Vibha – Celebrate to Educate
COVID-19 Pandemic has brought in novel ideas on how we live, share and celebrate our blessings. Graduation 2020 is no different. The new graduates are showing grit, resilience and optimism as they step out in their individual new worlds in addition to our collective new world.
We, at Vibha, are taking this opportunity to celebrate our graduates – Students who have graduated from Vibha-supported initiatives and those who volunteered with us to make others successful.
Congratulations to these phenomenal leaders who are ready for new experiences, new connections, and to continuing their community giving spirits.
Let’s Celebrate their success and most importantly Contribute to the success of those who need it the most.
Here are Youth Stories from all around Vibha.
Dream Beyond Reality
By Asha Devi, Program Manager, Vibha India
Graduation unfolds many dreams and aspirations for young minds. Sometimes harsh realities bring a baggage of responsibility for some people along with dreams and aspirations. This is a story of Madhavi who works hard every day to fulfil dreams to study in college one day.
I looked at my watch, it was 4 pm now. Hurriedly, I packed my backpack, and booked an uber return back to my home after my field trip to Rachana Society. During this visit to Rachana Society, I got a chance to interact with Madhavi, a 19-year-old girl. Madhavi stays with her family in the rural parts of Pune. Her father is a farmer and mother, a housewife. Madhavi has two younger siblings.
Madhavi had been a part of Rachana Society from her first to seventh standard, where she attended Rachana’s remedial classes. I was already informed by one of the teachers of Remedial classes that Madhavi was a sincere student. So, I was curious to know, “What happened to the 7th till 10th standard?” To this, she replied; “I walked 7 kms every day to go to my school till my 12th standard. I completed my 12thth standard in the year 2019. I took commerce as my subject.” She added to that, as if she read my thoughts; “There aren’t any colleges for further studies in this locality and I cannot afford daily bus fare or staying in hostel away from my parents.” I was really impressed by the girl’s grit and determination to move forward in life and her hard work for a better future.
I asked her; “How did Rachna NGO help you?” She proudly said; “The basics that I learnt in remedial classes of Rachana helped me in the board examinations and even in 11th and 12th standard. The songs, games and stories of remedial classes are so close to my heart. I miss them a lot because those activities have made studying fun for me.”
Adding further on my question, Madhavi said; “The discussions that I used to have in Rachana’s remedial classes on various social issues, have made me aware of myself and my surroundings. It has contributed in identifying what is right and what is wrong.”
I asked her; “Do you feel more confident and independent today?” She said; “I do feel confident and independent today. My journey with Rachana has not only shaped my studies but also has instilled confidence in me to take my own decisions. The urge of helping others, sharing my learnings to others are the precious gifts that I have received from Rachana.”
Suddenly I went out of question and a deep silence descended between us. I looked at Madhavi’s face, for a 19-year old teenager, she was quite mature, hardworking and understanding. Madhavi smiled at me, as if she again read my thoughts.
She took a deep breath and said; “I remember before joining Rachana and even for a few years of my Rachana’s remedial class, my mother used to tell me that I look timid all the time because I am shy and silent. After 10th standard I noticed that I was different from other female students. I always shared my view with others and in front of my teachers as well, while my other friends remained silent. I believe this confident is instilled by Rachana as they discussed about so many topics in Rachana freely which otherwise are treated as topics which no one speaks about, like gender biases, health issues of women etc. And everyone is encouraged to participate in the discussion in Rachana.”
I packed my back and thanked her for the wonderful interaction. Before leaving, I asked her one last question; “What are your further plans?” To this question she said; “I want to study further. I want to go to college. Till 12th standard, I had to walk to reach my school, which I did because I wanted to study further. I want to study more, but for further classes there are no colleges around. I have to move out to the city and my family cannot afford it. I have other siblings who have to be taken care of by my parents. After finishing 12th standard, I used the money that I had saved during my school days and enrolled in tailoring course for three months. Now, I stitch clothes and earn money which I am trying to save so that I can study further and support my family.” I told her that, with her will and courage, she will be able to pursue her dreams. She must keep working hard and one day she will definitely achieve her dreams.
The taxi had already arrived. I again thanked Madhavi and said goodbye before boarding the taxi. On my way back home, I was feeling very relaxed and amazed by this girl’s determination to study further. I am confident that this will motivate her to work harder but will the money she is earning from tailoring in the rural parts of the country suffice her need. In my mind I could only wish that she rises beyond her circumstance and achieve new heights in her life “Best of luck girl!”.
About Vibha – Rachna Partnership:
Rachana uses several programs to help improve the quality of education programs in 150 villages of Pune, Maharashtra. The programs consist of four main aspects: Non-Formal Education for School Dropout girls; Integrated development for adolescent girls; Pre-primary education for children deprived from formal education and Supportive education for primary school-going children. Children in higher secondary school also receive vocational training learning skills where they learn about topics which vary from entrepreneurship to the functioning of local government.
