This NRI couple is enabling underprivileged students to study abroad
Kusum Chaudhary is the middle child and the older of the two daughters in her family. The daughter of a farmer, Kusum did not have the luxury to avoid work. Although illiterate, Kusum’s mother believed education was the only way out of poverty.
Soon, Kusum took an entrance exam by the—a Gurugram-based not-for-profit organisation—and qualified for its scholarship. She started from Class 7 at one of the NGO’s partner schools—Euro International School.
Moreover, after she wrote her first computer program, she chased her dream of becoming a software engineer. Recently, she gained admission to one of the top universities in the US.
Founded by NRI couple Shilpa and Amit Singhal, Sitare Foundation has been empowering many such underprivileged children like Kusum since 2016.
Shilpa and Amit (in the middle) with the students
The NGO provides these children with quality education for seven years in middle school. It also helps them build their capabilities to gain admission into renowned colleges and institutions in India and the US.
“We believe in the power of education and its potential to change lives, communities, nations, and the future of our planet. Our vision behind Sitare was not limited to educating underprivileged children but also nurturing them to become world-class professionals and great humans so they could become a beacon of hope for their community and millions of other underprivileged children,” Amit, Founder, tells SocialStory.
Sitare Foundation conducts an annual entrance exam to identify bright students from marginal sections of society who have financial constraints—with income less than Rs 25,000 a month.
The test examines a child’s general aptitude—mental, mathematical, and language ability. They need to be in the top one percentile to reach the second stage of the selection process, a two-week free rigorous camp, where the NGO selects students based on their performance.
At present, Sitare Foundation operates in five cities across Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh—Jodhpur, Jaipur, Ajmer, Bhopal, and Indore—and has partnered with private schools to provide quality education to bright underprivileged kids.
Besides the academic aspect, the NGO also pays special attention to building a student’s social, emotional, and language capabilities to help them become world-class professionals.
“All our energy goes into ensuring we transform 50,000 lives through education by 2050. Besides education, we support them with food, clothing, books, school supplies, and transportation. Additionally, we have a fully residential programme for students to focus on their college admissions,” Amit explains.
Creating educational opportunities
For the NGO, one of the most difficult challenges is the background of its students. In many cases, their parents are not supportive of their education; some have to work with their parents to feed their families.
“Girls are disproportionately impacted by the home environment in India. They are often required to work, help their mothers at home, take care of younger siblings, and go out with their mothers to help them on the farms,” Amit explains.
He added that cultural issues like child marriage are also quite prevalent and proved to be a big challenge. The NGO counselled these children and their families to get them back on the path of learning.
In 2022, the foundation saw over 65,000 registrations across five different cities.
At present, the NGO claims to educate over 400 underprivileged students under its banner. Recently, five of its Class 12 students—Kusum Chaudhary, Mahendra Kumar, Milan Ramdhari, Nisha Chaudhary, and Tanisha Nagori—secured multiple admissions to study Computer Science at some of the top universities in the US.
These include the University of Maryland, University of North Carolina, University of Minnesota, Ohio State University, University of California, Case Western Reserve University, and Arizona State University.
Amit says, “These students are from our first batch in 2016. They are going to the US in August this year. All these students are from STEM and will pursue Computer Science.”
Amit and Shilpa have dedicated their entire life’s savings to the self-funded initiative. “We spend on an average $2,000 (Rs 1,50,000) per student per year,” Amit says.
“The best recognition for us is the number of applicants seeking to join our programme. In a short span of six years, we have gone from about 250 applicants to over 65,000 applicants. And, the best award for us is the success of our Class 12 students, who will be joining top universities in the US and India,” he signs off.