Make A Difference or MAD started out as an English Teaching organisation with a belief that if children in shelter homes knew how to speak in English, it would give them a better future. “But, one of MAD’s big realisations was that children who left the shelter home after going through this English Programme fell back into similar outcomes and lifestyles,” says Jithin C. Nedumala, 30-year-old co-founder of MAD, who has also been a social entrepreneur supported by Michelle Obama’s ‘International Youth Engagement Program’.
This award winning not-for-profit has been working towards uplifting children in shelters across India through holistic educational support and mentoring since its inception 10 years ago. It started in 2006 with one shelter home in Cochin- YMCA boys.
In terms of operations, MAD is a youth-driven organisation. Volunteers commit a year and spend between two and 10 hours every week mentoring, teaching and interacting with children in order to ensure that they get the support and care they need during childhood.
Pushing the envelope
While in its initial years teaching English was the primary goal, MAD gradually expanded to other subjects through a programme called ‘Ed Support’ (Educational Support), under which English, Maths and Science are taught as an after school academic support to children from grades five to ten. MAD also introduced Project Propel in 2013 to support 10th and 12th standard students for a smooth transition from secondary to higher secondary grades. Apart from these, there is Project Aftercare, which aims to help college-going students adapt to their new environment.
According to Jithin, the lack of opportunities and positive role models result in these children living institutionalised lives, bogged down by the harsh and unforgiving realities, breeding more poverty and suffering once they leave the shelter homes. “MAD supports each child from the age of 10 to 29. Trained mentors extend not just academic support but also emotional aid to ensure transition readiness, and help in securing admissions in the most suitable colleges,” adds Jithin.While most schools have teacher:child ratios going up to 1:40, MAD finds success in creating a 2:5 ratio, where 2 teachers teach a maximum of 5 children. “The co-teacher format helps the teachers give special attention to all the children in their group. A ‘lesson plan’ is documented and executed by the teachers, customised according to the needs of their children,” says Atul Warrior, a 37-year-old ardent MAD volunteer and a media professional, who started an online fundraising campaign for the organisation. Atul also quit his job to take up a solo trip, starting from Thrissur, across 40 countries and five continents on his Royal Enfield to spread the word and raise funds for MAD.
In order to sustain all its programmes, MAD also runs a fundraising programme with the help of the city teams, organising various activities. The fundraising team also reaches out to corporates and individuals worldwide.
Making A Difference
Make A Difference, since its inception, has worked with over 18,000 young leaders to transform the lives of about 16,000 children in shelters across 23 cities. As of today, there are 5,000 actively engaged volunteers and 4,000 children who are current beneficiaries in 72 shelters. These volunteers and fellows have helped the children in improving their exam results, assisted in college and job placements, and helped build life skills for self-dependence. In 2015-16, about 78 percent of the Propel youth passed the 12th standard board exams with flying colours and secured admissions in colleges they wanted to study in.
MAD has inspirational stories to cherish, like that of Vijay, a Delhi shelter home youth who was initially a shy and closed person, but today has secured admission in Shaheed Bhagat Singh College as a political science student. His accommodation and education is funded by MAD’s Aftercare programme.
Currently, MAD is working on its various programmes to make them more scalable. The team also wants to build these as solutions that can be replicated by other organisations, using the same interventions.
Jithin says, “The gap between the privileged and the unprivileged exists because the former do not care about the section of their community they left behind. It’s time that the community starts to care more and becomes cognizant of the weaker sections of the society.” ‘Care More’ is their message to others, and much can be achieved by adding a little MADness to their outlook, concludes Jithin.
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