What is the most common reaction people give you, when you tell them about your NGO and work ? I have to know this and so I asked Santosh.
With a chuckle Santosh said”Most common reaction would go like the one I had during one of friends get together a friend casually mentioned to me ” Boss, you really got have a easy job and great boss, you can work on your NGO you must be so lucky to have this free time.” What I didn’t tell him is that ” I am a regular guy like him with same target, appraisal and promotion pressure but what makes my life look easy is that I am happy because I know life is more than this and when I visit my NGO StudyMall project I see how my small efforts are helping village children like me everyday to read, learn and play.
“We have all our worries and day to day job, but at the same time we have equal chance to go beyond this and be a bit more, a promotion is great from associate to manager but a promotion from being just a person to being a helpful person for society is more appealing to me.” says Santosh and I totally agree.
Where did it all start, I mean from a busy regular job guy to a social entrepreneur ?
Santosh with a big smile said “Yes i am computer Engg and MBA graduate, a regular guy working in Mumbai. I was finding my way through and despite being a very self confident person I used to struggle with communication in English and was always being quizzed by people on my village and rural educational background. Whenever I faced this situation I used to wonder can I do something for rural children so they do not face same situation ? ”
Continuing his sentence with little pause Santosh adds “This idea got a boost when I visited my village during Diwali vacation. As I sipped hot cup of tea sitting under my good old tree chatting up with some of my village friends and some other elders from village, I saw the school across road in same poor infrastructure as it was 15 years back. The school had just finished and children were getting disbursed joyously . But what I saw was children did not go home but started going towards farm or they just came to the tree trying to entertain themselves by getting in communication of elderly and off course the tree was perfect place to do so. I asked few children and people around “why this children are not going home but wandering or going to farm or are here with us?” One of the children a nine Year enthusiastic boy replied ” we do not have anyone at home it is just 4 PM and we either go to farm to work or sit here”.
I was speechless as I remembered this was what I was doing as a kid, but I was lucky enough that my parents realized that the village education was not enough and tried there best to shift me to town school, which either when I look back was not of standard in comparison to what we have in Mumbai.
This got me thinking what if they have a small place to sit after school where we can read books, play games, talk and discuss children subject rather than being in elderly conversations around a tree, what if we can paint, draw, recite poems and what a lucky day it will be for village student to handle a computer?
Being a working professional I knew importance of having legal documentation, and I knew if I want to do something for the village children I need to have registration for NGO. So I started in 2011 by registering an NGO “Thinksharp Foundation”. No dream is complete without friends , off course I had my friends on board with me Sachin, Deepali and others supporting me as volunteers.
One of my friend Mr.Bhagwan Jadhav an professionally successful media person staying in Mumbai asked me to start first StudyMall in his village Surangali, ThinkSharp Foundation “Studymall” was thus launched on 29 Sep 2013 at Surangali village after 2 years of struggle period of documentation, funding, marketing, visits etc.
Since then I along with ThinkSharp team have been happy to see our “StudyMall” helping everyday 1500 rural children on an average learning, and growing in academic and non academic skills in 3 different villages.
We have given rural children a better place to sit after school or during school, books,art, crafts, games , electricity supply in power cut times through solar lamps, computer education and a local volunteer as there mentor available for them.
I still have a long way to go beyond 3 villages, in Maharashtra state all benefits are more concentrated in and around Mumbai and Pune, Marathwada region is basically away from much needed help and my aim is to help every village in Marathwada alongwith other parts as needed.
So what are few moments that made you feel proud of your “StudyMall”. Santosh replied “There are many but this one stands out at this moment, On one of my visit one of the parents said to me ” I am so thankful to StudyMall that my younger son got a job by studying here, and i hope every child in this village find something like this from StudyMall.” And another one is when our volunteer Mr.Saurabh sent this cute little picture of handwritten note from our 3 StudyMall Vangani which says how much this child loves StudyMall.
StudyMall has become more than a place or a library for this villages, it is their own mall where they go and use everything related to their study free of cost.
From an Management guy to a hero guy for this rural children an exceptional journey Santosh has chosen. StudyMall is an attempt by Santosh and his team of normal people with their own problems and struggle but whats different is there beyond normal passion to help rural children.
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Thanks and keep your Human side up that will keep you smiling….
Written by -Dr.Shraddha M Bhange
Volunteer and Writer for Thinksharp Foundation.
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