Dear friends,

Here is the report of an ASHA for Education volunteer Mr Viswanath Pattagunta, USA about our project. With his permission, I am presenting it here as he had submitted it to his chapter in USA without any changes. He visited our project along with his father, an IIT professor and founder of an NGO to teach alternative methods of education to tribal students in North India. I spoke to the professor when he was visiting our project and found him a very dedicated individual.

I thank Mr Viswanath and his father for visiting our projects, interviewing our beneficiaries, going through the documentation, and above all finding time to do such a detailed study.

Prof Anandswarup of Australia was the first to visit our project and he instilled confidence in me of the work we have been doing. Mr Viswanath’s report boosted it further.

Please enjoy.

 

Benjamin Paul Kaila

Date: 09-21-2008

Site Visit Date: 07-19-2008

Volunteer Name: Viswanath Puttagunta, ASHA Education, USA

Organization Name: Friends for Education International

Organization Website: http://www.friends4education.org/

 

Program Name:

 

Micro Finance:

Give small loans < Rs 10,000 to economically backward families to start small businesses like Idli making, Pan shops, Small scale Dairy, Rickshaws etc. Loan given at 12% per year, (Compared to 20% per month!!!! they usually have to pay. No wonder so many Farmers commit suicide!!)

 

Ambedkar Scholarships:

Started in 2003 with just two scholarships. Disstributed these scholarships in an inaugural function held in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh on Dec 14, 2003.

 

The number of scholarships awarded each year staring from 2003 is as follows.

2003:   2

2004: 24

2005: 37

2006: approximately 70 scholarships are available for 2006.

Objectives of Organization

The objectives of starting Ambedkar Scholarships are many. A few of them are as follows:

1. To help bright but socially, educationally, and economically backward community students, especially Dalits, in India in education

2. To bring all Dalit intellectuals, bureaucrats, industrialists, journalists, writers, social activists, and NRIs on to a single platform to work for the good of the society in general and for the good of their own community in particular.

3. To show the world that Dalits care for their own instead of asking for sops from Government and other entities every time there is a need in the community

4. To develop self respect among all Dalits with a slogan “DALIT   IS   DIGNITY”

5. To bring progressive non Dalits into the philosophy of Dr Ambedkar and work with Dalit intellectuals to erase the social evils that are plaguing India for centuries, especially the treatment of Dalits and other marginalized communities in their own land

6. To generate keen interest in the social evils of India and find solutions in the philosophy of Dr Ambedkar among youth and intellectuals of all sections of Indian society

7. To make the world aware of the condition of Dalits and invite them to come forward and help them in  their efforts to break their chains

8. To develop a think-tank within Dalit community to find ways and means to develop their younger generation

9. To establish schools and colleges; sponsor children in good schools; give scholarships; help them to find right opportunities; give them social education; and to make them aware of their rights etc

10. To recognize Dalit activists, writers, journalists,academics,artits etc and encourage them to do more for the society

 

What does each scholarship consist of?

At present each scholarship consists of

How Ambedkar Scholarships is different?

The following are some of the salient features of Ambedkar Scholarships.

 

How much does each scholarship cost?

At present we charge USD 150 or Rs.5,500 for sponsoring one scholarship. This amount covers all the above mentioned gifts and expenses.

 

Site Visit:

My objectives when doing Site visit were

1. To make sure the organization documentation is up to date and they maintain very good transparency. This is why I did site visit on their Micro Finance Project this organization does.

2. To make sure the organization is secular and they do not give any particular preference to the religious back ground of the student.

 

Micro Finance:

First time I saw micro financing in action. It is awesome!! No wonder Mr. Muhammad Yunus got the Nobel Prize for this model. The beauty of this model is that it is so sustainable and the repayment rate is nearly 100%, at least for the 45 people this organization gave the loans to.

 

The frightening fact is that these economically back ward people typically are charged exorbitant interest rates (15-20% per month!) from local vendors and banks are reluctant to give them any loans and so these people never get to prosper and commit suicides when they are deeply in debt and loose the 1 or 2 acres of land they own.

 

I met with Rev Sundar, who is responsible for managing the low interest loans. The documentation that Rev Sundar is very commendable. He is very disciplined and methodical and is always up to date. You will see the pictures of his documents later in this report.