Vibha has funded Rachana since 2003. In the last 5 years, the villages impacted by Vibha’s funding have shown several signs of progress. Dropout rates in several villages are down to 0 and attendance in primary school is around 95%. More girls from these villages are studying until class 10th and beyond. We, at Vibha, acknowledge Rachana’s contribution in preparing young minds to be successful and are very proud of our partnership with them.
Celebrating Vibha Youth
Vibha Youth chapters have been an integral part of Vibha’s volunteer community across the country since its foundation.
Vibha Youth Johns Creek, Georgia helped distribute laptops and deliver food to families from a Title 1 School in Decatur, Georgia during the closed down
Vibha Youth Chapter Bay Area, California baked the goodies and sold them to raise funds for Vibha
Vibha Youth Chapter Dallas, Texas- The focus of our youth volunteers in Dallas has been on engaging in local service efforts and programs. In 2019, they initiated long-term partnerships with some local charitable organizations. In addition, they planned their own fundraisers, blood drives, book drives and food drives and also assisted with Vibha flagship events Dream Mile and the Kite Flying Festival. To help with promotions and marketing, they have a regular quarterly appearance on the local radio station Radio Caravan. Let’s take a deeper look at what they accomplished in 2019, working alongside the Dallas adult volunteers:
Partnerships with nonprofits:
- Working with the Pale Blue Dot Foundation to deliver weekend enrichment activities and online training in English and Math to help 40 Bhutanese refugee families and their children assimilate into the US education system.
- Working with Kinder Karma to read and record audio books for the visually impaired
- Working with Feed my starving children and Tango Tab to pack sandwiches for the local homeless population and packing supply kits to send to Africa
- ‘Fashion for a reason’ as part of the Kite Flying Festival
- Summer Tennis Camp
- Spring Plant Sale
- Diwali Diya Sale
- Summer book drive to benefit the Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital
- Thanksgiving Food Drive
Testimonies of the youth of Vibha
As some of Vibha Youth graduate from their High schools, we are proud of what they achieved academically but even more on what they contributed to the community through Vibha. Here are seven Inspiring accounts of Vibha Youth Volunteers and some highlights of their work.
Keya Parikh (Northview High School, Vibha School Club President, Johns Creek, GA)- “My journey with Vibha started seven years ago, when I was introduced to Dream Mile by a neighbor. During my first Dream Mile, I remember being thoroughly impressed by how smoothly the event ran on the backs of volunteers. Nearly a year later, I went to my first Vibha meeting, and officially became a Vibha volunteer. It’s been an unforgettable seven years now, and I could not be more grateful for the opportunities I have had, the people I have gotten to work with, and the memories I have made as a Vibha Youth member and leader.
When I attended my first few Vibha Youth meetings as a freshman, I stayed in the shadows of upperclassmen who were high school chapter leaders with years of experience. I absorbed, I grew, and eventually, I was surprised to find myself in the position of those upperclassmen, as Northview High School’s Vibha club president, but more importantly, as someone who could be trusted to be part of moving Vibha Youth forward.
Without a doubt, the last year as a Vibha volunteer has been the most challenging, exciting, and rewarding, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my peers and mentors. I have to give a huge shout out to Punam Aunty, who became the Vibha Atlanta Youth Coordinator at a time when many high school chapters were undergoing leadership changes and trying to grow. And with her unwavering support and interest in helping, all of us excel. I am proud to have been a part of the unprecedented growth our Vibha Youth chapter has seen. I have gotten the opportunity to work with numerous organizations to provide volunteer opportunities and support local communities, to collaborate with adult leadership, and to mentor and support my peers.
As I move on to the next chapter in my life, I look back fondly at the sense of family and belonging that Vibha has offered me, one that I never saw coming but now consider one of the best aspects of my high school career. Thank you Vibha for teaching me how to lead, how to support, and most notably, how to serve.”
Siya Singh (Denmark High School, Active Vibha Youth Club Member, Alpharetta, GA)- “Being a Vibha Youth active member gave me an opportunity to see the organization’s impact in the local communities. In March, because of the pandemic the entire state of Georgia school’s learning moved to online classes rather than in person. I was sad and also angry that I will miss my friends and my soccer games. But the thought of losing my studies because of online learning never came into my mind. The shiny pink MacBook laptop had always been sitting in my room. I never thought it as a luxury, on the contrary, it felt like part of my learning like a pen or pencil. So, handing out laptops for ICS school was eye opening on the privilege I didn’t know I had. ICS is a Title 1 public charter school in Dekalb county. During one of the youth meetings, I came to know that Vibha has collaborated with Power my Learning and has planned to donate laptops to these kids. Since my mom was the part of the team, I immediately jumped in to helping the cause. It was rewarding to see the relief on these kids’ faces when they received their laptops because there was one stress leaving from their mind. Most of the times when we donate money or volunteer, we never see the direct impact but seeing children in my own community not having the same access to technology really puts things in perspective.
