My first meeting with Vibha

By: Sandhya Honnavalli

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There are a lot of “firsts” in life, don’t you agree? Some, we look forward to with much anticipation. Some are just out of the blue and we are caught totally unaware. Then there are some others where we know are coming, but don’t know quite what to expect. Well, one such “first” for me was on Saturday, the 24th of January, a beautiful crisp afternoon, when I drove to Haggard Library in Plano to attend a meeting with Vibha Dallas Volunteer group.

Finding the room was a piece of cake, thanks to the two able youth volunteers at the door, greeting and guiding the incoming crowd to the meeting room. It was great to see a room full of kids, teenagers and adults seated there. Everybody’s weekends are busy and precious these days and for some reason, two-day weekends seem to be never enough! In spite of that, it felt good to see that all these people had taken time out of their Saturday schedule to come attend this meeting. Talk about commitment and dedication towards a great cause, right? At that minute, I somehow knew that things were headed in the right direction.

After the initial welcome, meet and greet and introduction of newcomers, facilitated by youth volunteer Aakash, we delved straight into business. Prathibha, the bubbly, cheerful lead, spoke briefly about Vibha, a non-profit organization that strives to help uplift under privileged kids, both in India and the US. Action Center Co-ordinators, who were present at the meeting, took turns explaining the general functional and operational logistics of Vibha. They also briefly spoke about a few different projects like Vidyarambham, Canned Food Drive etc. It was interesting to learn how the time and efforts of volunteers here, reaches and impacts the underprivileged in India. What stood out as a striking factor was the enthusiasm with which all the ACCs spoke!  It was also inspiring to see some of the youth volunteers talk about how they had served the community through Vibha this past year, which in turn had earned them their service hours.

Next was the talk about Vibha’s upcoming and exciting, very first “big” event of the year, the Kite Flying Festival. Who doesn’t love to fly a kite? March is just the perfect time too, with Spring just setting in. Besides understanding a bit about the Science behind making and flying kites, it seemed like a great crowd-puller, fun-filled, outdoor event for the whole family. It was a way to reach out to the mass and spread awareness about Vibha, while flying a kite and having fun with friends and family in the community! Not just that, face painting, talent show, mehendi  etc were all going to be on the agenda for the day, seemed like! Great ways to get many volunteers involved.

Well, to me, it seemed like  this was just one example of what could happen when a group of like-minded people, willing to dedicate their time, energy and efforts towards a great cause, come together  to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged kids. Let us learn to give some and not take too much all the time.

Vibha-Chicago FMSC event

By: Priya Balachandran

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Vibha-Chicago Action Center conducted an event at Feed My Starving Children (FMSC.org), Aurora location, on 02/13/2014, Friday.  This local volunteering activity was aimed at creating awareness about Vibha in the local community and to attract the attention of both adults and children who are interested in helping the community. A team composed of Vibha volunteers along with service-minded people and Elementary school kids from the local community participated in this event. We got support from a local social network group in advertising our event.

At the FMSC center, volunteers hand packed meals specifically formulated for malnourished children for an hour and half. These meals are shipped all over the world to about 70 countries to help aid children internationally.  This event directly reflected the Vibha’s mission ‘to educate, empower and enable every individual who wishes to make a positive difference in the life of the underprivileged child’. It offered parents an opportunity to inspire their kids for volunteering, and elementary-school kids took the opportunity to begin volunteering with Vibha and giving back to their community. It also gave the volunteers a chance to get a taste of field work experience. This event also emphasized Vibha as more than just a fund-raising organization; it incorporated community and service which are two core values for the Vibha organization as a whole.

The children who went to the Aurora location of FMSC were enthusiastic in participating. They experienced the feeling of happiness everyone can get from helping make a difference in someone else’s life. Volunteering is beneficial for both parties. Those in need receive aid, and the volunteers gain a sense of values and can delight in the fruits of the work they put in. These small act of kindness have a ripple effect and help teach an entirely new generation of children the beauty and joy of volunteering. The children who attended the event learnt that it is exciting be a part of team working for a cause. Apart from great experiencing of packing and positive environment, it was fun to see how little hands pack food for the less fortunate ones.

Vibha volunteering participation certificates were distributed to all those who attended the event to recognize and encourage their involvement. Vibha Chicago Action Center believes in ‘acting locally and impacting globally’.  Like us on Facebook!

