Bengaluru-based Ashwini Charitable Trust strives to support underprivileged children—with education and empowerment—until they are employed
It was the year 2000 in Bengaluru. A group of women got together to educate nine underprivileged children and empower them to enter the mainstream after they finished their education. The kids were from the Ulsoor slums in Bengaluru. The children have done well and the group of women has now widened their network.
On 15 December 2000, the activity was formalised by registering a trust named after the first child it sponsored—Ashwini. “The logo has the footprint of a little child to symbolise that all our giant leaps start off with small steps,” points out Sujatha Mukherjee, a senior activist-volunteer. Ashwini Charitable Trust (ACT) is still run by the women and, after 13 years, it has 170 children and over 70 dedicated volunteers supporting its activities.
ACT sponsors hardworking and dedicated children from semi-government and government-aided private schools. Its volunteers network with educational institutions where the medium of instruction is English and are within a radius of a kilometre from the ACT’s resource centre. “Every year, heads of these institutions recommend needy and deserving children whom we interview and test before admitting them into the Trust. We are proud to have a long waiting list of children who want to join us. However, we deliberately restrict our numbers so that every child gets more effective intervention,” says Ms Mukherjee.
The Trust was formed with the sole objective of educating and empowering underprivileged girls. However, when a girl is sponsored in a particular year, ACT takes her sibling the next year, irrespective of the gender. Hence, ACT now has about 46 boys. ACT believes that this will help uplift an entire family.
The activities of ACT include education, healthcare, counselling and recreation. There are two novel aspects to ACT’s work with children: teaching for financial freedom and mentoring.
“Makar Sankranti, 14 January 2005, was a landmark in the history of ACT. With the help for State Bank of India’s managers, we were able to start savings bank accounts for all our children with their mothers as their natural guardians,” says Ms Mukherjee proudly.
As regards mentoring, senior children of the Trust volunteer for two hours every week to coach the younger children. This gradually moulds them to be responsible leaders capable of making decisions and leading a young team. The younger children, who are motivated and inspired by the hard work of their seniors, consider the latter as their role models. Ms Mukherjee says, “They bond beautifully and create an extended family.”
It is interesting to look back at how the first two girls under ACT’s care have fared. Sowmia came to ACT in 2000 and was ready for a mainstream job only in 2009. Her father is a tailor and mother, a homemaker; she was the youngest of three children in the family. Her older siblings are high-school dropouts. Sowmia left ACT with a BCom degree and a job with HP (Hewlett Packard). Divya, daughter of a single parent, is the eldest of three siblings. Although she could not survive the academic grind, she trained to be a graphic designer and, currently, works with Indigo—a printer in Bengaluru.
Over the years, the success rate of ACT’s intervention has improved. In 2013-2014, Veneetha graduated from St Joseph’s College of Commerce with a first class in BCom. She is, currently, employed with Standard Chartered Bank as an operations officer.
If you would like to contribute to the cause of ACT, you can send a cheque/DD drawn in favour of: The Ashwini Charitable Trust payable at Bengaluru. All contributions are eligible for tax-exemption under Section 80G of the Income-Tax Act.
Ashwini Charitable Trust
No.3, St. John’s Road Cross, Near Ulsoor Lake,
Bengaluru 560042, Karnataka
Telephone: +91 80 40924050