Meet the lady with a mission to put every out-of-school child back to school

 Meet the lady with a mission to put every out-of-school child back to school

Upasana Kaura

With the goal to get the children of migrant labourers back to their schools, Vasant Kunj resident Richa Prasant started an NGO Sunaayy in 2009. After days of counselling parents and children she managed to get 10 kids to her road-side teaching centre. That small beginning had a huge impact on parents and children and today Sunaayy has over 500 children under its wings. “The informal learning environment that we have created aids children in their transition to the formal school system while also attracting new kids to us,” she says. In a conversation with Life & More, Prasant shares the ups and downs she encountered during her journey of last 13 years:

Tell us about the setting up of Sunaayy Foundation?
Empathy has been a part of my DNA, my thinking, and the way I look at the world. I believe it all came from somewhere in my childhood, in the home environment in which I grew up. My house was usually buzzing with activity, and we always included people who worked in our house during meals. My father, a government employee, was always willing to go out of his way to assist individuals in need, which I also imbibed.
After graduating from Kolkata’s Institute of Advanced Management with a bachelor’s degree in hotel management., I was well-established in my corporate job but had this feeling that I wasn’t exactly living up to my potential. While working with Hewlett-Packard, I considered attempting to make education more accessible to urban underprivileged children, particularly children of migrant labourers. This was the beginning of the Sunaayy Foundation.

A class before the pandemic hit the world

How did you manage to bring in kids?
It all started with a door-to-door campaign led by our volunteers and instructors who went to their homes and persuaded their parents of the need for their children’s education. We convinced them that they would not be required to pay for their education since we would teach them and eventually enroll them in regular schools. The volunteers also described how they would instruct the children over the course of the four hours.

What challenges did you encounter on the way? How did you overcome them?
Our main challenge was to gain the trust of parents of kids. For this we made sure that our teachers stay in close connection with the families and give them regular updates about the progress of their children. Over the years, we managed to win their trust by guaranteeing that their children are safe at our center, and learning.

What about funds?
I began with my own money, and later turned to my friends and family for help. As word spread, more people stepped in from all around the world. Some organised school supplies such as backpacks and crayons, while others gave food. Many friends offered to design, arrange, gather, and fundraise. Sunaayy today has around 100 volunteers. Also, now that we have FCRA accreditation, we can reach out to more individuals for resources, across the world, to keep our effort going.

Richa Prasant with her students

How did you manage during the pandemic?
We trained our teachers in online teaching methods, leadership development, and English language. After this training, teachers felt confident enough to return to the communities they had been working with, armed with the necessary safety procedures, to engage with parents and persuade them to allow their children to participate in online classes. They went from house to house, convinced parents, supported kids in downloading the course platform, and also educated them on how to access online teaching and training.


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