It was the summer of 1991 in Berkeley that a few individuals got together to work towards the cause of education in India, with the belief that good quality education is an indispensable element for social and economic development. 24 years on, Asha for Education is now a global organization with far-reaching impacts and accolades. With 50+ chapters across the world and over 1000 active volunteers, Asha has grown into a mature society that functions independently at each chapter.
Asha-24, the biennial Asha conference, aims to bring many of these chapters together to discuss issues on a common platform, and learn from each other. Having been hosted in the San Francisco Bay Area, Princeton and other locations in previous editions, this year’s conference was held for the first time at the Gator Nation – Gainesville, Florida (University of Florida) over the weekend of July 25-26, 2015.
The conference featured a wide array of prominent guests, who have dedicated many years towards the cause of education and development in India. Anurag Behar, CEO of Azim Premji Foundation was the plenary speaker for the event. Ravi Kuchimanchi, Founder and Jeevansaathi of AID (Association for India’s Development) delivered the keynote address at the event. Aravinda Pillalamarri, Jeevansaathi of AID addressed the attendees on Education and Socio-economic Inequality in India. They touched upon their experiences and vision of education, and the connection to environmental and social justice movements. Adhik Kadam, a long standing project partner of Asha and Founder of Borderless World Foundation, was a guest speaker as the conference as well. Richa Govil, a volunteer for Asha since 1991 talked about livelihoods and the connection of livelihoods with education.
Additionally, a major focus in this edition of the conference was on volunteers and their thoughts. A number of volunteers from different chapters shared their insights on vital topics – the current state of education in India, what works (and what does not) in education, volunteer motivation, chapter collaboration, potential for CSR funding, a framework for recording and reporting the outcomes of Asha’s work, and many more. The conference also featured a poster session about different chapters’ projects and activities.
With a plethora of speakers and volunteers who inspired the attendees, Asha-24 was an insightful and memorable event. Attendees had an exchange of intriguing ideas, better understanding of developmental issues, and very importantly – a great chance to know and learn from co-volunteers from other locations.