A Visit to Jan Madhyam

As a social entrepreneurship organization, Vibha sponsors a number of Non-Governmental Organizations(NGOs) in India which focus on improving the quality of life of children, especially those in challenging circumstances. Jan Madhyam in New Delhi is one such NGO.  Jan Madhyam’s mission is to reach out to “the disabled children from marginalized sections of society aiding the most disadvantaged in terms of rights and opportunities.” Jan Madhyam also focuses on working with women and girls in India as their missions is rooted in equal opportunity.  Vibha’s funding supports Jan Madhyam in enrolling students to be educated and develop key life skills. Ikroop Kaur, a Vibha volunteer, from Vibha Seattle Action Center, recently visited a Janmadhyam facility. She has written about the experience below.

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“Janmadhyam works with under-privileged children with physical & mental disabilities. On the cold winter day that I visited Janmadhyam, their facility was a welcome oasis in the somewhat gritty neighborhood it is situated in. I walked in to see the children attending “music class”. The girl you see at the drums below is hearing impaired but that didn’t stop her from missing a single beat on this rendition! Their teacher is a graduate of this institute and now comes back to teach the students.

sec_pic_JMTwo teachers gave me a tour of the self-sufficient unit complete with a kitchen garden, kitchen run by the students, classrooms, physiotherapy room. I got to sample some of the food that the kitchen was putting out it was amazing! The students cook food for a nearby office during the week this is another source of revenue for the facility. The students not only studied here but also learnt some skills like making spices, handicrafts, sewing & pottery some of which supported the costs of running this facility. This trip was the most fulfilling one I’ve made in a while it really put things in perspective. On how some people, with so little, and with such great challenges, persevere   with a smile and a can-do attitude. It makes me thankful for what I have and makes me want to do more to support these children.”

By: Ikroop Kaur

Reaching a New Height: Target One Million

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Ever since the organization was started in 1991, Vibha has challenged itself on several occasions “to do more” for the benefit of the underprivileged children. “Target One Million” is one such challenge that the entire organization rallied behind and achieved the goal with enthusiasm, excitement and a sense of purpose. This will enable to increase the support to more grassroots organizations and scale up successful models, so that a difference can be made in the lives of 60,000 children.

Vibha has been raising $700,000 to $800,000 in the past few years annually for the past several years, through all the fundraisers organized by dedicated volunteers and the generous support of its patrons across all the action-centers. So, the idea started among some of the volunteers to raise the bar and set a higher and more exciting target and motivate the entire organization towards that goal. The idea quickly turned into an action plan that a core team of volunteers executed and prepared the base for launching the campaign. The year-end campaign was kicked-off in late October, on the eve of Diwali, the festival of lights, to bring Vibha (“Brightness”) into the lives of thousands of children.

Highlighting the “Success Stories” of the children from each of the projects that Vibha is currently supporting was the main theme of the campaign . The volunteers and the donors  were appraised of the difference that their contributions are making in India at individual level and as a community. Four new projects added in 2014, in the fields of public education and education of the children of construction workers, were also presented as a proof of how additional resources will be put to use to bring about bigger change.

The volunteers spread this message among their networks through facebook and other channels. Some high-end donors came forward with matching donation challenges that spurred more excitement. While the momentum kept building all of November, “Giving Tuesday” (Dec 2) turned the campaign into a celebration of “giving”. In the final days of the campaign, a huge number of volunteers and their networks of family and friends were focused on the goal to be reached by Dec 31.  In the end, all the three goals of the campaign  – to reach a million dollars (exceeded at $1,008,250) to be able to support 60,000 children, to rally the entire organization for a common goal, and fundraising-with-pride (of making a difference) – were achieved.

2014 Presidential Volunteer Services Award

image00I am honored to receive Presidential Volunteer Services Award for the year 2014 and I want to thank Vibha for nominating me.  I was introduced to Vibha four years ago by a group of Milwaukee Action Center volunteers who left a flier tucked under the windshield wiper blade of my van. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with countless Vibha volunteers during various local events whose sheer passion always amazed and inspired me.

As part of the Projects team, I interact regularly with a team of over 80 individuals scattered all over the USA and in India. It took me only a few months to realize that the team I work with is nothing less than extraordinary.  Despite their busy lives, these individuals are able to find time towards the cause they ardently believe in, which is to bring a positive difference to the lives of underprivileged children.  Our team of monitors, Zankhana, Deep and Jyoti, who have decades of experience in social work constantly monitor our projects, conduct capability building workshops, scout for new projects, and look for continuous improvements. The fact that individuals of such high caliber chose to associate with Vibha for all these years is, in itself a testimony to the good work Vibha does. As for the Directors of the NGOs we partner with, what a humbling and remarkable experience it was when I first visited them a few years ago.  Many of these partners dedicated their entire lives for the same noble cause that we at Vibha believe in. Their faith, compassion, and leadership are a source of inspiration and encouragement to the people and communities around them.  After meeting these individuals, I am convinced that every dollar Vibha raises is spent with utmost care to maximize the benefit to these deserving children.

