21 February 2008

Sphoorti - truly illuminating... An official post, for a change








Would we have fire if we did not need light?

Many think only about how bad things have become in our country, throwing light on so many malpractices we have learnt to live with in our everyday life. This one’s about the other side of the coin.. about the goodness that grows from within the darkness, to illuminate lives. And darkness I can bear, if this is the fruit it bears…..

It was on the much debated Social Networking site Orkut that I first stumbled upon this organization… Sphoorti.

We are a simple grassroots level organization working for underprivileged children - homeless, orphaned, abandoned and other at-risk groups.

This is how Sphoorti (www.sphoorti.org) introduces itself to the country. It began as a thought, as a dream of Mr.Srivyal Vuyyuri, an M.A in Economics, University of Toledo, Ohio. More than this, I must mention that he is one of the few persons who remind you of the long forgotten words of Mahatma Gandhi, “to be the change one wants to see”.

Sphoorti doesn’t want itself to be quoted as just another NGO or non profit organization. Rather, it announces itself as an IMPACT organisation committed to impact the lives of underprivileged children 24 X 7, 365 days a year. Sphoorti is a platform for concerned citizens to build futures for underprivileged children. For Srivyal, it's an execution of his passion and the work, to quote him, is still in progress.

Coming back to first person narration, I was more than just puzzled on looking at the educational qualification of Srivyal. I probably haven’t seen anybody less than 50 years old commit the rest of his lifetime-full time into such organizations before. So, I contacted him more out of curiosity than anything else… And learnt that he took up economics to understand concepts like poverty, illiteracy and unemployment .. To quote him again, “But then after understanding, if there is no action, it is as good as not understanding. Knowledge when not backed by action is equivalent to ignorance..”. Srivyal had worked for 5 to 6 years in high end companies before deciding to quit and follow his passion. He is a freelance researcher now in the areas of Macroeconomics and Capital markets, but plans into pack that up and dive full time into Sphoorti. “People do not take these organizations seriously if they don’t have a full time caretaker”. And it is definitely creating immediate impact on lives that would not have had the opportunity to be as bright as they are today.

Sphoorti takes in underprivileged children and equips them with the weapon they would wield against the world in the future.. Education! Sphoorti is located near Hyderabad, and it houses 40+ children in a place that Srivyal managed to take for rent after a long long search. It is ironic to note that not many people were willing to rent out to a Children’s home as children may deface walls and vacating the children in the future wouldn’t be easy. More or less, it reflects the day’s India . We want our places to be clean, manageable and to ourselves. Going out of the way to help people isn’t really in the bigger picture. But, when you read this, you can imagine how many real lives you can clean by compromising on the ‘quasi cleanliness’ we wish to maintain.

After a barrage of skepticism and ridicule, Srivyal finally managed to get the place where it is housed today, a bit far away from the main city. And Sphoorti has started its mission from that locality itself. Now, its plan is to “be the change” for 300 kids by 2011, and a thousand in a decade’s time. Srivyal insisted that he didn’t dream of Sphoorti to be the biggest grassroots organization in A.P, but the best of them all.. And to repeat it, “Not the Biggest, But the BEST..”.

So, how does Srivyal make ends meet? Does he draw a salary? He chips in immediately, “Sphoorti needs to grow a lot bigger for me to have a salary and all. My wife is working and as of now, my brother has decided to sponsor many of my expenses than sponsoring a child!”. It has really been a rollercoaster ride for Srivyal and Team, but people chipping in at the right time to help has seen it grow to where it is now, with 4 caretakers for 45 kids (stats in December 2007). Being the economist that he is, he’s ensured that Sphoorti is well structured, and all it takes to take care of the living expenses of the child is 12,500 per annum. Now, let’s see.. By regular-MNC-standards, that’s two weekends of entertainment! Obviously a better way to spend money, really!

Sphoorti’s back-end team believes that a lot more people want to be the change, but they are not sure IF they can and HOW they can.. Peer pressure, Family pressure and Ignorance tops the list of hurdles in their path.

To quote Srivyal, there is no one individual who can take credit for Sphoorti. Sphoorti aims to produce more responsible and confident citizens by the minute, and I dare say, it is living up to that till now. But yes, every solution has its own unique problems and Sphoorti is no different. It’s a general feeling among the Srivyals of today that professionalism is missing in this field. “B Schools all over the place are churning out managers for corporate management. Managers should be trained to manage any organization, be it corporate or non profit organizations or anything”, another social activist complains. Adding to that, lack of awareness and donor un-involvement are the hurdles ahead. The Kids at places such as Sphoorti need more companionship, love and friendship than money. While the current investors (yes, Sphoorti calls its donors as “Investors” since they have a say in the policy making) are keeping in constant touch with the kids they sponsor, the same cannot be said of the future, as the world gets faster than ever before and people may not find any time to spare with the children. It will be interesting to see what the behind-the-screen team has up its sleeve to tackle the situation.

And the awareness part, I leave to all of you…. I can only hope we see more Sphoortis in the future… Back your noble intentions by strong organizational structures and take on the world!

India needs more people to fight for its literacy campaign to make any 2020 or a 2050 dream a reality. Else, it will be difficult to dream about anything other than winning 20-20 cricket!


Yo ppl! IF YOU STAY IN AND AROUND HYDERABAD, GO SPEND TIME WITH THE KIDS. IT'S WHAT THEY LIKE MOST.. AND THAT IS ALL THEY EXPECT!

IF MONEY IS WHAT YOU CAN SPEND , AND NOT TIME, DONATE!

Future plans : sphoorti.org/proposal.htm

4 comments:

  1. Good post Aswin!!

    Sphoorti is definitely a good place to visit and Srivyal is doing a real great job there!

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  2. Nice post, Aswin. Thanks for posting it on http://ngopost.org.

    Please help us spread the word about NGO Post - a resource for news about social reform initiatives worldwide. You can do this by telling your friends, linking from your blog/websites/orkut profile. There's also a scrolling widget that shows the most popular stories - available here: http://ngopost.org/blog/?p=9

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