Last year I helped organize the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference. During the conference, Abby Falik, HBS grad and Social Entrepreneur, and others spoke about why they served, why they worked so hard for social good. The last month has been a whirlwind and I’ve had to verbalize my answer to the same question over and over again.
I serve because I realize that I was fortunate…
To be born into a home that could send me to great schools, to be born to parents for whom education was a priority. I was fortunate to have had the ability to attend classes, the luxury to spend two years doing nothing but studying for the JEE. Most importantly though, i was fortunate to have had the guidance and help of my family, mentors and friends at every juncture in my life. Help and advice that kept be grounded, pushed me to dream big and showed me a path to achieving these dreams.
I serve because I saw great injustice…
Our country is unique in its deep rooted, almost religious belief in education. More than most parts of the world, parents in India are willing to spend large parts of their annual incomes educating their children, driven by the unwritten promise that excelling at school will help their children excel at life.
Hundreds of thousands of students score over 80% in their class 10 board examinations. Only a small number of these students will go to college. An even smaller number will have access to the quality of undergraduate education they deserved. Take the IIT JEE for example. 70% of all coaching classes are in urban areas in India. The average fees these classes charge is 9 times the average annual household income in India. When I walked through the gate at IIT Bombay, a thousand other students from poorer homes did not make it through, despite having done better than I did in class 10 and despite having worked much harder. This is not fair.
I was constantly in awe of my batchmates at IIT who came from poor homes and small villages. Many among them had outperformed several more privileged students in their journey to the IITs and continued to do so in the classroom every day. During my time there I saw several among them lose confidence and in some cases lose their way. I saw them go into job interviews feeling under confident. Worried by their lack of command over English and lack of preparation and guidance. I saw them walk out shaken. I saw their confidence wane. I serve because this needn’t have been the case.
These were obstacles they could have overcome with a little help during their undergraduate years.
I serve because I can make a difference..
Students and alumni groups at colleges across India have both the financial capital and the capacity human effort that we need to solve this problem. If Avanti can provide a spark and a platform to mobilize these groups, to engage them towards contributing to a cause so close to their hearts, we can work miracles.
The past months have been incredible for Avanti. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from the IIT community. Support that has allowed us to take our program from an idea to reality in five short months. We know that if we continue to work hard and be true to our mission, we can achieve great things. We’re counting on your support to help us get there.