Interview with The Founder
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Let us meet to find out more about Virat Shah and his journey in life so far.
DK: How does your daily schedule look like?
- 4:30 am – An alarm clock wakes me up
- 4:30 am to 5:30 am – go for jogging in the neighborhood
- 5.30 to 7:00 am – complete daily chore of activities and prepare kids for the school
- 7:00 am – go out to drop the kids to their school
- 7:15 am – go for collecting Sarvodaya lunch boxes from a local caterer
- 7:30 am to 9:00 am – conduct Sarvodaya 1st center class
- 9:00 am to 10:30 am – Sarvodaya 2nd center class
- 10:30 am to 12:00 pm – Sarvodaya 3rd center class
- 12:30 pm – pick up the kids from school and return home
- 2:00 pm to 5 pm – Communicate with Sarvodaya group members via email, FB, calls. Meet people for support, planning activities like yoga workshop/educational tour, arranging resources for new center, stationary, volunteers, admission activities etc. 5 pm onwards – spend time on myself, kids and family
DK: What are your hobbies and passion?
Virat: Reading is my hobby. Gandhiji’s literature has deep impact on me. I am currently reading ‘The Bible’. Teaching has been my passion all the time. In 12th, I would help my classmates. After 12th, I started paid coaching the students of 10th and 12th. Later wherever I worked, I started free-of-cost after duty hours coaching for the kids of helpers, fitters, sweepers etc. In 1995, I started computer classes in an Amraivadi school with an aim to provide low cost computer education. Later that spread to 3 schools.
DK: Tell me about your professional career?
DK: Why did you choose current delivery model?
One day while dropping my kids at a school in Isanpur, I saw a few kids loitering around. I asked their parents if they would send kids for the classes and the parents readily agreed. I realized that the need-gap is wider in imparting basic education vis-à-vis quality education. The incremental life changing experience would be far higher in imparting basic education than in improving quality of education for existing students. So I decided to focus on the basic education thereafter. Current syllables are based on my judgment, practical hints received and my love for education. My focus is to impart basics of reading and writing – 95% kids need this. These parents wanted to get their kids education but not willing to send to a different place. Changing them was not a good idea. So I changed my model. Rather than kids going to school, I have school class going to their area. This improved attendance. I changed time from 10 am to 9 am to 7.30 am as I understood kids leave for work thereafter. Their families have no money, no clothes, no soap…they live by day, not sure what will they get to eat tomorrow and where will they be. Kids would not think twice in leaving the classes, if they get to know there is a free food-served nearby. To be successful, I realised I need to address these points. I approached nearby ‘Annakshetra’ which delivers free food to all who come. I hoped ‘Annkshetra’ food and kids need fit in perfectly, but ‘Annakshetra’ trust declined to serve food outside. Later a donor came forward and we started providing lunchbox, this is still one of the most important attractions. Now going to start offering a water bottle. Started with a slate, added a notebook. Added 2nd center and then 3rd center so far in this model.
DK: Tell us about a few of the challenges and how did you address them?
DK: Before starting, did you think how you could do justice to such a big task?
DK: What is your target in short and medium term?
DK: What are economics of running a center and 10 centers?
- Volunteer reward – Rs.1500-2000.
- Snacks – Rs.5000 @Rs.10/ kid.
- Stationery – Rs.2000@Rs.80/kid.
- Hygiene kit – Rs.2500@Rs.100/kid.
- To support 10 centers, estimated annual expenditure is Rs.14-15 Lacs. Running 10 centers steadily will consume 1-1.5 years in current model. We need to reinvent as activities pick up.
DK: How do you want to formalise Sarvodaya activity from legal point of view?
DK: Is Sarvodaya affiliated to any political party?
DK: How anyone can support Sarvodaya initiative?
Virat: Anyone desirous of supporting needs faith and trust in Sarvodaya. I myself have not donated in temples nor given to beggar with a fear that the money would be mismanaged. Genuineness and Trust are always big issues. Please come to our centers on any day and be a part of the class for a day. Share what you see and feel with your friends and family. I try to address this by uploading pictures on FB. I want to make a website so one can offer support for the same. Once there is trust and comfort, I feel everyone and anyone can support. Everyone’s has something as a god gift. Be it singing, music, yoga, medical expertise, story telling, teaching, ….your different skills can help in creating and maintaining the kids’ interest and bringing a novelty to Sarvodaya. Your moral support is always a big booster to me. The least one can do is share this article – Sarvodaya reached this stage from sheer Word-of-mouth. With Facebook & Twitter, this can scale up to many different people in the world. When you talk about Sarvodaya in your circle, they will listen to you. I am still a stranger to them. I have practical challenges of being one-man army. Besides I am clear that this is a social service and not business, so I don’t follow-up hard for any support. So far funding has been scattered from individual sponsors. Individual item based sponsorship is another support e.g. notebook donor, eraser donor, water bottle donor. The support will be driven by your creativity and willingness. I have faith in the God in keeping this initiative running.
I like to share a shloka that provokes a thought of supporting from whatever one has and our reservoir never gets emptied:
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते पूर्णश्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥ ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Meaning: Om, That is Full, This also is Full, From Fullness comes that Fullness, Taking Fullness from Fullness, Fullness Indeed Remains. Om Peace, Peace, Peace.