Monday, 8 October 2018

#ChangeMakerSpeak: Kishor Palve, Bright Future

Kishor Palve

We catch up with Kishor Palve, Founder & Trustee of Bright Future, as part of our weekly change-maker series. Bright Future provides a nurturing environment for children and youth from marginalized communities to transform their passion into gainful employment through career guidance, life skill development, mentorship and placement opportunities.

      What inspired you to set up Bright Future? Why is the cause so close to your heart?

Bright Future is the story of my own life, and struggles everyone faces. We all want careers, but often we don’t know what direction to take. Education is important, but sometimes it is a challenge to put to use what we learn, especially when we don’t have a definite goal. This is why I decided to work with adolescents and youth, to guide them at this critical juncture in their lives, and help them select suitable careers. I help them develop ‘soft skills’ to help make them employable, and mentor them to ensure they have all the information and guidance they need to excel in their chosen careers. They are then introduced to internship programmes to test the waters before they can finally go on to earning their own livelihoods.

Can you recall an act of giving that you did/experienced or witnessed that changed your life? Do tell us about it.

There is one incident I recall when I started personally going for school sessions, sharing my journey with students. They were very curious to know and understand how I started my career. That day I decided to help adolescents and youth, and guide them to choose suitable careers. Today Bright Future is a big organisation touching thousands of lives in Mumbai. I plan to reach out to 1 lac adolescents and youth in the coming years.

Do you have a motto or mantra, or even a quote that you live by?

“Do not fear failure. Keep trying until you achieve.”

In a perfect world, what dream do you want Bright Future to accomplish in the next five years, and what kind of a future would you like it to be part of?

I hope 1 lac youth start careers in areas they are passionate about. A few passionate people have the power to change the world.

Monday, 1 October 2018

#ChangemakerSpeak: Anubha Sharma, Angel Xpress Foundation

Anubha Sharma
Anubha Sharma is the CEO of Angel Xpress Foundation, which she started as a platform for concerned citizens willing to tutor, mentor and guide first-generation learners from slums in their neighbourhoods. In its 7th year, over 400 volunteers are providing daily lessons to over 1600 students in 16 locations across Mumbai. Read about her journey.

1) What inspired you to set up Angel Xpress Foundation? Why is the cause so close to your heart?

The journey to Angel Xpress started for me as an exploration of my desire to give back. I had always imagined myself doing something meaningful after I retired. During a one year sabbatical I took in 2011 after 20 years of working in the financial services industry, I decided to experience volunteering to see if it was something I could pick up after I was done working commercially.

After exploring a few volunteering opportunities, I landed up in a school for street children. I used to see slum kids gathered at the promenade I walked down every morning. Soon, I joined a few retired walkers who would spend an hour tutoring them. The interaction made me realise that the services available to the poor, did not deliver. School going kids in grades 6 and 7 who knew less than kids in my family had known in kindergarten. I felt saddened. To think that most of them would remain locked in the endless cycle of poverty generation after generation with almost no opportunity was depressing. It seemed there was nothing they had that could empower them to have a better future.
However, soon a realisation of how much and how many people wanted to help was brought home. A Facebook post asking for warm clothes for the kids I was teaching had over 3000 people calling to offer all kinds of help. Clearly a bridge needed to be created between wonderful souls like these and the kids who needed their support to make something of themselves.
A shocking 41.1% of Mumbai lives in slums. Children living in slums are first generation learners lacking adequate nutrition, proper hygiene, are exposed to petty crime, violence, drug and alcohol abuse. There is a need to provide them with effective, meaningful education to help them become socially responsible adults capable of a sustainable livelihood.  
AXF inspires educated adults to teach and transform behaviour of underprivileged children through education and life skills. Socially conscious educated citizens, stay at home mums from affluent homes, and active retirees are trained to set up community service programmes for tutoring school going children from nearby slums in community spaces like shaded parks in their neighbourhood. In its 7th year, 404 volunteers are providing daily lessons to 1602 students in 16 locations, across Mumbai. Today AXF can:
-        Use under-utilised human & material resources through redistribution, creation of purposeful, like-minded community groups
-        Improve interest and capacity to learn – better performances in schools by students is reported during PTAs within a year of joining the program
-        Focus on building literacy, numeracy, values & life skills, nurturing ambition in girls and inculcating gender equality – promoting inclusive values and peaceful coexistence
-        PTMs, workshops and counselling sessions, help student families cope better with life situations

      2) Can you recall an act of giving that you did/experienced or witnessed that changed your life? Do tell us about it.

At 15 I read the story of a French national living in Kolkata who had adopted 5 street kids, from being beggars at the street corners, these kids were studying in the best school in the city and were excelling at sports, which is why the article had appeared. This story struck me for the choice the man had made to change the lives of children who were not his own. Giving them security and a regular home had made all the difference. Here was a man who had the power and the means and he used them to make a difference. Many don’t – I realised it even then. I admired in him the ability to be able to go beyond himself and found it extremely inspiring.

3) Is there somebody (living or dead) whose giving/philanthropy you admire? Why?

Sudha Murthy - I totally share her philosophy and feel the world is too consumed with consumerism. We are allowing things to rule us, rather than work for us. She said and I believe the same: Money can give you certain comforts but money has limited use. And once you realise that, money becomes a burden to you. You donate it. Money is a heavy bag on your back and you should lead a simple lightweight life," says Sudha.

4) Do you have a motto or mantra, or even a quote that you live by?

You take one step, God takes 10 is something my spiritual teacher says often. I believe in being a doer and in trying my best. I also believe as The Gita says, we must relinquish our preoccupation with the fruit (result) and have faith that the right intent, and positive action will always yield results which are best – though they may not be what you expected or hoped for.

5) In a perfect world, what dream do you want Angel Xpress to accomplish in the next five years, and what kind of a future would you like it to be part of?

Over the next 5 years, we hope to train 2000 committed volunteers who in turn will provide daily tutoring & mentoring for 10,000 children every year. We also want to build a plug and play platform that will provide free support and will enable people who wish to adopt our format of contributing in the creation of a responsible, aware ,and able next generation. Our lessons focus on development of communication, critical and collaborative thinking skills, logic, values and emotional social skills.   

6) Did your organisation participate in GivingTuesday India last year? If so, how was the experience?

We have been participating in DaanUtsav for many years now and participated in GivingTuesday India last year as well. While our children do a lot of work around their homes, we use this opportunity to make them commit to community focused acts of giving. We find generosity comes naturally to children, and acts of giving does a great deal for their self-confidence. It also takes away the need to snatch and grab – some of the habits they pick up from their surroundings.