Although, it was hard to maintain social distancing and to take proper safety precautions, but it still was an enjoyable experience. This event inspired me so much that now I’m a part of the team who delivered food to 26 families from the ICS school who need help.
I would highly encourage other youth my age to do something similar because it really puts life in perspective and changes the way you look at the luxuries in life.”
Aryan Jain and Abrar Chowdhury (Chattahoochee High School, Active Vibha Youth Club Member, Johns Creek, GA)- “The idea to restart the Vibha chapter at Chattahoochee High School had come to me in the summer of last year. After an eye-opening trip to India where I witnessed terrible situations of children across the country, I wanted to start an impactful organization that could help these underprivileged kids reach their full potential. That same summer, we decided to start fundraising through GoFundMe for Vibha and sharing it to all families and friends. By the end of the summer, we had raised upwards of $500.
Still unsure of the best place for the money to go, we finally received an answer when a few months later in November, a school in Atlanta for refugees was brought to our attention. This ICS (International Community School) school was on its last legs as it received very little government funding. The Vibha Youth Organization came together and decided to give the school a beautiful paint job makeover so the kids have something refreshing to come back to.
Chattahoochee Vibha Action Center donated $300 for the paint and went to the school with numerous volunteers to spend a day painting the walls.
The support didn’t stop there. Fast forward to the present day. The families of these refugee children are out of jobs and don’t have enough money for food due to the ongoing pandemic. Vibha Chattahoochee has donated over $200 to help these families in need to help them get through these troubling times.
We have held many fundraisers including a Chipotle night that flourished with success because of our outstanding community. The support has been amazing with a record number of over 80 active members and hundreds of dollars raised from kind volunteers who strive to make the world a better place for these children.”
Sheena Deepak (Denmark High School, Vibha School Club Vice President, Alpharetta, GA)- “Being in Vibha for these past two years of high school has been an amazing experience. Vibha Youth has allowed me to display my leadership skills in creating a successful club as well as helping our community. Volunteering has always been a passion of mine, and Vibha has given me the opportunity to connect with others who also want to do the same. Vibha has allowed me to meet new people and have fun experiences during volunteering. Through the Denmark High School Vibha club, I was able to be a part of planning an event, at the MSG Foundation, where our members and other Vibha Youth members volunteered. We helped put together food and supply baskets for people in need. I also was a part of volunteering at Vibha’s Dream Mile. We had to wake up at 5 am, but it was definitely worth it to see such a big event come together. I am excited to see what we can achieve during the upcoming years!”
Ashika Srivastava (Atlanta, GA)- “When I first joined Vibha, I thought I was joining another volunteer organization to help my college resume, but it has become so much more than that. Some of the most exciting and enjoyable events in my life so far have been through Vibha. I look forward to volunteering,
participating in more events and meeting new people at the Dream Mile every year. The mentors and peers that I have met through Vibha are truly an inspiration to me and I aspire to carry the same passion that they carry for Vibha. Through Vibha Youth, I’ve done some amazing things like painting decks for the International Community School, sorting toys for Foster Care, and planting trees with Trees Atlanta. I’ve learned so many important life skills like leadership, through planning and leading events like, food drives with my school club; and confidence, through being able to talk to different people about Vibha. I can’t wait to make many more memories through Vibha, and I encourage anyone with a passion for helping people to come and join us in our mission to create a brighter future for children.”
Roshan Patel (Active Member of Vibha Youth Club, New Jersey)- “Numair first introduced me to Vibha and its mission during the summer before my eighth grade. I had a ton of free time on my hands and didn’t really have much to do. At the time, I knew Numair was a very active volunteer in the Vibha organization and reached out to him looking for a way to put my free time and energy to use. The next day, I met Keyur Uncle and learned more about what it meant to “Seed, Grow, and Scale.” When I first joined, I was assigned relatively simple jobs by Numair, ranging from scripting an Instagram post to selecting the best images to be used for a Twitter post. I originally saw volunteering with Vibha as an opportunity to use my free time for good and develop my skills along the way. However, it wasn’t until later that I truly understood the full impact of Vibha and its mission. I began to realize how lucky I was to have the educational resources and tools that I do and became more driven and motivated to meet the educational needs of underprivileged children in India. The more I volunteered with Vibha and listened to individual stories of these children who had their lives positively impacted by Vibha, the more excited I became about Vibha and everything it stands for.
