Asha Star is a program where a few committed people (the Asha Stars) tackle a small education project under the auspices of Asha for Education. Under this vision, each volunteer takes personal responsibility in her/his project and frees the rest of Asha to work on others. Each star guarantees financial support of $500 per year (or a previously fixed amount) towards their own project. Once committed, the stars work to take the project to self-reliance. As the teams are small, accountability is self-contained. Progress reports are posted on the web and reported to the Asha chapter regularly, thus spreading awareness and enabling new volunteers to join the effort. Asha Stars are not confined by group meetings or their geographic location. They bridge the distances through commitment right from the beginning.
- Consistency with Mission Statement – The project must be consistent with Asha for Education’s mission statement.
- Asha Star Project Members – Each Asha Star Project must have members who all share a common vision and take responsibility in ensuring the success of the project. The recommended number of members for a project based on past experience is between 5-10.
- Asha Star Project Co-ordinator – He/she is the direct contact for that particular project. Ideally this should be the person who will propose a project in the first place. Anyone contacting this person, should be able to get the status of the project and if he/she so desires, and get involved with the co-ordinator’s approval.
- Approval of the project by a registered Asha for Education chapter – The Asha Star Project has to be approved by a registered chapter of Asha for Education. The accounts for the project will be maintained and submitted yearly to the IRS by the treasurer for this chapter. Every year, the Asha Stars Project needs to be ratified by the Asha chapter supporting this Asha Star project.
- Site visit – Prior to the start of the project and once a year after that, at least one person in the particular Asha Star Project team must have visited the site before the project is selected. Following this, a site visit needs to be made once every year. For these subsequent visits, assistance may be sought from Asha-India volunteers/partners.
- Maintenance of web page for the project – Minimum information of the project must be maintained at a web-site with the standard Asha Projects template. The web-page may contain Site-Visit reports, Financial statement, Photographs of the project, list of current Asha Stars and the Asha Stars Project Brochure.
- Project Updates – Bi-yearly (six monthly) reports are to be posted on the project web-site. This is to document progress for the benefit of those involved in the project and the public at large. Asha-India partners may fill in directly on web page after a site-visit.
- Active Involvement – Each member must have a vision of where the project is heading. He/she must feel connected and involved with the project’s future and take ownership for the long-term success of the project.
- Visit the Project – Each member visits the project site in India at least once in two years. If a personal site-visit is not possible, a site-visit may be arranged through an Asha India person. This helps greater involvement of all the Asha Stars Project members at an intimate level with children and volunteers at the project site.
- Financial Support – The member guarantees financial support of at least $500 per year (through personal fundraising) and ensures these funds are consistently delivered to the Asha Stars Project Co-ordinator two months before the money is sent to the project. He/she also works with the co-ordinator to raise any further amount needed from the Asha Chapters or through fund-raisers. It must be remembered that untimely delivery of funds puts a lot of stress on the volunteers in India and distracts them from the real work with children. Timely delivery of funds must be considered imperative for success of the project.
- Active participation in decisions making for the project – The Asha Star Project member votes on how the funds are to be used, ensures timely delivery of information to the project co-ordinator. Active participation of all Asha Star Project Members in decision making is imperative for continued success.
- Recruiting of new Asha Star Project Members – Helps recruit new asha-stars for the projects to ensure long-term sustainability for the project as and when needed.
- Shapes the overall direction of the project – He/she leads the team to make the project effective in its goals and makes sure the project continues to get funded.
- One-stop place for information on the project – He/she actively co-ordinates all project communications/reporting while keeping everyone – folks in India, the Asha Star Project members and the web-site visitors – in the loop.
- Co-ordinates fund collection – He/she actively co-ordinates collection of funds and delivery of funds to the project in a TIMELY manner. If the funds collected by the Asha Star Members is not sufficient for the project expense, he/she works with registered Asha Chapters to raise the amount.
- Obtains ratification by Asha for Education – He/she ensures that a registered chapter of Asha for Education sanctions the project and ratifies it every year.
- Recruits Asha Star Project Members – He/she is responsible for recruiting Asha Star Project Members as and when needed. He/she is also responsible for the removal of inactive asha-stars (i.e. those who do not contribute as per “direct involvement” guidelines).
The first step is to contact one of the chapters of Asha for Education. Contact the chapter nearest to your geographic location. Inform the project co-ordinator of that chapter that you are interested to start an Asha Stars Project.
The chapter project co-ordinator should guide you with the procedure or he/she will assign someone to do so. To start a new project, the Asha Star Project Coordinator or his/her representative might be asked to present the Asha Star Project to the chapter projects group. The Asha chapter projects group will deliberate on the proposal and the plans and examine it critically. They might seek clarification and/or give feedback based on their collective wisdom and experience.
- a) New projects translated to increase in responsibility.
- b) Transient presence of volunteers made sustained impact very difficult; burnout for existing volunteers was imminent.
- c) A field trip to India and discussions with the project coordinators there showed when involvement was lacking, donations dropped out within 2 years.
To guarantee long term success, we had to put first things first. Personal involvement became the highest priority; Fundraising, respected and sought in equal measure, took the second place.
How does one translate the philosophy into practice? The answer to this complex problem was simple and rather elegant. It came from a realization that it takes only a few committed people (the Asha Stars) to tackle a small education project. Under this vision, each volunteer takes personal responsibility in her/his project and frees the rest of Asha to work on others. Each star guarantees financial support of $500 per year (or a previously fixed amount) towards their own project. Once committed, the stars work to take the project to self-reliance. There was a perfect fit between the model and the ground realities. Within 2 years 40 Asha Stars emerged to set Asha-LA projects on a stable course for the long haul. Initially, we proposed Asha 5 (ie 5 involved owners) to be the way to go. The 5 was identified early on to be an artificial limit and was a disadvantage especially in handling large projects that needed more funds. So, we decided to called it ‘Asha *’ where * is a variable. It made meaningful and poetic sense. This is how Asha Stars were born.