Sunday, December 25, 2005

Run DSF Run

'Research is like long distance running'. This was my close friend Vishwa's funda during my IISc days. And, as I struggled with my research work, hanging on to it, pushing it. That comment seemed so apt. And, soon I realised not just Research but LIFE indeed was like long distance running. You need to persevere, hold-on, cling-on to your goals, ideals, principles, what not....And, you need to keep working towards it. Boredom, distractions, sudden dip in confidence/faith all these comes in the way. You need to keep pushing, keep taking those steps, keep running. And, suddenly it dawns on you. Its not the body, itz not the facilities, but your mind, your thinking that matters. You suddenly encounter YOU. You get to know YOU.

Ladies & gentlemen, thats why I love running. Its a training to take on life and enjoy it all the way. In that 30 minutes, 1 hours, or 2.5 hrs of running, you go through life. And, each time you finish it as planned, its an affirmation that you've got what it takes. And, THAT is wonderful. Ask, anybody who runs.....

As I run my life, I realise a few things are precious to me.
1. Neuroscience
2. Giving back to society.

Neuroscience - The Brain - fascinates me so much that my very existence should tend towards it ;-)

Giving back to society: Yes, doing what YOU can. Sharing. Inspiring. Empowering.

It may sound strange but yes, poverty has fascinated me. Initially, it was walking through slums, watching them: their families, and their kids playing on the street. The kid running around half-naked, the boyz loitering around with a defiant/hurt look, the girls busy with household work. And soon, you notice that lotz of boyz & girls are working. In canteens, cycle-shops, garages while they should have been in schools. You know for sure, you could have been one of them. Choiceless birth has made all the difference. Life withering before it blooms.

Yes, for the last 7 years I have been part of a gang that reaches out to those children. Supporting them through education. Giving them a fair-chance, a level playing field, letting them grow up with the conviction that the society is with them and that LIFE means opportunity - every moment.

Now, a few of us who deeply believe in this cause will RUN for them. We plan to use the run to raise awareness, get more volunteers, and raise fund for our group - The Dream School Foundation [DSF] . DSF works with Govt. schools in Karnataka to ensure quality education for the children. And, we will be running at the Mumbai marathon on Jan 15th 2006.


DSF has adopted 5 govt. schools in Bangalore and also interacts with 15 more schools. We have long-term volunteers associated with each of these 5 schools. They teach the kids, interact with teachers, and also are involved in school management.

Activities at the school are fuelled by the dynamism of its volunteers. And, we badly need many more volunteers. There are 100's of govt. schools in Bangalore. And, almost all of them would do well with active support from itz citizens. Let me illustrate with some of our activities.

Medical camps at the schools. Apart from general health (and dental) check up, blood grouping, maintaing the records has been helpful. Most of the kids come from slums, and their parents are into construction work, domestic help etc

Note book drive has been a helpful exercise for the last 4 years. We distribute 2-5 notebooks/kid. This has been supported predominantly by the IT crowd in the city. This year we reached out to around 20 thousand children in 144 schools.

Another important activity is spreading science/rationality. Currently, our sister/brother volunteer group Friends of Children trust organises 'Disha' - science workshops & exhibitions for govt. high school children. We plan to have workshops for teachers & students in our primary schools(1st to 7th standard/grade) .


A strong component has been teaching English & Maths. All these schools have mostly Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, or Urdu as the medium of teaching. In cosmopolitan cities, it becomes imperative that our children can speak good English & have good math foundations. Pygmalion has been an helpful English learning software that is being increasingly used in our schools. This interactive, multi-media approach excites children. Inculcating reading & comprehension skills are a challenge. Reading material from Hippocampus has been helpful in this regard. We need lot more teaching approaches & aids to make it attractive, impactful & full of learning. And, enthusiastic volunteers to make it happen. Believe me, talking to the kids, teaching something is a great learning-balancing-fun experience.

Infrastructure support in schools is another important issue. We have schools with bad roofs, less benches & desks. Overcrowded rooms. Sometimes no toilets. Yes, it is a government school, and they are supposed to solve all these. Various bodies like Janagraha, Akshara foundation are working towards it until then lets do our bit.

Sensitising children to environmental issues. Getting them interested in plants/trees/birds/animals around them is important. Recently children from various schools were taken for rock climbing at Thuralli. This event was organized by Shikshana trust and Karnataka Mountaineering Association.

Taking children out on picnics to other cities, planetarium, museums, zoo's makes it fun & learning. For many children this would be their first train trip etc etc One of the challenges is to keep the School dropout rate low. So community mobilisation drives, better teaching at schools, English teaching majorly helps. This instills confidence in the parents that the school is good & would make a difference to their child. And the kid also loves to come to school.

So guyz, therz so much that can be done in a school. It all depends on YOU. Join us and strengthen the schools and make a difference in their lives. You could join some other group too, or simply visit a govt. school in your neighbourhood and start interacting. Lets make education available, and of good quality for the underprevileged.

Yes, we RUN at Mumbai for DSF. We RUN with the conviction that we will reach out to more & more children. You could pledge for our cause by volunteering for us (we would love it) and /or donating to the cause. Cheques should be made in the name of 'Give India' (Charity coordinating group at the marathon). Do get in touch with us (info at dsfindia.org). Thanks so much.

We will run with Dream School Foundation. Distance doesn't matter. Destination is clear. Mind is strong. Paths get created. Join us. Run with us, itz fun, Run for DSF.

9 comments:

sunand said...

this is one of the best writeups i have read,
if there is anybody reading this comment please do spread the above message.

Anonymous said...

Akash,

Good write-up maga!

Sabu said...

It’s truly inspirational and I must say its writing with abundance of passion

Satsang Randhelia said...

Hey Akash,
I've become your fan!!

RUN RUN RUN....

Anonymous said...

Hey Akash...
That was interesting... But just a thought, don't you think if we can make our Education (specially at the Low Income level) self-sustaining, say by incorporating some kind of vocational training from when the child is around 10 years, along with the basic Math and English you talked about...

I think that might (just might) encourage parents to send their children to school. Also at that age kids are very interested in doing new things... So it is not child labor but something kids do as part of the curriculum!

What do you think???

Kumudhini

Rishi said...

Research is like Test cricket, bud! Course-based degrees are one-day cricket!

Research is like longitudinal waves -- there are phases of compression and rarefactions!

Rishi

Anonymous said...

Hey Akash,
I am seriously impressed with your work and the way you have put forth your views. Amazing man.
So how can I be a volunteer to this great work.Am not in India, been on a proj, so in US.
Do let me know.
Rashmi

Akash said...

Thanks Rashmi.

Do write to me at akash.n at gmail.
Lets explore, how you could contribute.

-Akash

Anonymous said...

Sure Akash.Thanks