 

1. M. Shanta Rao: Loan for Pawn/Candy Shop

Education: Degree, BA. Handicapped from Accident.

Loan Amount: Rs.8000. (10 months finance)

                        Rs.3000 (self financed from M.Shanta Rao)

 

From Left: Rev Sundar, Viswanath Puttagunta, M. Shanta Rao at his pawn, candy shop at Chemudupadu, AP.

 

2. Galle Manemma and G. Daniel. Loan for Buying 1 Buffalo.

Location: Chemudupadu, AP

Education: None

Loan Amount: Rs.5000. (10 months finance)

                        Rs.6000 (self finance)

 

From Left: Rev Sundar, Manemma, Daniel, Viswanath

 

 

3. Kanaparthy Mary Amma. Loan to start Idli and Tea shop

Location: Chemudupadu, AP

Education: 5th class pass

Loan Amount: Rs.3000. (10 months finance)

                        Rs.2000 (self finance)

 

 

4. Gaali Ravi. Student looking for a scholarship.

Location: Chemudupadu, AP

12th Pass. Very good student. Got 87% in Intermediate. 1,00,000 rank in EAMCET. Parent is a day laborer

 

 

5. Vijaya Kumari: Loan for Kirana, Idli and Tea shop. Work & Sales from 4AM - 10AM. Rs.100/day in sales

Location: Chemudupadu, AP

Education: 5th class pass

Loan Amount: Rs.3000. (10 months finance)

                        Rs.3000 (self finance)

 

 

 

6. P.Rajesh(Guntur): Loan to buy Rickshaw. Sells water in Summer and transports Rice and other bags.

Makes around Rs.100/day.

Education: 10th class pass and has some leadership skills. Potential to manage loans that can be given to other rickshaw pullers in his neighborhood

Loan Amount: Rs.7000. (10 months finance)

                        Rs.500 (self finance)

 

 

 

Rev Sunder’s Document on Loan recipients. I could understand why this project has been so successful so far. I really laud him for his well disciplined documentation. Sounds simple.. but this is often the kind of stuff that makes or breaks a project. This is the same kind of discipline that the organization “Friends for Education International” shows and it can be witnessed by going to the Ambedkar Scholarship Web page at

http://www.ambedkarscholarship.org/

Really commend Mr. Benjamin Kayla and his team.

 

 

 

Ambedkar Scholarship

1. Met with 4 students studying Intermediate at St.Charles Jr College near Guntur, AP. Overall, all the students come from very economically backward back grounds, but are hardworking and intelligent and want to pursue higher studies and help other kids in need when they start earning money. Every one mentioned that the school staff really takes care of them well and no one has ever brought up the topic of changing their faith. I asked this question to make sure there is not forced conversion in this case and this organization is Secular. Very glad it is Secular.

 

1. Name: K.Venkatesh

    Class: 12th, MPC

    10th: 491/600

    Received Rs.5000 in scholarship which was paid to the school. He does not have to pay any fees.

    Father is a Day laborer at Fields. Wants to do B.Tech in Computer Science

2. Name: Darsi Ashok

    Class: 12th, MPC

    10th: 470/600

    Received Rs.5000 in scholarship which was paid to the school. He does not have to pay any fees.

    Father is a Day laborer at Fields. Wants to do B.Tech in Computer Science

3. Name: B. Rani

    Class: 12th, BiPC

    10th: 483/600

    Received Rs.5000 in scholarship which was paid to the school. He does not have to pay any fees.

    Father is a Day laborer at Cotton Fields. Wants to do B.Pharmacy.

 

4. B. Rajasekhar

    Class: 12th, MPC

    10th: 491/600

    Received Rs.5000 in scholarship which was paid to the school. He does not have to pay any fees.

    Father is a Day laborer at Cotton Fields. Wants to do M.Tech

 

 

 

From Left: Rev Sunder, K.Venkatesh, Principal of College, Rev Sunder’s Daughter, Viswanath, B.Rani, B.Rajasekhar, other staff at college.

 

 

Overall Review:

1. Friends for Education is a very good organization and has very dedicated team of volunteers.