From Broken Blackboards to a Bright Future

Laxmi is a third-year engineering student. Engage her in a conversation and this shy girl transforms into an extremely confident person. She says her favourite subject is VLSI Design, and on further probing explains, “It’s just like playing a game.” 

One thing that sets successful people apart whether Elon Musk, or Steve Jobs, is their passion for what they do. Laxmi exudes that level of passion and looks all set for a successful future. She comes from a humble background where her school fee is a luxury her parents work hard to afford. Always a bright student, she scored 95% in her 10th grade exams, but the possibility for higher education seemed bleak until her headmaster introduced the family to Vidya Poshak. Vidya Poshak attempts to encourage meritorious yet economically challenged students to continue their education and realize their career dreams, by providing financial assistance. Students receive continued support year after year subject to their satisfactory academic performance, until they finish their under graduate studies.

Most students from a background like Laxmi’s have poor communication skills. There are many reasons for this. Fifteen years of formal education are spent learning passively. In most public primary schools accessible to students in rural India, discourse is not encouraged. There are few, if any, opportunities for presentations or group discussions to help students look at different perspectives. Science classes, for the most part, focus on memorizing formulae instead of discovering and understanding concepts through experimentation or hands-on learning. English classes lay emphasis on grammar rules but language immersion is seldom practiced. This does little to encourage independent or creative thought. Instead, students are urged to learn the contents of their textbooks by rote – information that is often forgotten by the time the exams are over. The poor means of knowledge acquisition are exacerbated by undertrained, apathetic or underpaid teachers, a lack of basic infrastructure and an enormous class strength. As a result, students finish school without the necessary skills for critical thinking, analysis or communication, to succeed in the real world.  The shortcoming becomes more apparent when these students enter colleges where they must interact with students from diverse backgrounds, and possibly a better education.


This is one area that Vidya Poshak makes a huge impact. Batches of 60 students are selected for 9 day camps which focus on developing better communication skills, working in groups, and filling in the gaps left by a public-school education.  The support of an organization such as Vidya Poshak can change the future of a student like Laxmi, and you can make that happen. Support one student for one semester.

The story first appeared in EquityMaster. 


Shiladevi – organic farmer, leader, entrepreneur!

Meet Shiladevi, a Pioneer in Organic Farming
Godiyari village in Darbhanga district, Bihar is badly affected by flood every year. It lies on the river Bagmati and community face lot of problems in flood. Unexpected weather conditions have doubled their problems due to decreased income from agriculture and the investment is very high due to cost in chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Shiladevi is a mercurial WOMEN LEADER who motivates flood and climate affected communities to practice adaptive agriculture initiatives and livelihoods. Shiladevi make bio pesticides (called as Madka Rasayan by local community) and bio compost and practice organic farming in 1 acre land. Apart from using in her field, she also sells these bio pesticides and compost locally and earns extra income. In a recent meeting at Maulaganj with Gram Vikas Maha Sangh, Shiladevi said “even making small changes in our life can be a reason for big changes in the community."

To address these problems, Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) facilitated the process with local NGO, Kanchan Seva Ashram, to introduce innovative agriculture practices with disaster and climate affected vulnerable communities. After experimenting of the Madka Rasayan in her agriculture field, she saw the difference in production of vegetables and pulses and health and taste aspects of the crop. Using own bio pesticides and compost reduces the cost as well as protects the environment. SSP provided support for trainings and learning visits through Community Resilience Fund (CRF).

She travels to other villages and teach communities in preparing bio pesticides using local leaves and materials. More than 500 women members have learned from her practices while visiting her village and seeing her work so far. She is now recognized as a women farmer leader in her area and an active member of Gram Vikas Maha Sangh.

When she started using the bio compost, neighbours started enquiring about the ‘new medicine’. Shiladevi shared her follow community on how to make bio compost. When the response from the field was very positive as it reduced the pest attack and increased the quality of the crop encouraged her to prepare the pesticide in more quantity to sell outside.