Over the course of the 4+ years I have volunteered with Vibha, I have learned a lot, everything from how to design a flyer that grabs the attention of people to how to create an elevator pitch. As someone who was relatively introverted, I was especially anxious when it came to knock on a stranger’s door and talking to them about the upcoming 5K. However, I soon learned that the best way to learn was to dive right in. Initially I struggled and was disappointed by the “sorry I’m not interested” responses I got from people. As time progressed, and I continued to go door to door, I learned not only how to deal with failure, but also how to effectively communicate and garner people’s interest in Vibha. I began to appreciate the importance of posture, eye contact, and voice projection while communicating, and became much more effective at public speaking, a skill which I will continue to develop in future. Vibha also instilled in me the importance of public service and volunteering. Not only did I enjoy volunteering at the 5K, Blood Drive, and Vibe events, but I began to develop a more profound appreciation for what Vibha does and realized the importance of giving back to the less fortunate.
My message to other youth and their families would be to look for ways to create good in your communities, whether it be something as simple as picking up garbage in your local park or donating blood. For me, Vibha helped me channel my free time and see my skills be put to use. From my experience, I have seen that helping and giving back to the community also helped me in profound ways. Not only did I enjoy the feeling of giving back, but I also developed many “soft” skills that I will carry with me into the future. Surrounding myself with like-minded people with the mission of helping the less fortunate has been a very positive experience, and it was especially empowering to spend time with the Vibha volunteer community.”
Numair Attaar (Active Member of Vibha Youth Club, New Jersey)- “I first joined Vibha in middle school as part of their project management team and was charged with reviewing their active projects and managing fund allocation and distribution. As I became increasingly familiar with their project networks, Roshan and I were chosen to co-design the 25th-anniversary project summary book, through which I was fortunate to witness, capture, and portray the growth of the organization. Recognizing the wide-reaching and often life-changing impact Vibha was generating halfway around the world, a few of my friends and I took it upon ourselves to organize and harness local fundraising efforts and bolster the NY/NJ chapter’s commitment and contribution to Vibha’s global mission. Shortly thereafter, I took up the position of Youth Lead for the NY/NJ chapter and we formed a team of youth volunteers. I became truly invested after I volunteered as a teacher in the Corp India’s Mumbai center for underprivileged children. After bonding with the children directly benefiting from Vibha’s initiatives, I returned from this trip invigorated and energized to expand our reach and enhance our chapter’s role in advancing Vibha’s success.
What I’m most proud of as a volunteer is the impact my commitment has had on other volunteers. By immersing myself in Vibha’s mission and constantly pushing my friends and family to get involved, I discovered a whole new community and introduced them to the perks of community service. I was able to involve my friends, family, neighbors and school in the process, and in turn, they have had a tremendous impact on the community around us. I’m also extremely proud of the friendships I’ve created in the past six years. Without the absolutely crucial members of my team like Roshan and Sophia becoming some of my best friends and devoting themselves the way they have, none of our accomplishments would be possible.
My message to other youth is that through volunteer work and giving back in my community, I’ve learned and experienced things that most people don’t get the opportunity to until much later in life. I’ve learned my own strengths and weaknesses, made life-long friends, and explored different cultures while traveling the world because of community service. The work you do can truly make someone’s life better. The people you can benefit are just like you. Because of a few hours you take out of your week, they can go to school, see their friends, have food on the table and other basic things that we take for granted. To the families of these youth, I encourage you to get involved along with your children, make it an activity that you share a bond over like my dad and I. We’ve spent countless nights brainstorming Vibha projects, hours on important organizing calls and afternoons canvassing together that we still look forward to as our time to spend together.”
A sold-out Comedy Show by Vibha NJ/NY
The current pandemic has not deterred, but rather provided an urgency for Vibha NJ/NY volunteers to work even harder to fundraise, raise awareness for Vibha’s mission and make a difference to the lives of children we support. The action center hosted its first virtual event this year, a Comedy Night on Sat, May 16th. The event was a great success with over 300 registrants making it a sold-out show. It was a rib-tickling evening with three great comedians – Richard Sarvate, Samson Koletkar and Allington Mitra, all who were keen to not only entertain the audience but also believers in Vibha’s cause.
The enthusiastic participation from the audience made for a very lively interaction. The extra zing was brought on by the audience competing for two prizes – the best backdrop on Zoom (the collaboration platform on which the event was hosted) and the best party view (i.e. audience member’s physical background setting).
A fitting finale to the event was the collection of $10,619, surpassing the $10,000 target for valuable causes like feeding migrant families, providing salaries to teachers in supported schools, providing laptops to the underprivileged and other forms of social and educational support. Our passion and work is a catalyst towards smiles on the faces of the children, migrant families and teachers who work with these children.
The Vibha NJ/NY Action Center has about 30 active volunteers committed to the organization’s vision that every underprivileged child has a right to education, health and opportunity. The Action Center also has an active Youth team run by about 15 youth leaders who organize various fundraisers and awareness programs to further Vibha’s mission.