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Lokvani Talks To Sumana Hatwar And Shyamala Ayasola

Nirmala Garimella
06/08/2017

Vibha is a non-profit, non-religious, non-political volunteer organization that seeks to restore the promise of a future to underprivileged children. Since its inception in 1991, Vibha has raised $13 million and supported more than 250 projects in India and 10 projects in the US. As a result, Vibha has been able to reach out to and provide opportunities for over 300,000 underprivileged children.   Currently, Vibha supports 30 projects in India and 7 projects in the US. Action Leads Sumana Hatwar and Shyamala Ayasola talk about their involvement.

How did Vibha start in Boston?

Vibha was conceptualized in 1991 in Bay Area and then Action Centers spun across different cities of US, based on volunteer interest.  We had one set up in Boston in late 2000 but that died down as the then volunteers moved to different cities.

We got off to a fresh start in early 2013 when some of the current volunteers came together to form this action center. Most of us had heard about Vibha through friends and decided that we should have something similar in Boston to help spread the seeds of Vibha and its mission to Educate, Empower and Enable every child to meet their own potential and provide an opportunity that lot of us take for granted.

 

What inspired you both to join the team? Can you give a bit of your background

Sumana- 

In Dec 2012, I came to know through a friend that the National Vibha team was looking for volunteers to found a new action center in Boston. I had donated before to the Vibha education projects, and hence had some exposure to their goals. When this opportunity was presented to revive this action center, I jumped on it.  I realized that not every child is fortunate, and if I am able to better the future of one child, then I would feel that I have given back something to the world, that has given me so much. Being a new mom, the thought that there were these young children with no access to even basic education and through no fault of theirs’, just didn’t sit well with me.  I had also hoped that I would get to interact and bond with likeminded people with some common ideology and linkage and we all come together to make education easily accessible, one child at a time, kind of clichéd but I truly hope that we do achieve some part of that sentiment in the years to come.

I am a software engineer, working full time as a Senior Business Analyst in a leading financial services company. I have two children –a 7 year old and a toddler who mean the world to me. I am a travel enthusiast, an amateur runner and love working on crafts with my kiddos. I moved to US almost 10 years ago from Mumbai and still miss the street side chaat. 

Shyamala:

I moved to Boston in 2011 and was looking for a way give back to the community. I was associated with a few initiatives in India in the past and wanted to continue my contributions to projects that serve children. Vibha was a great way to participate. The Boston chapter was looking for a new team and the timing was right. I took the lead to grow this chapter, team up with the enthusiastic volunteers and we grew volunteer by volunteer over the last few years. Though we are a small team in Boston, we have managed to make significant contributions to several projects for Vibha including local volunteering and hosting events like Cricket, Kite flying, Zumba and many more. I love the fact that I meet great people who come to volunteer with us and the strength of the network is only growing. I am looking forward to growing this Chapter and adding more volunteers, donors and patrons to the Vibha family 

 Can you tell us whether this fund raiser will support a particular project? How many people are you expecting for this event?

Currently Vibha is supporting around 30 projects in India and around 7 in USA. Typically the funds go to a common pool managed by the National funds team that caters to all projects and depending on need they release funds to support the project’s goals.

This time we have seen that there has been a lot of interest for this kite flying event. This is the second time we are hosting this event. Last time in 2015, we had limited participation, and it was a cold day too, so not very conducive to flying kites. This time we are hoping that at a minimum 150 people turn up for the event, we would love if there is more participation and right now doing all we can to garner enough interest.

Share with a human interest story where Vibha made a difference in someone’s life

I am posting links for three of the stories that are fairly recent – two based in India and one based in Denver, Colorado. There are multiple such stories.

About a 11 year old from India

http://old.vibha.org/catalyst/latest/item/66-when-transitions-shape-way-for-inclusion-samavesh

Door Step School

This is about Door to Door school

https://vibhablog.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/door-step-school-establishing-a-novel-embodiment-for-education-by-sneha-kadiyala/

This is about the Denver school, again supported by the Vibha Denver Chapter

Sheridan is one of the poorest school districts in the country. Our volunteers heard the story of Sheridan on Colorado Public Radio and reached out to Michael Clough, the Superintendent of the Sheridan School District 2 with an offer to help in whatever way they can.

The awesome team orchestrated an inspiring community outreach campaign in Denver which resulted in raising over $27,000 enabling the school district to purchase 100 Chromebooks to support their reading program. The campaign had participation from every Indian organization in Denver along with support from the business community. State Rep. Jeff Bridges Sheridan Mayor Dallas Hall, Board of Education members, Colorado Public Radio team and several other community leaders came forward to support the event making it truly community driven. The Vibha Denver team is now working on providing ongoing assistance to the school district with substitutes in STEM program, tutoring support and technology support.

What are the future plans here?

We are making baby steps in spreading the word about Vibha and are working on getting more like minded volunteers to add strength to our team.

 We aim to organize events, campaigns, fundraisers and drives to raise awareness about Vibha and to support grass root level projects both in India and USA



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