Our Mission
To catalyze socio-economic change in India through the education of underprivileged children.

Objectives of the group
Asha for Education is a secular organization dedicated to change in India by focusing on basic education in the belief that education is a critical requisite for socio-economic change. In keeping with this focus, our volunteers are involved with and support projects that are secular and have an education-related component to them. The objectives of this group are:
  • To provide education to underprivileged children in India.
  • To encourage the formation of various local groups across the world to reach out to larger sections of the population.
  • To support and cooperate with persons and groups already engaged in similar activities.
  • To raise the required human and other resources to achieve the group objectives.
  • To provide opportunities to individuals living outside India who wish to participate in Asha activities in India.
  • To address, whenever possible, other issues affecting human life such as health care, environment, socio-economic aspects and women’s issues.

Core Values

Asha for Education’s working is embedded in a set of core values which guide us in all aspects of the organization. The following core values are applicable to – Asha for Education US, Canada and Europe. The first two are not applicable to Asha India because as a boot strapped grass-roots organization, Asha India does not have zero overheads and not all are unpaid volunteers – there are certain overheads for salaries of accountant and running of Asha Centers in Asha India.

All chapters and volunteers of Asha for Education participate through the spirit of volunteerism. It means that not a single person in any chapter is paid a salary, stipend, honorarium or any form of financial reimbursement. There is also no paid membership to be an Asha volunteer. An Asha volunteer is an unpaid volunteer and participates in the spirit of pure volunteerism through a local chapter.We believe that it has been possible for many to participate as volunteers for many reasons, but mainly because, first – most of the volunteers are professionals; second – core values resonate with volunteers who do join and third – because volunteer lives are enriched by being of service to others.

Since there are no paid staff and no office rent, we are able to keep a very low overhead for administrative expense. This minimal overhead entails the credit card transaction fees that are imposed by the credit card processing company, banking fee, PO Box rental, website maintenance and other incidental expenses. Asha’s overheads are typically in the range of 2.5% to 3% of our revenues. This is a key factor that distinguishes us from many other organizations. This is true for all Asha for Education chapters in US, Canada and Europe.

No volunteer has to deal with bureaucracy to participate. There is an “open-inbox” or “open-phone” policy in Asha for Education. Asha for Education is a collective of socially conscious individuals participating through chapters. It is owned as a collective by a collective as well. No individual has more say than another. While leadership is very important, we strongly discourage a personality driven environment.

Asha for Education does not discriminate in its membership or in its selection of philanthropic project activity, on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, lifestyle, and groups protected by applicable state or federal discrimination laws. While Asha for Education’s charter is to support philanthropically-based organizations in India that focus on children’s educational development, Asha for Education volunteers (who could be of any nationality) may support local communities outside of India by volunteering their own time. However, these volunteers will not be representing Asha for Education unless otherwise agreed upon by Asha for Education.

Chapter relevant decisions are left to chapters and volunteers participate in chapter decisions through meetings, conference calls or emails where every volunteer has an equal say in the decision. Decisions relevant for cross chapter working (operational in nature) are conducted through the Asha Representative Committee (ARC). This internal committee is comprised of ARC representatives from chapters who cast their chapter vote for any documented decision. Here, every chapter – no matter how small or large – has an equal vote. The coordination team, comprising of the elected Board of Directors and representatives from Europe, Canada and US guide the discussions and represent the organization in any external forum. Only the PR Coordinator or an elected Board of Director speaks on behalf of the organization in an external forum.

Asha for Education’s structure is very decentralized. The smallest operating unit in Asha for Education is a chapter. The structure is simple, yet not simplistic. Chapters are empowered to make chapter relevant decisions and are expected to adhere to the core values listed here. There is a process in recognizing and de-recognizing chapters which takes into consideration whether a chapter or volunteer follows the core values listed here – the Secretary team makes these decisions. This allows many people to participate globally with minimal fuss yet keeping everyone accountable.

Whenever there is any disagreement, everyone should respond in a respectful manner, focusing on the issue rather than the individual. Communicating in a respectful manner builds a constructive environment to resolve conflicts.

All chapters of Asha for Education are required to submit their financials as per their country laws. For e.g., Asha for Education US chapters submit the US consolidated year-end financials to IRS. It is extremely important to submit financials in a complete and timely manner and adhere to the law to maintain non-profit or charitable status.

1. Non-sectarian, secular, non-religious – We fund only non-sectarian and secular community initiatives, projects or people. This means that we will not fund initiatives or projects that are solely for the benefit of one religious community barring others. We will also not fund initiatives or projects or people that encourage a sectarian thinking.

2. Non-political We fund only non-political community initiatives, projects or people. This means that we will not support a particular political party or ideology. Since “catalyzing socio-economic change” involves advocating policy change, we reserve the right to participate or fund any initiative, project or people involved in advocacy relevant to our organizational mission and objectives. For e.g., Asha for Education signed the petition for the Right to Education amendment. However, this participation or funding will not be towards a political party or candidate.

