Sitare: Bringing glow in lives of underprivileged kids
Early in our careers, Amit and I had decided to give back most of what we earn to our community and the society
The following are the excerpts from the interview
What was your inspiration to start the foundation?
Early in our careers, Amit and I had decided to give back most of what we earn to our community and the society. As a result, in 2016, we started exploring a charity endeavour through which we could educate India's bright underprivileged children, which led to the formation of Sitare foundation. The goal of forming this foundation was to not only educate underprivileged children, but also to nurture and assist them to grow into world-class professionals who might serve as a light of hope for their community and for the millions of other underprivileged children worldwide.
What has been your major achievement after beginning Sitare Foundation?
Our greatest achievement, so far are the results we are delivering. For example, five of our 12th graders, who come from extreme poverty and have faced unthinkable hardships in their lives, have gotten multiple admissions to Computer Science programmes at various prestigious US universities. These five students are from our first batch, which enrolled in the 7th grade way back in 2016, and they will pursue their Computer Science degrees at top US institutions such as the University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, Virginia Tech, Case Western. In addition, our 12th graders are appearing in various professional exams in India (JEE, NEET, CLAT) and we are expecting similar great results there. Apart from the results we are delivering, we are delighted to see the tremendous response we have gotten over the last few years. For our yearly entrance tests, this year, we had over 65,000 applicants from across India this year.
What was the budget you put in opening the foundation in the initial stages?
We are committed to transforming fifty thousand lives through education by 2050. We have endowed enough funds for Sitare to realize this vision. Our total costs, including overheads, are about Rs 12 lakh per student for the seven year Sitare programme.
We would like to know about your journey as an entrepreneur?
Since the birth of the Sitare Foundation, it has been an exciting, interesting, and yes, even challenging, journey. We started in 2016 in Jodhpur. Our first year we received about 250 applications and we selected about fifty. We've been able to expand our footprint across numerous Indian cities in the last six years, including Jodhpur, Jaipur, Ajmer, Indore, and Bhopal. This year we had over 65,000 applications. At the moment, we have around 400 underprivileged children in our program.
What are the struggles and challenges you faced as an entrepreneur?
Despite the fact that this has been a great journey so far, we have had our share of ups and downs. One of the most difficult challenges we faced was the Covid outbreak and subsequent lockdowns, which made us realise how vulnerable our children were. Unlike the upper class, they did not have access to computers, laptops, or smartphones. To simplify their learning experience, we purchased 500 tablets, which were subsequently distributed to the students.
Another major challenge we face in our journey is the kind of home environment in which these children live, their parents' support for their education is limited. Lack of parental support is something we really struggle with and it becomes extremely hard, especially for girls, who are expected to work, assist their mothers at home, take care of younger siblings and regularly go out with their mothers to help them in the fields. Also, there are cultural issues like child marriage, and in many cities, it proves to be a big challenge.