This award truly belongs to those Vibha Volunteers, our Donors, Project Partners, and Monitors who all strive to create a brighter future to countless children every day. It also belongs to those deserving children who unknowingly touch our hearts and enrich our lives in many ways.

By: Murthy Munagavalasa

New Vibha Action Center in Charlotte


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Calling all Vibha Members of Charlotte! Recently, a new action center has been started in Charlotte, North Carolina by Neha Ghai. Ghai was a dedicated member of Vibha Atlanta, and after her move to North Carolina, decided to open up an action center in Charlotte. Supported by her family and friends, Ghai became the new action center coordinator in Charlotte. Ghai writes:

“My journey with Vibha started in June 2012 in Atlanta. I [began working] with Vibha when I first heard about the beautiful work [the organization] was doing for the needy and God-gifted little children in India, [improving] their upbringing and education to help them achieve a better life and help them grow. I was honored to be inducted as one of the core volunteers of [the charity], and I volunteered for the strong Vibha team in Atlanta by helping them organize events, manage event websites and administrative work. Vibha is collaboration between all ages – children, youth and adults, which helps bring communities together and create bonds. The Charlotte Chapter was born with an intention of extending this bond across a wider group and reaching out to people to help them be part of the selfless mission at Vibha.”

Only having started in November of 2014, the Charlotte chapter is still growing steadily. In just two months there are already fifteen volunteers and more are coming aboard to become volunteers with Vibha. Congratulations to Neha Ghai and all the new volunteers at the Charlotte, North Carolina chapter. We look forward to seeing all your accomplishments in the upcoming year!

By: Anita Ambalavanan

Success Stories from CORP and Jan Madhyam

vibha_1.j (1)SWETA 

When Sweta and her younger sister were very young, their family was going through difficult financial times. Their parents were illiterate and unemployed. Sweta and her sister never went to a school or received formal education. But the family aspired to do better, and they were approached by CORP – Community Outreach Program in Mumbai – a project supported by Vibha. Sweta’s mother joined the CORP vocational training center to learn tailoring skills. Upon completion of her classes, she took on a small job and joined CORP’s Self Help group to learn other skills. Sweta’s dad learnt to drive a car and started working as a driver. The family was finally able to sustain themselves, and enrolled their two girls in the CORP bridge education program. Later, CORP helped enroll Sweta and her sister into a government school as well as after-school support classes at their centers. Sweta gave her 10th grade board examination last year and graduated with 61 percentile. She secured an admission into the R.J Thakur College for further studies. She aspires to take a job in the banking sector. Sweta’s younger sister is currently in 8th grade and plans to finish her high school soon.

HIMANSHU

When we think of a 12 yr old with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and from a family living in abject poverty, we wouldn’t expect anything short of a miracle to change that child’s life. Three years ago, Himanshu came to Jan Madhyam with aggressive and confrontational behavior, and was quite uncooperative. It was extremely challenging to work with him. However, this challenge proved to be an opportunity for Jan Madhyam. They developed a program specifically for him consisting of counseling as well as involvement in interactive programs and activities. This program was aimed at helping him control his aggressive and confrontational behavior and become social. It worked! He eventually showed positive signs of improvement. He showed keen interest in activities like gardening. which has a calming effect on him. It also helped him focus and deal with poor concentration and displine issues. He also showed a keen interest in the Jan Madhyam store and enjoyed being behind the sales counter. Today, he volunteers at the store every now and then, and handles sales and payments with confidence. His inclination towards this program has motivated Jan Madhyam to continue developing his skills further so that eventually he can be placed as a sales person in one of the stores. Himanshu was enrolled in one the local schools but he was not keen to be in class with younger children and dropped out. Subsequently he is now given functional literacy at the Equal Opportunity Rural Technical Training and Education  Centre (EORTTEC).

Jan Madhyam’s goal is to bring a challenged person into the mainstream and steer him/her towards a productive and fulfilling life focusing mainly on disadvantaged children. It promotes self-advocacy and self- sufficiency. Jan Madhyam has been a Vibha supported partner since 2003. We stay committed to continue supporting Jan Madhyam’s efforts. As of today, this commitment has benefited more than 25,000 children and adults through training, and with one key focus – life skills training.

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