Team Asha UFlorida for 4th annual Gate River run!! Just saw that you guys crossed $10,000 mark, Well done!! I will be waiting for this year’s pictures. Was going back the memory lane and remembering our first Gate River run in 2007… Just want to say thanks to Coaches Rick and Dana again for all their love and support to Team Asha all these years..

Team Asha is a fundraising program of Asha for Education where volunteers raise funds for education of underprivileged children in India by participating in various running events including 15 k, Half Marathon and Full marathons.

Leave a Comment March 9, 2010

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