Dr. Prahalathan KK, Founder, Bhumi
Change Today Change Tomorrow
What can a volunteer force do? It can apparently do a lot, for instance it can change the future for children who have nobody else. Founded on the 15th of August, 2006 by a small group of young friends who wished to build a better tomorrow Bhumi is a Social entrepreneurial venture like no other. Socially-conscious students and young professionals form a volunteer force that serves society to bridge the gap between the learned and the unlearned through education.
Bhumi functions under the guidance of Dr. Prahalathan KK whose love for his motherland has led him to this patriotic crusade.
Yourstory found out from Dr. Prahalathan how his organization Bhumi aims to Change Today Change Tomorrow…
1. What is Bhumi and how does it help the orphaned and underprivileged children?
Bhumi is Chennai’s largest independent youth volunteer non-profit organization. Our volunteers, consisting of over 250 students and young professionals under the age of 30, work among orphaned and underprivileged children.
- To bridge the societal gap by providing quality education to the under-privileged
- To provide a platform for socially conscious youth wanting to contribute to the nation's inclusive progress and to mould them into tomorrow’s leaders
- To turn youth into Climate Messengers and fight climate change through citizen-level initiatives
2. How many people have benefited from the services that Bhumi provides?
In 2009-2010 our programmes benefitted over 1,600 children in orphanages, slum and village community centres in Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts of TN. We’ve recently opened a learning centre at a slum community in Bengaluru city. We are soon starting off a learning centre in Chandigarh. We have over 250 volunteers actively participating in our various initiatives.
3. What makes Bhumi effective? Tell us about your inner workings?
Volunteers who are students or professionals (all under the age of 30) are trained and assigned to orphanages and community centers near their homes. They spend a minimum of two hours of their time in the weekends teaching under-privileged children at these centers.
Being an organization of young people, we follow a refreshing approach to volunteering that challenges the common perception of NGOs being boring.
The children we educate go to state run schools during the week and our supplementary educational programmes are held during their free time in the weekends. Keeping this in mind, our programmes incorporate fun-filled activities, so that they enjoy the learning process which is also expedited considering the limited time we have.
4. What kind of growth does Bhumi intend to create for itself?
In 2011, we plan to expand to at least 40 centers across India reaching out to a minimum of 3,500-4,000 children.
Resources like computers, textbooks and other materials are being requested for and Bhumi hopes to make these available for the planned expansion. Bhumi also constantly endeavors to qualitatively improve the effectiveness of all our programmes.
5. Why did you choose to be a social entrepreneur and launch Bhumi?
We wanted to bring about lasting change for the betterment of our country, and we realized this couldn’t be achieved by toiling only 9-5 during the week. We started volunteering during our free time educating under-privileged children. We realized the existence of many more youngsters like us who might be willing to contribute towards society but lacking the right platform to do the same. So we decided to create a platform - a non-profit youth volunteer organization, enabling socially conscious young men and women to contribute towards the nation’s progress by bridging societal gaps through education.
6. What has been the biggest challenge for Bhumi and why?
As a volunteer based organization our primary challenge has been finding quality volunteers who are also committed to the cause. Finding volunteers who were willing to travel to our rural centers was an even bigger challenge. Bhumi has attracted volunteers through social networking websites, posters and recruitment drives at colleges and stalls at college fests. Nowadays our volunteers bring in their own friends who are impressed with what we do and want to do their bit for society. Media coverage of the Staples Youth Entrepreneurship award for the Make a Difference programme and the Excellence in Literacy award by Rotary have brought in more volunteers and more centers that need our help. As a result, we’ve been fairly successful in finding volunteers to teach at all our existing centers including those in rural areas.
7. What important learning lesson did you attain as an amateur entrepreneur?
When we started volunteering, we started teaching at an orphanage without a structure or a plan. After a few months, when the management of the orphanage asked us for a report on what our activities had achieved, we were clueless. We had to discontinue our activities there and realized that we couldn’t just be doing anything just because we were volunteering. Since then, while we have tried to keep our supplementary education programmes as much fun as possible, our emphasis has also been on making scalable systems and on measurable change.
8. Where did you find the seed capital for Bhumi?
We started our first computer centre at an orphanage by putting together parts of unused computers from each of the founders’ houses. Soon, we had others joining in and pitching in with unused old computers from their homes, and we started our second centre in no time.
9. What has progress been like for Bhumi as an organization since its inception?
We started with just a handful of volunteers; now, four years later, we’re Chennai’s largest independent youth volunteer non-profit organization, with over 250 active volunteers teaching at learning centers for children in Chennai, Thiruvallur and Bengaluru. We have 16 learning centers including nine orphanages, two schools, three slum and two village community centres
In 2009-2010 our programmes benefitted over 1,600 children (more than double the previous year’s beneficiaries).
10. What do you consider as Bhumi’s biggest achievement?
Three years into educating under-privileged children we realized that destitute children did not have any opportunity to showcase their talents. So we started ‘Siragugal’ (meaning wings in Tamil). an annual inter-orphanage talent festival for children. Now in its second year, Siragugal 2010 helped 915 children from 37 orphanages from across Chennai, Kanchipuram and Thiruvallur to discover and display their talents through 19 different competitions in art, literature and science.
- Bhumi was the recipient of the ‘Service Excellence’ Award 2010 from the Rotary Club.
- Bhumi was the recipient of the 'Excellence in Literacy' Award 2009 from the Rotary Club.
- Bhumi was the recipient of the 'InDiya Shine Award' 2009 from Great Non Profits.
- I have been selected as one of 'Asia Pacific Emerging 100' youth social entrepreneurs by the Foundation for Youth Social Entrepreneurships in 2009.
11. What makes the journey of entrepreneurship at Bhumi worthwhile?
Immense satisfaction that can only be experienced. I can never provide a true description even with a thousand words. The joy of volunteering is unmatched!
We wanted to do something for our nation’s progress. Through Bhumi we have created a platform where ordinary young people are able to contribute towards the nation’s progress by spending two hours of their free time educating under-privileged children. The experience is life-changing and transformational in nature, creating socially conscious young men and women who we hope would go on to become leaders at their work places and in society.
12. What is your vision for your Bhumi for the coming 2 years?
We understand there are thousands of children going to state-run schools who can potentially benefit from our supplementary-education initiatives. We also believe there are thousands of socially conscious young men and women who would be willing to spare time for these children during their weekends. Within two years we hope to reach out to double the number of children we educate at the moment.
We also hope to constantly tweak all our initiatives to improve the quality and impact on the children. We also hope to make them more interesting and constructively different from the regular rote learning of the existing schooling system.
13. What do you believe makes an entrepreneurial venture successful?
When you do something you are passionate about, self-belief and drive will follow automatically. And then all you need is perseverance to achieve your goals.
14. What does an entrepreneur need to do to make things work in India?
India is a developing country, and so very few of its systems are perfect. We need to sometimes work with these systems and try to change them when necessary while working on our own entrepreneurships.
Yourstory wishes Dr. Prahalathan KK and Bhumi much strength and tenacity in their quest to change India. We believe that their efforts shall bear fruit and benefit the nation. To know more about their work visit their website www.Bhumi.org.in