Asha-Jyothi’s Educate-Innovate Program Background and Origin
Background: Asha-Jyothi (meaning a Ray of Hope) was founded by Sekhar Puli in Chantilly, VA in 2003. It initially started with the sole intent of helping a few Indian students who found themselves in dire medical situations but were ill prepared to handle it themselves, as they lacked access to proper healthcare, insurance or awareness. In some situations, these students would helplessly return to India. Asha-Jyothi was used as a vehicle to collect donations from friends and families to help those students recover.
History and Journey : Since such actions were reactive and also becoming less frequent, in 2008 Asha-Jyothi’s charter was expanded to provide access to healthcare and education for the underprivileged in India. Addressing the disadvantages of larger charitable organizations and to overcome them, a)the donor lacks control over how donation is spent, b)increased overhead, c)lack of transparency, Asha-Jyothi (AJ) took the following steps
- Created a “Your Campaign” where the donor can identify the beneficiary/cause/geography and donate as long as it meets AJ guidelines.
- Reduced costs as its 100% volunteer based organization
- Ensured 100% of donations targeted towards a cause go to the cause as the overhead costs of running the non-profit (IT costs, volunteers in India, transportation etc) are borne by the founder.
How AJ’s Vision Grew: In 2009, with a desire to raise awareness about AJ, make a bigger difference in the local communities and to introduce run/walk activities to the Indian diaspora, Asha-Jyothi signature fundraiser Annual 5K Run/Walk and Kids Fun Run was started. And as a result AJ chapter expanded in ~10 cities in the USA, and what started with education of 5 students and free medicines to a handful, took its own course and grew to providing educational support to 6000+ kids yearly and conducting numerous recurring medical camps helping thousands of poor, elderly and women.
The educational support ranges from school supplies, books, uniforms, bags, shoes, slippers, sports equipment and sometimes even bicycles, boats depending on the geography and need. Health care camps could be as basic as borewells for drinking water, a midday meal for kids, free prenatal medicines to free cataract surgeries, free cancer detections in the most rural areas of India. In addition, AJ rises to the occasion in times of natural calamities (floods, earthquakes, COVID etc) to help the affected.
Asha-Jyothi started with providing education for 5 students back home and donating free diabetes medicines in a village.
How the Educate-Innovate Program was created: After 10 years of steady growth, in 2018 AJ reached a plateau with respect to run participation, diversity of demographics and a probable decline of sponsors/support crew. AJ 5K Fundraiser is our marquee and only fundraiser program that helps us sustain year long campaigns and is important to continue to grow it; for stagnation is a state before something becomes irrelevant . In addition, we also wanted to get in the arena and actively address the below
- A divisive political ecosystem fostering negativity against immigrants and local people unable to make the connection with charitable causes in India.
- Our kids no longer felt a connection to Asha-Jyothi as our work was predominantly in India and for them the USA was home than India. This missing connection gave us a new understanding that we have to give back to local communities to make our presence felt locally as well, for the next generation of AJ youth leaders to engage.
And for all the above reasons, giving back locally, getting involved with the underprivileged/underserved communities was an obvious next step for AJ.
Therefore we created a program called the Educate-Innovate, privately funded by the founders (Sekhar and Malini Puli) to increase awareness about AJ, to bridge the gap in STEM needs and to foster early adopters and innovators and thereby enabling local schools to engage/participate.
Educate-Innovate Program goals:
- Attract local schools to drive participation in our 5K
- Make a difference in local high schools with a donation that is not only meaningful but also sustainable.
- Engage everyone i.e. the Indian and non-Indian communities at large through our Annual Asha-Jyothi 5K Charity event, to bring forward the cultural awareness and mutual respect
- Lastly, over a period of time, reach a tipping point where AJ 5K becomes a marquee event that becomes a choice of destination for all local schools and communities as it’s a win – win for both parties.
How can schools take advantage of the Educate-Innovate Program:
- Encourage students, staff and parents to participate in the AJ 5K run. Asha-Jyothi not only offers a discounted registration fee, but also returns the total registration fee from the school back to the school with an added incentive as explained below to be spent for their local STEM needs of their choice:
- An additional $500 for 25+ registrations
- An additional $1000 for 50+ registrations
- An additional $2000 for 100+ registrations
- Submit a proposal to AJ (email@example.com) with your STEM needs and overall cost estimates . There is no page limit or format expectations for the proposal .
- AJ Team Actions:
- The AJ team reviews the proposal internally and with the submitting parties, evaluates and approves to award the funds requested.
- Once approved, funds are handed to the school officials and school to begin work
- The school shall pledge support to AJ by proactively publicizing AJ’s contribution to their school, encouraging kids to participate in the 5K year after year and by socializing with other school Principals/faculty about AJ Educate-Innovate program