“One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.”
One can’t but help think of Malala Yousafzai’s famous quote, when one thinks of what Nirmala Venkatesan is trying to do in the space of ‘education for the under-privileged.’ Nirmala is the founder of Spark -A-Change-Foundation, a non-profit organization in Mumbai. After a successful career at Larsen &Toubro in corporate finance, she gave up a flourishing career to be a home maker and full-time mother.
THE BIRTH OF SPARK-A-CHANGE
Nirmala’s journey in the social sector began with a volunteering stint that saw her impart education to urban children from low-income communities. Tutoring first generation learners individually, the reality of learning gaps, the negative impact of rote and a continuing assessment system that tested memory, reawakened the latent dissatisfaction in her. Being a mother of two by then, she was pretty sure she didn’t want that kind of future for her kids. It was a selfish need, maybe, yet one that set her thinking on what could be done to mitigate such challenges.
There was a constant niggling feeling in her, that left her unsatisfied. She wanted to make and see a change outside of her role as a homemaker. Education had always been her passion and she decided to do her bit in this domain, by teaching children of the maids from her housing complex.
Initially, she taught 5 to 7 students and within a month her step towards bettering lives and the society at large saw her tutoring 50 students, with 5 volunteers assisting her in this endeavour. The seed of Spark-A-Change Foundation was officially sown! The finance guru had found her true calling! Nirmala decided that ‘empowering children with the gift of education’ was what she wanted to do.
THE GOAL FOR THE TEAM AT SPARK-A-CHANGE
Today, the Spark-A-Change foundation assists 1000+ lower-income urban children in Mumbai, bridging their learning gaps, through well-designed programs in English, Math, Science, Life Skills, Career Awareness, Digital Literacy, Arts, Sports and Applied Theatre. The aim is to provide them with learning experiences, that can guide them to realize their true potential. Giving children from poorer sections a fair shot at mainstream opportunities is the intent.
Learning at Spark-A-Change is conducted in open garden space for grades 1- 7 and in closed rental spaces for older students. The biggest challenge that not-for-profit faces right now is the lack of suitable and affordable open spaces that are conducive for education and volunteering opportunities. Since volunteers are the backbone and the chief source of support at Spark-A-Change, the absence of economically viable, education-friendly, volunteer-friendly real estate poses a massive problem for Nirmala and her team.
BRINGING ABOUT CHANGE SLOWLY AND STEADILY
Despite these challenges and a lot more that goes on when you manage an organization, that is trying to transform the lives of children battling poverty and the other tribulations that come with it, Nirmala gallops on undeterred. Her pupils are her source of strength. The inexhaustible sense of perseverance and grit they demonstrate day after day, keeps Nirmala going.
She sees herself as a mother to every child she is in touch with. The drive to reduce the gap between the lack of access to quality education and a literate yet unemployable population keeps her motivated on this journey.
Here’s how you can help Nirmala and her team
- Their Ask
- Donate for / Provide stationery support
- Reach out if you want a Spark-a-Change center in your locality
- Volunteer to teach academics / co-curriculars
- Donate for / Provide snack support
- Refer corporates for CSR
Website : www.sparkachangefoundation.org
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact : 9323288002
FB : SparkAChangeFoundation
Insta : sparkachangefoundation
Twitter : ChangeSPARKers
About the author
Priya Narayan is a postgraduate in Child Development from SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai, India. She is the founder of Sparkling Stories, an enterprise that sees her curating stories across the globe and combining them with music, mediation, artwork, and theatre for all age groups. Besides writing, she also teaches English Grammar, Creative Writing and Spoken English. She has written several blogs, poems, articles and short stories in the last 20 years, and has also co -authored a travelogue and 2 poetry compilations in 2020.