Every project that a chapter supports is stewarded by a project steward from that chapter. Supporting or funding a community initiative, project or person is not and should not be dependent on any personal benefit for that or any Asha volunteer. At the same time, we recognize that many good proposals are often referred by volunteers. In such situations, we request that the volunteer who is in any way related to the project, community initiative or person, bring that up for discussion at a chapter other than their own local chapter. This helps us keep an ethical firewall in our operations.

Asha: The Story
How it Started
In the summer of 1991, a few students including V.J.P.Srivatsavoy@, D. Gupta#, and S. Pandey* got together to think of ways in which they could play a role in the development of India, the country of their origin. These young people shared the belief that education is a critical requisite and an effective catalyst for social and economic change in India. Basic education became the agenda for the action group that emerged from this gathering. The group was named Asha to represent the hope that had brought these individuals together and the hope that they aimed to bring into the lives of children in India. In that summer of 1991, Asha was born at the University of California in Berkeley.

Read The Beginnings  by V.J.P.Srivatsavoy: A write-up about Asha’s history

@ V.J.P.Srivatsavoy was working in India with Unilever, Mumbai. He passed away in May 2000. Please read the article about our late founder –Remembering Sri.
# Deepak Gupta is currently a Professor at IIT, Kanpur and continues to be involved with Asha in shaping its vision.
* S. Pandey is currently in India and is devoted to grass roots work full time. Read this clarification about S. Pandey’s current activism and Asha for Education.

Asha Today
Asha’s focus on children’s education has galvanised a number of volunteers across the globe. Today, there are more than 50 Asha chapters worldwide spread across the US, India, Europe and Canada.
Volunteers in each of these chapters take personal interest in identifying education-related projects in India, and supporting them through funds and other means.
As part of the Asha charter, all Asha chapters have a high degree of freedom in their activities including the identification, research, support and ownership of projects. However, there is also a good deal of co-operation among chapters and volunteers across chapters. This co-operation is evident in the joint ownership of projects across chapters, formation of focus groups across chapters, cross-chapter discussion on issues of interest, worldwide events like the Asha-Wide ConferenceWork-An-Hour, and the Asha India Conference.

Asha’s Future
In the future, Asha hopes to continue playing an important role in the socio-economic development of India. Asha’s vision is outlined below:
  • 2047: Universal Primary Education in India

Asha will continue to evolve in keeping with the needs of the hour and the needs of the country. The  2019 Asha-wide Conference in Chicago, demonstrated that Asha’s volunteers are a committed lot who are willing to put in the effort required to bring about a change for the better in India.

Over the years, Asha has succeeded in touching the lives of thousands of children across the different projects that it has supported. However, we also realize that there is still a lot to be achieved since there are millions of children in India who do not have access to basic education. Debates and discussions are now underway among the volunteers about ways in which we can make a greater impact on the situation. As part of this learning process, we are undertaking projects to evaluate our efforts over the past decade. In the end, we hope to be able to better understand the impact we have had, and where we should focus our efforts.
All said and done, the future holds even more significant challenges for all of us as a people. It is more important than ever that every concerned person pool in his efforts and start working towards addressing these challenges. We, the volunteers of Asha, believe that we are upto these challenges that the future holds for us.

At a glance:
  • 50+ chapters world-wide – 37 in the US, 6 in Europe, 1 in Canada and 10 in India. (as of 08/2015)
  • Volunteers: Over 1000 active volunteers across the globe
  • Funds disbursed in 2014 – $2,849,141
  • Funds disbursed from inception to Dec 2014 – around $32.3 million.
  • Project partners = 400.

Today, there are over 50 Asha  chapters  worldwide: The organization has more than 1000 active volunteers and several thousand supporters around the world.

Till date, Asha has supported more than 400 different projects spanning 24 states in India. In terms of project funding, almost $32.3 million has been disbursed to these projects since Asha’s inception. The annual reports and our financial statements are available here.
Perhaps, more important than these numbers is the personal leadership that the volunteers take in carrying out Asha’s activities. Involvement with Asha has produced an awareness about developmental issues in India and has inspired a whole range of volunteers to get involved in other social causes. There has also been an increased emphasis on the formation of more chapters in India (called Asha Centers) so as to draw upon the collective energy and experience of part and full-time volunteers in India and to build closer bonds with our projects. These Asha centers also serve to network like-minded individuals, in addition to pioneering bold new initiatives in the field of education. Thus, Asha, while making a difference in the lives of underprivileged children of India, is also preparing a group of people who are more socially aware and socially responsible in their lives.

Clearly, identifying, researching, owning, funding, and sustaining projects has formed the core of Asha’s activities till now. Asha raises funds for its projects in a number of ways: individual donations, corporate donations, sale of merchandise (T-shirts, calendars, mugs, greeting cards, etc.), fundraising dinners, Indian classical music and dance concerts, popular music concerts and many others. In the process, we also promote Indian culture over here.
Some Asha chapters also work towards raising awareness in appropriate forums about various issues affecting the people of India. This awareness-raising is accomplished by organizing discussion series, invited talks and study groups. Asha also acts as a network for various grass-roots workers and volunteers and non-governmental organizations.
If you would like to find out more about us, our activities, and, if you would like to participate and contribute to our efforts in any way, please contact members of the chapter nearest you. We want you to be part of the movement!