BANGALORE: When college students and professionals join hands to take social service to the next level, we have something like U&I - an NGO that operates across the city, touching the lives of more than 500 underprivileged children and women in Bangalore.
Purely a voluntary organisation, U&I has spent the last four years not only helping those in need but also inspiring the youth in the city.
Founded by two friends who run a HR firm together - Satish Manchikanti and Ajit N Sivaram, U&I began unofficially as a centre for learning English and Computer skills. "As HR people, we had to reject a number of people who came for jobs. So we decided to start something that would equip them with at least the basic skills in English and computers," says Satish.
And for a year, they invited kids and took free classes in their office until word went around and people became interested in what they did. "We realised our work was worth investing a lot more in. We became a registered organisation in January 2011 and began recruiting more volunteers," he says.
One of the three programmes run by the NGO - U&I Teach operates through eight learning centres in the city, giving tuitions, spoken English and computer classes for children from government schools.
Amazingly, 85 per cent of the volunteers under this programme are all college students who pick convenient days in the week and teach for two hours. "Although initially, I found it difficult to communicate with the children in the most effective way, it amazes me as to how much we've grown to love each other. It doesn't feel like work at all now," says Anagha Gomathi, student of Mount Carmel College and volunteer at U&I for the past one year.
U&I Care operates in three street homes near NIMHANS, helping differently-abled children and assisting destitute women by conducting counselling sessions and imparting vocational skills like painting.
One of the inmates Brinda (name changed) was the first to be rehabilitated by this programme. Currently working in a retail firm, Brinda now teaches others the skills she was taught at U&I and was even interviewed on TV recently for her inspiring story. "Out of the 60 inmates in the home, she was one of the most confident and hardworking women the NGO has worked with," says Mamtha who is the Learning Center Manager of the women's home.
The third programme called U&I Rise is an awareness campaign that operates in moat of the well known colleges in the city including Mount Carmel College, Christ University and Joseph's degree colleges. Students interested in the NGO's cause are often recruited as volunteering teachers. Apart from educational institutions, U&I also conducts campaigns in corporate offices whose volunteers host one day events for the children at U&I. "We conduct trips for these kids at least once a month to companies where our volunteers work, giving the kids exposure and inspiring them for education and employment. Some other times, we take them on fun trips to some place adventurous," says Satish.
U&I is mainly funded by the expatriate community in the city which hosts various fundraisers for the organisation, one of which is the Latin Festival hosted annually in September. Recently, the NGO organised a 10k run to raise funds for the coming academic year. "We had amazing fun and at the same time we chanted slogans of social awareness and drew people towards our cause," says Supriya Krishnamurthy, volunteer at U&I.
U&I closes each academic year with a successful number of students who get through their tenth board exams with the help of the classes conducted by the NGO. This year too saw a staggering 90 per cent pass result - all scoring above 70 per cent.
The organisation continues to help these students with tuitions even at the PUC level. "The most inspiring thing about U&I, is not just the kids coming out with flying colours but also the volunteers who work towards this cause," says Satish.