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Summer 2013 Student, Ashish Agarwal talks about SAS, nonprofits and India
As a young boy, Ashish Agarwal had a dream to change the world. Now Ashish, who is currently a participating in the Summer 2013 voyage, is making that dream come true as one of the founders of Kartavya.org. Ashish is carving out his niche as a visionary who is making his mark, while striving to make the world a better place.
Kartavya.org, a nonprofit voluntary organization run by Indian School of Mines has a clear vision: to equip the Indian children of slums with education skills and character that they need to lead empowered lives.
“Our mission is to uplift the slum children of India,” said Agarwal, who first began working with Kartavya as a teacher in 2008, and currently works in the area of finance and expansion. “I have taken on a much bigger role now as I advise the organization on expansion and finance, while increasing visibility all across India.”
For a modest contribution, economically disadvantaged Indian students are afforded a chance for a better life. “$100 covers the cost of student school fees, a school uniform, transportation, books, health coverage and regular check-ups by doctors, which is a big issue for children in slums since illness often prevents students from proper studies,” said Agarwal.
In addition to his work with children, Ashish also provides assistance for Indian women in slums, those who have often been denied proper educational opportunities. “The women in the slums are often very behind in their studies, forced to rely on men who often harass them. They are unaware of their rights and they also have serious health problems. So we started teaching them relevant skills, such as sewing, stitching, candling, notebook binding, mushroom growing, while helping them find ways they can become independent by supporting themselves,” said Agawral.
Ashish’s association with Kartavya began while he was still in his teens. “During my first year in college, when I was 17 years old, I visited the slums that were behind my college. I quickly realized that the children were not going to school. They had their dreams, but they were not able to fulfill them due to their unfortunate circumstances. I was very fortunate to come from a good home and a good family, and able to visualize my future, so I decided to contribute something for our nation, to give back something since I received a lot.”
The computer science major from Agra, India, soon realized that turning the lives around of poor children of the slums of India would take more than providing them with a solid education.
“We understood that just sending them to good schools was not enough because when they come back to their homes and slums, their parents, who are also uneducated, do not support their children’s studies. So we have gotten involved with the parents and started teaching them in the evening, said Ashish. “Most of the time they don’t have electricity, so they come to the centers where they can study from our library where they have all the basics. We also installed water purifiers.”
Its not only education that Kartavya provides, but the Indian nonprofit which began 14 years ago, also has had a hand in shaping the extracurricular activities of the students. “We realize that many of the children have very good skills in karate, with four children from our organization going to international competitions representing India in Singapore,” said Agarwal. “Our children have more than 50 gold medals in Karate. We also started teaching them art, dance, art, soccer, cricket and science projects.”
Ashish is quick to recognize the benefits of traveling with the Semester at Sea program and how this experience has not only had a tremendous impact on him as as student, but also in his work with his nonprofit.
“I really appreciated the Interport Lecturer and SAS alumni, Becky Straw when she visited the ship. She has been doing a lot of work in Africa, and has a great knowledge about nonprofits. So she knows how to elevate projects on a larger scope and to affect millions of lives. I am grateful for the time she spent with me individually during her time onboard and the chance to learn more about the nonprofit world through her eyes.”
Agarwal also gives credit to his professors onboard the MV Explorer, as his SAS experience has offered him a greater understanding on his life’s mission in the nonprofit world as well as his studies. “I am learning a lot from my professors. Professor Shank, who teaches my global sustainability course, has offered a unique perspective on sustainability and nonprofits and how they can be run very successfully all across the world. I’ve found this to be an invalulable experience for me personally, and also, for my work with the Kartavya organization.”