She says, “This bio pesticide is the best alternative to chemical pesticides buy from market that is costly, damage crops, environment and affect our health.”

Now Shiladevi is selling the bio pesticide for RS.30/- per kg. She earn Rs.3000/- per month by selling bio pesticide and additional earning of Rs. 6500 per season by selling good quality vegetables. Around 40% of the farmers in the village are using this pesticide to control enemy pests. She also teaches other villages and developed 11 women who are making bio pesticides and using in their field as well as selling to others.
– Family income level increased by selling bio pesticides
– Quality are assured in eco friendly farming practices using bio pesticides and vermin compost
– 11 new women members joined in this initiative
– Soil fertility and crop health has increased by using eco-friendly farming practices
How to make the bio-pesticide: Neem leaf (Azadirachtaindica) – 1 kg, Green Chilli – 200 gm, Jaggery – 100 gm, Rejected dry tobacco leaves – 500, Akaun leaf – 1 kg, Cow urine – 10 litre, Gur 150 gm, 10 litre cow urine. (Mix this ingredient in 10 litre cow urine and keep it for 20 days and use it). Production cost for 1kg is approx Rs. 10/- only.

Shiladevi's success is enabled by organisations like Swayam Shikshan Prayog. Veterun, raise money for Swayam Shikshan Prayog India and help them reach more women like Shiladevi!

Story and image courtesy of Swayam Shikshan Prayog

HYNGO at Ek Soch Sandbox

We visited Ek Soch – the first Development Dialog held in Varanasi. Centred on entrepreneurship which is the theme of each of the Sandboxes set up by the Deshpande Foundation, we found the panel on Next Gen Social Entrepreneurs really interesting. The young panellists spoke about challenges in starting an organisation and building a workable model. Here are a few excerpts:

Define your value proposition – identify or know what it is that makes a difference to the customer. The day I know what my customer wants, I am no longer a start-up. I understand the customer’s need and convert it to my profit and that’s when I transform from a start up to a scalable business.

Another panellist spoke about the importance of measuring outcome achieved versus expenditure incurred. This exercise requires planned structuring as all benefits cannot be easily quantified. Are the benefits greater than what I am spending?

The founder of a venture which is still at incorporation stage encouraged the process of taking a leap of faith. Yes once you are bitten by an idea you must jump in – no need to wait for approvals and so on. However, do plan your finances better – it can take longer than you estimate – you must budget for contingencies

One of the panellists who mentioned the importance of having a mentor when one is in start-up mode, had an interesting take on the role of the mentor: It’s important to have a mentor when you start – the mentor’s role is to advise WHERE you need to be NOT HOW to get there. If you are advised on the how, and the direction does not follow as per plan, you may find that you give up.

Buy NGO Products

  1. Eco-Friendly Ganesha: We love the idea of these eco-friendly Ganpatis made of shaadu (natural clay). Not only is the material bio-degradable, but you can also immerse it at home. What's more, these beautiful idols are made by mentally challenged adults. You can order a Ganpati idol in a colour of your choice. Do contact them in advance to place your order. Get in touch with Kalpana from Social Services Enterprise at 
  2. Rakhis, torans, chocolates and more!: Om Creations' chocolates are something of a legend in Mumbai. They've branched out to other products as well, so you can take your pick from Ganesha idols, paintings, colourful torans, rakhis, diyas and lots more. The products are made by students at their workshop for specially abled youth and adults. Each person in the workshop receives a small stipend for their work, so your purchases help them earn an income and some pride as well. See their website for full details.
  3. A bake sale at your office!: If you're in Mumbai and want to earn some brownie points with your office, call Spring Street Bakery! This professionally run bakery trains and employs girls from underprivileged backgrounds, so every cookie you eat helpsmake their world a better place. They can organise a bake sale in your office (all items are pre-cooked) or you can order celebration cakes, gift hampers or have them run delicious team building activities for you. Don't forget to spread the word!