| Arise! Awake! SPREAD your wings! |
An interview with Sridhar Patel, Chair, SPREAD International (www.spreadinternational.org)
Written and interviewed by Anu Gopalakrishnan | Exclusively for miindia.com | Copyright ©2013
| As the country is fueled in seething problems of economic instability, corruption, disrespect to women, India faces a much larger problem for its next generation. |
In the global landscape of social evils, India ranks in the top five. Child labor, female infanticide, the plight of the farmers due to the mushrooming of the MNC’s – the infrastructure is beaten. For kids, schools are replaced with factories, sanitation and hygiene is replaced with grease and so do all the metaphors follow. The need of the hour is to better educate ourselves and step in to support a cause that requires attention from the so called affluent sections of the world. From meager beginnings of serving three kids in 2003, one organization is taking giant leaps in the area of providing education to lesser privileged children in distressed areas/hamlets. As global citizens, what are we proud of?
Welcome to the world of Sridhar Patel, an engineer by profession – The founder of SPREAD (Society for the Promotion of Rural Education and Development International). An individual who has toiled hard to divert funds from the have’s to the have not’s. Sridhar speaks exclusively to Anu Gopalakrishnan, Miindia.com on the “Support a Child” campaign and how lack of awareness for information (from the donor’s perspective) has made his organization transparent. Fighting some odds, this enthusiastic individual has raised schools and boarding facilities for children in remote hamlets in India.
| Spread India to Spread International- you have spread your wings of service. Tell us about your journey. |
Spread started with three kids during 2004-2005. Since then we have educated several kids through different activities revolving around various areas, from rural infrastructure, health camps to education. Then, I realized that we need to focus on one activity and hence education took precedence above all. I am from Andhra Pradesh and I was immediately able to mobilize coordinators in AP and hence I am able to reach out to the Telugu community in the US. However, the vision is to spread our work across the map of India and use the resources we have across all of the US – hence the name change to Spread International.
What are your priorities this year?
We are focusing on four core activities that improve literacy in Andhra Pradesh. Basic facilities in schools where there is a need for additional classrooms. We have raised schools, provided benches, sports equipment, playground, spearheaded construction of additional school buildings. All these help with kid’s reading and writing skills, the benches and the facilities indirectly improves the seating structure in the classroom versus under the tree. We have also spent time planning study centers – tutoring over 40 students in each center. Of course, Spread has continuously supported in providing scholarships to students which results in the competitive spirit.
Support a Child campaign has fostered a lot of attention, what does this entail?
Support a child is one of our key focus areas and that’s the main reason behind the fundraiser organized this Saturday. We have hundreds of kids (child laborers, orphaned kids) who need help to continue with their program. We have absorbed 50 kids so far, out of which four kids graduating from their tenth grade. This campaign is backed completely by the donor. $300 a year can go a huge way in educating one child. This includes boarding facilities for these lesser privileged children. Initially we had two boarding facilities, one at Vijayanagaram and the other at Suryapet in Nalgonda district. The Vijayanagaram facility has found its own funding so we now operate only one boarding facility. All these projects depend on donors completely – either owned by an individual or a group. Supporting a child every year is challenging because we start absorbing more kids and hence we look for more donations. Our effort is to make sure the kids gets their basic education until the 10th grade with the funds we have. It is a continuous process.
What’s that “one” activity you are proud of and why?
Of all the four activities, I am very proud of the way “Support a Child Campaign” has shaped up. The kids that are absorbed are growing in front of your eyes. They are taken care of completely and this gives me immense satisfaction. All this because of the very generous community we have.
What are your thoughts on keeping the organization transparent?
Transparency is the main key for any non-profit. Credibility is built from raising funds and the donor can see the execution of the funds through first-hand experience. At Spread International, transparency is core to us because it makes a child’s dream a reality. The donors feel very happy when every dollar is accounted for. This is what has kept Spread International going for several years and the reason behind our tenth year in existence. You can see the project details here.
It is commendable for an individual sitting in the United States and touching lives. How did this begin?
I grew up in a village. My parents were into farming. Right from when I was a kid, I saw a lot of poor people being victimized, a lot of social evils like illiteracy prevailed. I went through this in my growing years and it seeded a thought in my mind all the years. And I am glad I am able to offer the little I can to make sure my village, the distressed areas in my state is rejuvenated with lots of resources.
What’s the goal of the fundraiser this weekend? How can we as a community pitch in?
Support a Child is our main focus and we plan to raise funds for 100 kids ($30k). The plan to construct a hostel building is in the works as well. Also, we need $50k-$60k for the hostel building with an overall total of $100k as our goal for the night. We are also celebrating our tenth anniversary and we hope to garner as much support as possible to help foster 100% literacy in the state. We need support from everyone. Every dollar counts.
What are some of your initiatives in getting the community involved?
Lack of awareness due to lack of sufficient information has always kept us on our toes. We have started to spread the word among kids that has steered us into starting the Youth group. High school students engage in tutoring kids in India using technological tools like Internet and Skype on the weekends for one or two hours. Spread International acknowledges these students and greatly appreciates their contribution.
Is Spread International focusing its efforts only in Andhra Pradesh? Has there been a focus on Michigan or any other international communities as well?
We have been facing a lot of challenges struggling to raise funds and recruit committed and honest coordinators to implement projects on time. Due to the lack of dedicated members, we are unable to work on international communities at this time. With that being said, we do have plans to help the community world-wide but I strongly believe in one step at a time. The hope is to have a bigger team of hard working individuals to focus on projects within Detroit. With the high school students, the intention is to help far reaching nations like China and South Africa.
We need help from everybody. Every support counts.
What happens after 10th grade?
The problems are everywhere, in all aspects. Whether they are second or tenth or even a college grad, there are drinking water issues, drug addiction etc. We cannot solve every problem. The hope is to focus on the root cause that would prevent a child from getting into trouble. That is education. Spread International is focusing on every child so that they are capable to read and write. We focus on the child laborers and orphaned children who are deprived of basic education. We streamline and motivate them to continue their higher studies. Through the schools we set-up the children are taught to differentiate between good and evil. When they graduate, the hope is that they would do well for themselves without going back to exploited labor.
Click here for Event Details>>
Spread International Home page: www.spreadinternational.org
Support A Child activity: http://www.spreadinternational.org/activities/supportachild.html
School building construction: Click here
College building construction: Click here
Hamlet Education Center Activity: http://www.spreadinternational.org/activities/hamleteducationcenters.html
| Interviewed and Written by Anu Gopalakrishnan | Copyright 2013 © Miindia.com || |