Aikaarth – There have been many instances of children from underprivileged schools shining and rising to success with a little push in the right direction, be it sports or arts or any other field.
A guiding hand is all they need to bring out their talents. That, is exactly what Aikaarth, a city based NGO does. Started by Pooja Agarwal, an ex-student of St Francis, this organisation has volunteers who go to various schools with underprivileged children and teach the children photography, direction (films), theatre, story telling, chess, dance, arts and more, enabling them to explore their area of talent and interest.
The inception process of Aikaarth is interesting. Pooja said, “I started this as a project in 2016, when I was doing my Bachelor’s as a four-month project involving 121 students. We went to an orphanage and each of the 121 students hosted a workshop on a different aspect.”
Later in 2017, when she joined ‘Teach For India’ as a fellow, she realised these underprivileged children needed a lot more than just academics and the potential that they have. “I felt the need to give them opportunities and education beyond the milestones of Class X and Class XII, and that was when I brought together people from my college again and that’s how the organisation was born,” said Pooja.
Thus, a project that was started on a college campus for the college students evolved to become an organisation that provides all the resources and opportunities to children from low-income communities to attain their fullest potential and excel in their own ways.
Later in 2018, the organisation initiated a well structured fellowship programme that anyone could apply for, with a well organised selection process. “This fellowship programme gives an opportunity to young talented individuals who are exceptional in unconventional fields, to be a teacher and teach extra-curricular activities to children from low-income communities in the most under-resourced schools,” she said.
A fellow need to be exceptionally good in their area of interest and only then is selected. At present, there are 22 fellows with Aikaarth and they go to a government school or a low-income school every Saturday to conduct their workshops. “It is a great opportunity for these fellows to learn and grow as it exposes them to the realities of life. They also build crucial skills when they work with these kids,” Pooja added.
But, running something like this is not without its challenges. This is mainly because of the education system that we have in place. Parents and school staff are usually of the opinion that academics is what is important and extra-curricular activities don’t matter. “That is one of the biggest challenges in running this as academics has the highest priority. We are yet to research on how we can take our children from the stage of exploring their potential to excelling at it such that they can make a living through it,” added Pooja.