Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Volunteer speaks: 2003 visit by Kalyan Vangapalli

Graduate Student � Computer Engineering at UMass, Dartmouth.

Email: kalyan@lycos.com
NOTE: THE BUILDING NOW COMPLETE. THANKS TO IDRF for supporing the Initiative and equipping the Tribal Children with a place to stay and grow.

I reached the Ashram at 10.00 am and spent nearly half-a-day at the Ashram. IDRF came in contact with this NGO thru personal contacts of one of the volunteers, Raghu Verabelli. Raghu visited Ekalavya Ashram in January 2002 and got the proposal for expansion of its boarding facilities. Since then, IDRF has sent a Rs. 4,00,000/- (approx $8,000) for the proposed project. These funds were raised by Boston volunteers of IDRF thru "Cricket for a Cause 2002" tournament during summer and "Art& Food Festival" in Oct'2002 featuring Hindustani classical music by Pandit Madhav Gudi.

Ekalavya Ashram is a non-profit, tribal welfare facility established in 1990, by Sevabharathi Trust on the banks of river Godavari. This Ashram is run by people from the local community of employees, businessmen, etc. Ekalavya ashram caters to the underprivileged tribal folks who cannot afford any sort of education to their kids.These students belong to different tribal & backward communities and are from the remote corners of Adilabad district. Adilabad, a northern district in AP, bordering Maharashtra, is the most backward district in the state with a high illiteracy rate and low population density. Most of the district's population lives in villages with scheduled castes and tribes constituting more than 30% of the district's population.

Shri. Thirupati Rao (Raghu's father) is also involved in the expansion project and is supervising the construction work. He introduced me to the office bearers of the trust, President Shri. M. Narayana, Secretary Shri. M. Ananda Rao and the vice-president Shri. V. Niranjan.All of them were kind enough to explain me the functioning of the organization, show me around the place and progress of the construction. There are about 64 students living in this hostel. Most of these students are attending elementary through high school. One of them is an Engineering student, two of them attend a nearby Degree college and one of them is an Intermediate(+2) student.The Ashram bears the cost of schooling, books, food, shelter and clothing for all the students. Ekalavya Ashram meets its annual expenses of approx. Rs. 5,00,000/- (approx $10,000) through generous contributions from the local community and with the help of other organizations like Lions International, ITDA, Rotary club etc. Current facilities for the residents include a single-storied dining-cum-dormitory and a kitchen, made possible through the funds raised from the local community.Existing facilities were insufficient for the growing needs of the Ekalvaya Ashram. With the current living space barely sufficient, any further intake of students would cramp up the place. They plan to increase the strength of the Ashram to 100 students. Hence it was necessary to add a new floor. 



The funds donated by IDRF last August were used to build a dormitory on the second floor for the new students. Construction for the second floor started in late September and in a five-month period it is near completion. At the time of my visit only flooring, carpentry and paint jobs were remaining. Raw material for the pending job was already procured and work was in progress. Groundwork to build a staff quarter on the third floor has been done but will be completed depending on the availability of funds.

The funds donated by IDRF last August were used to build a dormitory on the second floor for the new students. Construction for the second floor started in late September and in a five-month period it is near completion. At the time of my visit only flooring, carpentry and paint jobs were remaining. Raw material for the pending job was already procured and work was in progress. Groundwork to build a staff quarter on the third floor has been done but will be completed depending on the availability of funds

Work is on schedule and if things go on smoothly the new accommodation will be inaugurated by the set date of first week of March 2003, coinciding with the anniversary of the Ashram. Plans were to rope in the District Collector of Adilabad for the inauguration. After the tour of the premises, I had the opportunity to go over the account ledgers for the work. To maintain financial transparency, all the payments are made through the bank or checks, nothing in cash. As of present, payments in the amount of Rs. 3,18,000/- were made towards the construction work. I brought along a copy of the bank transactions, summary of expenses, estimates for remaining work, copies of receipts and some pictures (attached) of the construction work.

I also had an opportunity to meet and spend time with some of the students. I inquired about their whereabouts, facilities provided, care taking and schooling.I felt sorry to learn that some of the kids are orphans.During my interaction with them, I learnt that they were the first in their families to receive the luxury of education thereby transcending the traditional tribal life with the hope for a better future. I was pleasantly surprised to note that some of these children were very sharp. Apart from the formal education, emphasis is laid on the importance of local culture, tradition and values. Vocational training, sports, extra-curricular activities are stressed in the after school hours. The ashram boys did bring laurels from the statewide athletic competitions.
 

On the closing note, the members of the trust were very thankful for the contribution IDRF has made for the welfare of the underprivileged children. As a note of thanks, initials of IDRF are being engraved on the new building. I am really moved by the efforts and dedication of the office bearers towards the Ashram, to spend their time and resources despite their own social and family commitments. It was my pleasure to visit the Ashram.

It is my sincere hope that we would be able to support many such noble efforts run by IDRF supported NGOs all across India.


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