Our actions reflect who we are and sometimes taking a step in the right direction is all that we need to bring a change. Dedicating time towards such actions amidst the world full of wealth-makers is a career that many of us find it difficult even to think.
U&I's one generous step has today given the organisation the scope and status to serve the society in a bigger way. Founded by Ajit Sivaram (37) and Satish Manchikanti (38) in the year 2011 in Bengaluru, U&I is a young and dynamic non-profit organisation that is aimed at educating the underprivileged children.
There are government schools in the country, but they are not sure to provide an individual with special needs. U&I is a volunteer driven organisation where each year people come forward for coaching and counselling the kids to their best.
Satish shared, "We understood that education is a game changer, giving many the potential edge to change different social aspects. And having the ability to speak in English will empower and bring about the needed change in one's life."
It all commenced when his group of friends started visiting the state home for mentally challenged boys which had moved them to a great extent.
Post which, the team started working on Mahatma Gandhi's saying, "Be the change you want to see in this world."
Ajit and Satish, the founders of U&I, started dedicating time to their nearby slums after office hours and thus began U&I Teach. The team then committed to visiting the boys every week and organise fun games with them.
Starting off with one centre at Bengaluru, the organisation now has 20 centres around 10 different cities.
Each volunteer contributes two hours per week to the initiative. The session involves 1:3 student-teacher ratio. Aiming to ensure personal attention to the children, the organisation has successfully benefitted 850 students so far. U&I did not limit their reach and extended to taking care of specially abled people as well.
You can find various state homes across the country which shelter thousands of children and women who are in need of care. The organisation U&I is dedicated to working with these homes and feels genuinely responsible for providing the needy with better facilities.
The trained volunteers teach the deprived and needy in the after-school Learning Centers thus becoming huge changemakers of the communities.
After coming in contact with the deprived, Ajit and Satish realised that their lack of English language was a major problem. English being a global means of communication, the team knew that companies are unwilling to prefer even the capable candidates just because of their inability to speak English fluently. Hence fixing this issue was one of their biggest goals.
With respect to which, Satish says, "At the end of the day, being able to speak English gives you better employment opportunities and improves your social standing. The same can be said about education. A lot of things fall into place with it. Today, education is a major form of empowerment, and a person should be educated right from childhood."
U&I's initial missions involved tutoring children making them able to excel in life and providing the facilities they have been abandoned from. These issues continue to be their main missions which are addressed by way of their initiatives U&I Teach and U&I Care.
And the tangible difference which has come into the lives of the needy, after five years of involvement with different people, contributes to being their biggest motivation and drives them to work harder.
Apart from the office where the operations take place, the U&I team carry out field trips and camps. Accepting donations from individuals, they conduct events like bake sales, food festivals and charity galas that ensure their sustainability. U&I's goal strives to be impactful and scalable as well.
"Our awareness initiatives, while agenda-oriented, are directly linked to what the organisation does. If one is talking and spreading awareness on a social issue, one might as well provide people with the opportunity to get involved. And getting involved in education with U&I is through volunteering," says Satish.
These people also offer to train college students so that they have skills to teach and mentor children from the underprivileged background.
Satish shared, "In terms of inspiration, I don't believe we've encountered any difficulties. Our children and our volunteers continue to inspire us daily. We can't let them down, and we work hard to ensure that we give our kids the best holistic education possible.
In terms of operation, we face challenges with financial sustainability. Corporates like associating themselves with NGOs who are at a pinnacle of social work."
But if you choose a path of entrepreneurship, you are sure to face a lot of challenges. And in the case of non-profit, where you have to keep your employees connected with you on the basis of motivation and no money, it is a path of thorns. U&I's one of the biggest challenges continues to be multi-year funding. The founders have also shared about coming across volunteer attrition as their tutors' enthusiasm starts to wane by the end of the year. Ajit and Satish have overcome this by organising motivational training sessions for their tutors and addressing any issues they face. An appropriate ecosystem is created for the volunteer tutors to thrive through various training modules allowing them to connect themselves with their Teaching Managers.
Well, they emphasize on giving '2.5 hours'. That 2.5 hours within which you can complete a topic of Mathematics or finish seven episodes of the TV show Friends or... make full-fledged dinner for your guests or even travel to a nearby place. But why only 2.5 hours?
Well, I won't answer this because this video explains the concept in a whole lot better way. One thing to notice about the video is... it has been shot in one go. And imagine the ones who are so perfect and dedicated to shooting a professional video, how perfect their work towards their project would be?
By way of this video, the U&I team is trying to motivate the youth by bringing awareness to the fact that they can make a huge difference.
"These are the best years of your life when you can live life to the fullest. Don't sit back and let life happen to you. Take charge, dream big, set goals. But, let it not be all about you. Give of yourself, your talent, your time – and the rewards are exponentially greater than what you give. Our communities need change-makers like you."
WittyFeed was in direct contact with the organisation and was keen upon knowing about their future plans.
U&I people are ready to make a positive expansion throughout the country by opening more learning centres. A Child Enrichment Program has also been introduced where medical camps for kids are conducted, access to the library is given, and computer skills are also delivered. Along with this, they also look forward to improving the infrastructure of these institutions.
Satish adds, "With a solid body of work over the last five years, we're looking forward to the next five years with excitement, hope and a belief that our best days are ahead of us.
We plan to go to 13 new cities and impact 1300 more lives through 30 new centres to set up – the road ahead is challenging, and we wouldn't want it any other way!"