In a world rife with social challenges and inequalities, there exists a beacon of hope—an NGO dedicated to fostering positive change in the lives of countless people. Aashray Foundation, synonymous with compassion and hope, is addressing a multitude of pressing issues that affect our society.
From animal protection to food safety, gender equality to women’s empowerment, and promoting small businesses to supporting the LGBTQ+ community, the NGO has emerged as a force of change.
Let’s take a deep dive into the remarkable work of this extraordinary NGO and hear from Shane Warne Bakshi, the honourable Managing Director of the Aashray Foundation.
1. What inspired the founding of the Aashray Foundation?
When I was in eighth grade, I noticed a hopeful child outside my school. After weeks of observation, I approached him and learned about his disadvantaged background. This moved me deeply, realising the lack of educational opportunities for many children in our country.
Inspired by my mother’s NGO, we founded Aashray Foundation with a mission to bring hope and education to underprivileged children. Starting in Chandigarh, we collaborated with the government to eliminate begging, ensuring the well-being of any begging child we encountered. We also partnered with Gurashashra Orphanage, providing support and care for orphaned children.
To provide consistent education to them, we established schools near slums and opened seven pathshalas. We covered the expenses for registration, stationery, and tuition fees, enabling over 5,000 students to receive education in twelve years. With the dedication of 5,000 volunteers, we expanded our reach to 28 cities. Currently, we successfully operate actively in 21 cities.
Apart from literacy, we have focused on raising awareness about population control, women’s hygiene, LGBTQ rights, mental health, and animal welfare.
2. What led your NGO to expand its focus from addressing child begging to encompass a wide range of societal issues?
When we started, our main aim was to address child begging but we soon sensed the need to broaden our horizons and thus started covering a wide range of issues.
- We recognised the need to understand the underlying factors contributing to child begging and explored the challenges faced by slum communities. This led to a more holistic approach to tackling the issue.
- We established educational centres in various cities, empowering children with knowledge and skills to break free from the cycle of begging.
- We provided educational support to parents, offering alternative livelihood options and breaking the generational cycle of begging.
- We also focused on addressing various social, economic, and educational aspects to create sustainable solutions and uplift the overall development of slum communities.
3. How do you prioritize and balance your efforts across multiple areas, such as animal protection, food safety, gender equality, women empowerment, promoting small businesses, supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and sustainability?
We effectively support multiple societal issues through strategic management and division of responsibilities. Here’s how we achieve this:
- Since day one, we have been operating with a well-defined hierarchy, ensuring efficient coordination and decision-making. This structure allows each issue to receive the necessary attention and support.
- Dedicated managers and in-charges are assigned to oversee operations across different cities and campaigns, which ensures effective management and targeted solutions for specific community issues.
- We have a strong support system of 5000 volunteers who actively contribute to the NGO’s initiatives, expanding the reach and allowing for diverse perspectives in addressing societal issues.
4. Can you share some success stories or notable achievements in each of the areas your NGO now works on?
- It gives me immense pride to share that two people, who were provided with education and support, have achieved remarkable success in their lives. One person is now a police officer in Punjab, while another has become a defence accounts officer in the Western Command.
- Collaborating with Tech Mahindra, Zomato, and Radisson, we have provided vocational training and employment opportunities to many people in need. These partnerships have empowered individuals and made a striking difference in their lives.
- During the Covid-19 pandemic, we joined forces with giants like Tech Mahindra, Zomato, and Radisson to address joblessness in the country. We provided employment opportunities to those who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
Aashray Foundation has been honoured with accolades for its selfless work. We have received recognition from the Indian Red Cross Society, Leo Club as a Covid Warrior, and an award from Niti Ayog as the number one NGO in Chandigarh. These recognitions validate the impact of our initiatives.
5. What are your future goals and aspirations for the NGO? Are there any new areas of focus you are considering?
We have set forth some future goals to make a positive impact in various areas. In the coming years, we are looking forward to:
- Establish sanitary pad factories under the MSME sector. This project will provide employment opportunities to women associated with their pathshalas.
- Expand our Pathshalas from 21 to 28 cities to ensure good-quality education and support to underprivileged children across different parts of the country.
- Collaborate with the Mumbai Municipal Corporation to make Mumbai a cleaner city. This initiative focuses on beach cleaning as well.
- Expand our food drives to different cities, addressing the issue of food insecurity by providing meals to the underprivileged sections of society.
We believe that by expanding our initiatives and collaborating with relevant stakeholders; we can surely create a lasting change and uplift the lives of those in need.