- 08 Dec 2022
Do you remember ever being at a traffic signal in scorching heat, waiting for it to go green, and someone taps your arm or your car window?
You look to see a kid, too often than not, less than 10 years old, asking for money. What do you do? You either shun the kid away or you give them some money. Seldom does it cross our minds that a child that young is at an age to receive maximum care, attention, and most importantly, education! But they are deprived of it merely due to their financial conditions.
My name is Shane Bakshi, and I grew up in Chandigarh at the opposite end of the spectrum, in a much more privileged family where all my basic needs were met with no problem. Soon enough, I realized there was a bigger and more cruel life for those who weren’t as provided for as I was. In 2012, my uncle founded Aashray: The Shelter of Hope, (now Aashray Foundation) which worked for children from marginalized communities who were deprived of basic education.
Aashray Foundation’s mission was to provide children from low-income communities with a high-quality education, helping them maximize their potential and transform their lives. I was intrigued by the kind of work that my uncle was doing, and I joined him without a second thought.
I started volunteering for Aashray's different initiatives in class 12. I was a part of initiatives related to education, food distribution, animal welfare, and many other concerns that surround society. In 2015, when my uncle had to move abroad, I took up the responsibilities as the Managing Director, and that has been the case for the last 7 years. Today, at 23, I also run two restaurants and a waffle store in Chandigarh.
Aashray, amongst other projects, works in the field of education, instituting school reform through the school project, and providing a supplemental education through its activity classes across India. I strongly believe that the way to end poverty and to end begging is through a better education model. Based on this belief, we developed a curriculum in which a child is neither burdened nor deprived of any exposure provided to a regular school student. We ensure a holistic approach towards teaching, where a child is learning soft skills along with other life skills.
Our top campaigns include the Padhai Campaign; Project Sahayata, which works towards mental health awareness; Project Save the Soul, for which we had a collaborative event with PETA, promoting veganism and ending animal cruelty, and Project Feed the Hunger, where we conduct food distribution drives across the country.
The Padhai campaign provides free, quality education to children from underserved communities through direct funding and sponsorship. Through this campaign, we commit to supporting each child by providing a strong educational foundation, good time, self-esteem, and values, and helping them plan out a better future for themselves and their families.
Every student who walks through the doors of our class is provided with individual attention, encouragement, and access to different opportunities that help their cognitive and physical behaviour. We believe that education is a fundamental right for all children around the world. Special education is curated and provided to differently abled kids who come to us.
Students here learn the regular curriculum as well as important habits such as health and hygiene, etiquette, and get creative freedom through regular art and cultural classes. That’s not it! Each week brings a new workshop, unlocking new experiences for the students. Workshops on Yoga, Art, and History are some of our most loved. Kids Olympic is another fun-filled activity organized to include the great benefits of sports in our students' lives, because let's be honest, all work and no play isn't fun, right?
Another issue that we actively address in our classes is gender equality. The persistent gender gap in education hinders youth development and in education is characterized by, among other things, a lack of access and availability of gender-sensitive educational infrastructure, materials, and training programmes, as well as a high dropout rate amongst secondary school aged girls. Thus, Aashray ensures that all the children, irrespective of their gender, receive equal education.
Education is non-negotiable for the development and improvement of the lives of young people globally. Lack of it pushes a child towards poverty and, many times, towards begging. As a step towards putting an end to begging, a campaign, Let's Walk for a Hunger-Free India, was conducted on Global Roti Day, where we walked 30 km with an empty stomach, ensuring no one else in New Delhi sleeps hungry on September 28.
My students in Panchkula call me India ke papa. When I asked my student Sangeeta why they called me that, the 8-year-old replied, "Aap humare liye itna karte ho, khud khana nahi khakar hume khilate ho. Garmi ho ya sardi hume koi dikkat nahi ho aap sab take care karte ho isliye papa se kam nahi ho aap." This incident made me realize that I'm on the path of making a change and impacting lives.
Today, Aashray has been associated with institutions like Red FM, Dabur India, and other big institutions in the industry. We are actively working in more than 28+ cities like Jammu, Hyderabad, Punjab, Patna, Delhi, Mumbai, and other cities throughout India with a team of 5000 members, and till date, we have impacted more than 1 lakh families in the past 10 years.
There is a belief that many people don't trust what many NGOs across India do. They think their tireless efforts are a way to earn profits from the cause. I have faced people who have doubted our intentions, but I have never lost faith in the goodness of people who are still out there working towards the greater good.
Exclusively written for Giving for Good Foundation by Bhairavi Hiremath
With words as her medium and a diary full of scribbled ideas, she is usually found looking for ways to use her writing to impact for Good. If she’s out of sight, she’s probably either reading, petting cats, jamming to retro Bollywood, or of course, writing!