‘Socio-economic change through Education’ has been Asha’s mission. The inequities of Indian society need no elaboration – from the romanticized depictions of poverty in Oscar winning films to grim reports of growing inequity from official reports – the need to catalyze socio-economic change is not under dispute. But how can Education act as a catalyst? How can Asha for Education help? How can YOU?
Education is not just schooling. Neither is it mere literacy. Education is empowerment. It is providing individuals the tools to understand the world they are living in – the many forces, man-made or otherwise that shape their everyday lives. It is creating awareness of their rights and privileges. It is providing them an ability to stand up for those. Asha works on all these aspects to help educate the underprivileged. Schools are but a part of this process – and literacy a requisite.
Just as important as the education we provide through the projects, is the education we provide to ourselves.
The empowerment of socially conscious citizens is the other vital cog in our pursuit of change.
In 2014, Asha supported 185 projects to the tune of $2.75 million through our project partners in India. The projects are diverse – as are the beneficiaries. We supported self help groups, schools and infrastructure in tribal areas of Assam; provided housing and educational expenses for orphaned girls along the line of control in Kashmir; improved performance of Government schools through additional teachers and para-teachers in rural Tamil Nadu; improved access to higher education by providing bicycles to girls in rural Gujarat and supported interventions in education across the country. The interventions range across infrastructure, development and access to teaching-learning materials, teacher training, after-school classes, community outreach campaigns, vocational training, nutritional assistance, awareness campaigns for Government schemes such as RTE and NREGA and support for schools for underserved communities such as villages, slums, migrant workers and the differently-abled. We are happy to present reports on a few of these projects in this Annual Report. Information on any of our projects is always available online on our website – true to our fundamental belief in transparency.
Just as important as the education we provide through the projects, is the education we provide to ourselves. As a fully volunteer organization, Asha functions through its volunteers. And the education – the awareness of issues and policies; involvement with grassroots project partners; learning from every project we support – is invaluable to each volunteer. The empowerment of socially conscious citizens is the other vital cog in our pursuit of change. You will read some personal stories of volunteers who have journeyed with Asha here – It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to suggest that both Asha and Asha volunteers have had a profound impact on one another.
Volunteers make personal connections with our project partners and are engaged with them on a regular basis. They take the time to visit the projects – thousands of miles from their hometown – when they travel during their limited vacation days. Their visit and stay at the projects, what we call ‘site visits’, help to further the bond between Asha and the projects. It helps Asha volunteers understand the ground realities better, and reinforces the support that the project partners feel psychologically that geographical proximity is not a requisite for a group to truly care about their concerns. Of the hundreds of site visits that took place this year, this report features a few notes from Asha volunteers across the world and we hope this would provide a window into the thoughts of an Asha volunteer.
A staggering 96% of our revenue of $2.845M in 2014 was through public support – donations, gifts and contributions. We continue to operate at very low overhead – 3.05% of expenses averaged over the last 3 years, with the rest used for our projects.
Our project partners are committed, grassroot NGOs striving to empower the communities where they work. Many of our project partners won accolades and awards for their work in 2014 – none bigger than the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Mr. Kailash Satyarthi. Asha is proud to be associated with Bal Ashram Trust, a rehabilitation center established by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan movement of Mr. Satyarthi, where rescued child laborers get basic education and vocational training. A site visit report to Bal Asham Trust is presented in this report where Ravi Kandikonda, a volunteer from Asha Dallas, visited and interacted with Kailash and Sumedha Satyarthi. Asha for Education congratulates all of its project partners who have received well-deserved recognition for their service and is proud of the partnerships forged.
In 2014, more than 60 chapters of Asha across North America, Europe and India conducted various events to bring together local communities and encourage them to provide the gift of Hope to the underprivileged children we support. Student volunteers at various Universities publicized Asha’s work in campus events. From Wine-Cheese soirees in New York City to Chai-Bhel events at the University of Delaware, chapters hosted awareness events. Movie screenings were held to showcase the issues we work on. The San Francisco ‘Film Festival of HOPE’ is now an annual feature beaming internationally acclaimed short films. Concerts and cultural shows – large and small – were hosted by chapters including Seattle, the University of Florida and Purdue. One of Asha’s earliest events – the ‘Images of India’ concert at the U.C. Berkeley campus marched colorfully into its 24th year of cultural extravaganza! Dancing and celebration in various Bollywood, Dandiya and Bhangra nights – from London and Eindhoven in Europe to the San Francisco Bay area – helped fundraise for our projects in India. Asha Stanford Holi, the SF Bay Area’s most popular Holi event, continued to attract thousands to celebrate the arrival of spring. Sambar, a pop-up restaurant at UIUC where Asha volunteers cook and sell Indian food, was one of several dinner/social events that bonded the Asha communities. Carnivals at Asha Dallas, art and games at St. Louis, quizzes at various chapters are a few of more than 100 events conducted across the world – a few of which are highlighted in this report.
The biggest fundraising event, however, is Team Asha – our endurance training program. More than a dozen chapters including Dallas, Bangalore, Chicago, Frankfurt, Princeton, Zurich and Boston helped runners achieve their personal goals of long distance running while raising funds for Asha. Some chapters have expanded beyond running to biking training programs. If that still leaves you asking for more, you can join the Triathlon training program at Asha Silicon Valley or join the Team Asha Seattle Mt. Rainier climbing program to conquer the 14,410’ summit of the Cascade range. Runners, bikers and mountaineers approach their friends, colleagues and family to spread the word about Asha and encourage them to donate.
The incredible work of our project partners and the awareness through Asha’s events and volunteers have acquired us the support of a community of donors. A staggering 96% of our revenue of $2.845M in 2014 was through public support – donations, gifts and contributions. We continue to operate at very low overhead – 3.05% of expenses averaged over the last 3 years, with the rest used for our projects. 2014 is also the year we have moved from a cash basis of accounting to an accrual basis as generally accepted in the United States. Our financial statements are appended to the end of this report and all documents, including an independent audit report on our financial statements, are publicly available on our website.
We thank you for your interest and support to Asha for Education, and hope that it will continue for years to come. If you have any questions about us, or wish to join us in our mission, please do not hesitate in contacting us.
President, Asha for Education