Sometimes, taking the first step in the right direction is all it takes to do a good deed. U&I’s one small step in the beginning has now given the organisation the scope and place to serve society in bigger and better ways.
Founded in 2011 in Bengaluru, U&I is a volunteer-driven charitable organisation that is focused on educating underprivileged children.
Founded by Satish Manchikanti (38) and Ajit Sivaram (37), U&I has been operating since January 2011. Their own personal experiences led the duo to work towards teaching the underprivileged. Satish and Ajit, who also run an HR firm together, understood the importance of the English language today after they were forced to reject a number of talented and spirited candidates, merely because they didn’t possess the ability to converse in English. Talking about how it all started, Satish says,
“We understood that education is a game changer, giving many the potential edge to change different social aspects. And having the ability to speak in English will empower and bring about the needed change in one’s life.”
Satish and Ajit began with teaching a few kids from a nearby slum at their workspace after office hours. And thus began U&I Teach, which started off with one centre in Bengaluru and now has around 20 centres across ten different cities. Telling us more about U&I Teach, Satish says,
“The first three years, we were reaching out to kids just in Bengaluru. Since it is a volunteer-based model, we wanted to check its feasibility. Also, since the volunteers were mostly college students, we wanted to check and understand the working of such a system.The impact was huge, and we decided to spread to other cities as well. Apart from English, U&I Teach also teaches them other subjects and basic computer skills.”
The organisation has more than 1,000 volunteers, each of whom contributes two hours every week to the initiative. It follows a 1:3 student-teacher ratio, ensuring personal attention to the children. U&I has reached 850 children so far.
Not wanting to limit their reach to just teaching kids, U&I has also extended to taking care of specially abled people by transforming institutional care in the country. Across the country are state homes, which house thousands of women and children in desperate need of care, rehabilitation and support. U&I Care is dedicated to working with these homes and transforming them by supporting them with better facilities, care and help.
For the past three years, U&I Care has been working with the Institute for Mentally Handicapped Children, a residential state-run home in Bengaluru for destitute mentally challenged boys under the age of 21. Satish says,
“We have been working towards improving the condition of the boys by providing them care and support from qualified, trained staff. We are also trying to assess the current state of each boy and create a personalised development plan for each child. We have hired about four nurses, in addition to the two state-appointed nurses, to take care of over 85 boys.”
These nurses take care of the daily hygiene, wound care, vocational activities, computer training and rehabilitation for the boys. The nurses, trained by a Dutch expert in the field of institutional care and special needs, are well equipped to provide care and rehabilitation to the boys.
In addition to their daily needs, the organisation also focuses on activities that will aid in the boys’ rehabilitation. Physiotherapists are made available, while the nurses and the assistant carers help them with daily activities, vocational therapy and computer training classes.
“At the end of the day, being able to speak English gives you better employment opportunities and improves your social standing. The same can be said about education. A lot of things fall into place with it. Today, education is a major form of empowerment, and a person should be educated right from childhood,” Satish says.
Today, U&I is seeing its hard work pay off as the children progress and show better results. Each year, after tutoring in Math, Science and Social Sciences, most of the kids have managed to score an average of 70 percent in their examinations. The kids scored an average of 71 percent in English.
Every year, the organisation conducts corporate events and campaigns to promote and spread the importance of education. Elaborating on this, Satish says, “Our awareness initiatives, while agenda-oriented, are directly linked to what the organisation does. If one is talking and spreading awareness on a social issue, one might as well provide people with the opportunity to get involved. And getting involved in education with U&I is through volunteering.”
U&I is organising a crowdfunding campaign, ‘Bridge the Gap,’ to raise funds for the running of their two wings. The organisation hopes to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor by educating children. As part of this initiative, U&I is planning to have more centres in each city to reach out to as many children as possible.