Abiding by the philosophy of everyone possessing an equal right to access things that are available amongst us all, Delhi-based Sai Keshri Manik Institute of Education Service (SKMIES), informally known as the Young Association, is imparting education to underprivileged children and vying to make education a basic right for seven years now.
Education, an imperative aspect of life that has the power to bring in change, is considered a basic right, promised to all in our country. But, with each passing year, the right to education seems to have turned into an unattainable luxury more so than a right, especially in the lives of the disadvantaged.
Over 10 lakh children who aspire to study cannot access the right platform to study. Even if provided with a similar environment, inadequacies in teaching or infrastructure often take away from the experience. This is where Young Association (YA) steps in. Established on September 11, 2010 by a group of college students to accomplish a common mission of defining and implementing the concept of education for all, the primary aim of the organisation is to motivate and encourage children to study and to provide a proper platform for them.
Ayush Keshri had always been inspired by his parents who taught him to lend a hand to the needy. “I grew up in a small town in Bihar with limited access to resources in school, college and even healthcare, but my parents’ giving attitude despite our own troubles left a deep impact on me,” recalls the 25-year-old founder of Young Association.
The earliest point of contact that led Ayush to start his own NGO was when he interacted with the families of Annan Nagar slum at Indraprastha in his first year of college. The grievous conditions of the kids born into a place with zero access to education pushed him to turn committed to promoting education for the benefit of people at all levels of society. “I shared the experience with one of my close friends, Prakash Manikpuri and with this we decided to officially launch Sai Keshri Manik Institute of Education Service (SKMIES) in September 2010.”
When Ayush began his journey, the very first challenge that he faced was forming a team of people with the same vision, enthusiasm and a group who wanted to make a difference. Talking to his college mates and friends he motivated them to be part of change, forming a group of 30 core members, still going strong till date. Another challenge was collecting funds, he shares. “Since all of this was done on a college level and it was a student-based association, there were no funds. After a few months of hard work, friends and teachers pitched in and donated Rs 50 every month.”
Jinbodhya Ashram was the very first place Ayush and his team visited to distribute toffees and help the ashram women. There were about 40 women and the team cooked and served food for everyone.”Visiting the ashram was one of the most life changing experiences. I realised how it felt to serve and help the community. It’s a feeling like no other, it's been more than seven years, but it's still afresh in my memory,” he says.
With no proper centre back then, the team visited different slums to distribute books and notebooks to talented and enthusiastic students. Over the years, the movement has not only gained a good amount of volunteers but has also invested in different areas of work.
“The biggest problem that we are working on is to create an environment that is similar to the ones seen in private or public schools. We are looking to expose underprivileged kids to a more physically comfortable framework where they can express themselves freely and which can act as a stimulus for participation. In light of this, we have undertaken two orphanages, four slums, and government schools where we teach regularly.” says Deepanshi Kacharia the Chairperson of Collaboration Council and Orphanage Co-ordinator who is also an active volunteer.
She also informs that the volunteer model they follow is relatively simple. “We organise regular seminars in colleges or schools and also promote our work online, sharing information on our workshops. Interested people reach out and we grow.” Volunteers are given an open platform according to their time and interest with a pre-determined syllabus that has to be taught as per regular teaching sessions to children anywhere between the ages of three and 18.
The curriculum includes knowledge on medicines, traffic rules, good touch bad touch, mathematics fundamentals, best out of waste, reading/writing skills and communication skills. A similar process is adopted for hiring a permanent teacher for the organisation's regular teaching initiative, says Deepanshi, where teachers are trained by the team using new ways to teach via drawing, songs, videos and games. Volunteers also go door to door for donations, informing people on the activities and sell rakhis, watches, art and crafts to source funds.
Young Association believes in approaches designed to fit the need of different children. Working in four primary areas, the organisation conducts workshops in schools to help students learn more effectively and innovatively. It also has an academic curriculum designed for volunteers who take sessions in slums on weekends as part of the slum and orphanage teaching initiatives. Finally, recognising a huge gap in government schools who have no access to an inclusive and creative environment, YA organises events for students to provide an appropriate platform for them to unleash their talents.
Also, recognising the lack of a proper environment, resources, motivation and mentors, YA has launched three projects to resolve three different issues. Starting with LETIF (Let's Educate Tomorrow's India's Future) a yearly campaign launched in 2015, the focus was to provide the students with the right study material by collecting books, copies and pencils for needy children. This campaign has reached nearly 800 children thus far.
After a visit that highlighted the sad conditions found in government schools, YA decided to start it’s 6 Dream project aimed at improving six different basic aspects of government schools and have implemented the same in two schools this far. The next problem of providing children with a guide was solved with the OCSOC (One Can Support One Child) campaign launched in 2016 to help assist a child with one mentor. The initiative has reached over 50 children in a government school in Bihar.
In the last seven years, Young Association has worked across six different cities in the states of Bihar, Delhi, UP, Haryana and Uttarakhand. Today, with over 3,000 volunteers and eight centres the team has been able to bring the power of education to the lives of over one lakh needy children. “Funds have always been a persistent issue, but the strong force field for us is our teachers who have showed a great deal of interest in our projects and helped us reach real heights,” says Deepanshi.
Vipin Saini, junior engineer in Indian navy and a volunteer at Jhandewalan Orphanage shares that an experience with YA has help changed his life too, “YA has made me more responsible and punctual. It has made me think more about creative ideas for orphanage children. Being a cricket player, I had organised a cricket session for them. This has been a lasting memory.”
In the future, YA seeks to establish skill development workshops for kids and also organises more recreational activities along with teaching. On a parting note, Deepanshi says, “The dream is to stay committed to promoting education by combining the strengths of rural communities with the experiences of national and international groups who are leaders in the fields of education. Every child deserves an education and we want to bring this basic right to them.”