WAH – A uniquely global event for a decentralized NPO

This originally appeared in the Summer 2004 newsletter of the Asha chapters of the Bay Area – Aakash.

By Madhav Ranganathan, formerly Asha Stanford and presently Asha DC & Mihir Desai, Asha Stanford

Since 1998, Asha for Education has conducted an annual fundraiser entitled Work An Hour (WAH). The idea is simple: “Donate one symbolic hour of your time/salary and help fund education in India.” Spanning July 4 to September 5, this year WAH aims to raise US$175,000 to fund six projects which, due to their large budgetary needs, would be difficult for any single Asha chapter to fund alone.

Organizationally speaking, Asha for Education consists of 66 chapters spread throughout the world which function virtually independently within the common Asha mission, that is, “to catalyze socioeconomic change through education in India.” Chapters evolve their own understanding of what “socioeconomic change” and “education” involve and entail and, concurrently, develop funding philosophies which address that understanding. For instance, a given chapter might focus on village schools in remote regions of India, while a neighboring chapter might concentrate on funding an alternative newspaper which educates a broad-based populace about their legal rights.

WAH, therefore, is a unique event within Asha which allows the otherwise independent chapters to collectively fundraise for a common set of projects and, thereby, create a stronger Asha-wide identity. Projects are chosen through a long and detailed process which begins with nominations from each chapter. These are evaluated by the WAH projects team consisting of volunteers from various chapters. After many hours of discussion and conference calls, the team short-lists about ten projects which are subsequently ranked by each chapter. Ranks are tabulated and the top four to six projects are selected to be recipients of WAH funds.

This year, six projects have been thus chosen:

    • Baikunthapur Tarun Sangha (BTS) – BTS is a social organization based in Kultali block of the Sunderbans, West Bengal. Kultali is a remote, under-developed area hit hard by major floods in 1982. Disturbed by the apathy of the local government and believing education the primary weapon to empower people, a group of youngsters founded BTS in 1983. BTS undertakes a variety of awareness camps and campaigns and runs a primary school in the local village.
    • Juanga, Orissa school – The Juanga, Orissa School was built in 2001 after the supercyclone of 1999 destroyed almost all of the existing government schools. The school is central to a network of villages on the south bank of the Mahanadi and has grown to accomodate 226 students, many from scheduled castes and some who lost close relatives in the supercyclone.
    • Project Look Ahead – Project Look Ahead targets the education and employment needs of 50 blind girls and 50 blind boys by partnering with two organizations, one in Jaipur, Rajasthan and the other in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
    • Vanashree – The Vanashree Trust is a non-profit organization based in Sagar, Karnataka, which works for the overall development of tribals in that region through residential schools and infrastructure development.
    • To Reach You (TRY) – TRY is a multi-purpose social-work organization, located in Mudichur, Tamil Nadu, reaching out to the socially, educationally and economically backward sections of the society irrespective of caste, creed and religion. TRY’s primary focus is to provide shelter, food, education, healthcare and rehabilitation to the children of commercial sex workers and to rehabilitate their mothers.
  • Champa Mahila Society (CMS) – CMS was established in 1984 in the Basanti area of the Sunderbans, West Bengal to build a self-reliant community with a focus on women’s groups. At present CMS provides education (for younger and older children), healthcare (preventive and curative) and self-help groups promoting micro-credit, kitchen, garden and animal husbandry. They also run a hospital.

When it began in 1998, WAH raised US$40,000 and has increased its goals substantially every year since then with the help and support of donors and dedicated volunteers. For more detailed statistical and general information and to donate today, please visit www.workanhour.com.

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