Wednesday, May 25, 2011

ASHA? Isn't that like a student organisation? Answer: NO!


Welcome to the Asha Cleveland's official Blog. The fact that you are visiting us today, it wouldn't be a bad assumption to say that you know about Asha and are somewhat interested in its functioning. I am going to use this space to tell you a little about what we do, how we do and to bust some myths.

Common Questions:

Q. What does Asha do?
 A: As an organisation it supports social change in India. One of the biggest elements of that is education. Most of our activities are geared towards raising funds to support educational projects in India.

Q. How does Asha function?
A. We are a global organisation, with groups of active people in various places around the world working together as chapters. There is a central team that guides and does the book-keeping of funds. The chapters are all autonomous and have their own structure with elected office bearers. Usually, chapters meet once a week to discuss daily business, and the central team organises teleconference calls with office bearers of chapters to ensure everything is up-to-date and everyone is abreast. The 'volunteers' who form various chapters are drawn from Working populations, student populations, home-maker populations and anyone interested in social service.

Q. Fuel?
A. Asha relies heavily on its donor base for funds to execute projects. Besides, at a chapter level, there are fund-raisers and events, sales, recruitment drives, etc. to provide an opportunity to people interested in social  work. Fundraisers include concerts, charity dinners, Bollywood Party, Farmers' market sales, etc. Asha also has a Marathon Team, called TEAM ASHA whose motto is 'Train Run Educate'. In 2010 Team Asha raised >$8000. This money was was critical in supporting two of our projects.

Q. What are the ways I can get involved?
A. Following are the lists of the different ways you can get involved, with a brief description of each:

Registry of hope ( You can make a donation from personal gifts you receive to honor and make memorable any special event in your life, 25th Birthday, 1st Marriage Anniversary, your child's 1st birthday, Graduation, what not! Ask your guest to make their gifts to you payable to Asha instead. People have done it, it's savvy, hip, rewarding and it's awesome.

Support a Child ( This is easier than it looks, and is definitely more rewarding than it sounds. YOU SPONSOR A CHILD. You develop a personal level relationship with the child and we keep you up-to-date about where your money is going and how your beneficiary is faring throughout his/her education. You won't believe that you can start supporting with as little as $10 per month!

Asha Stars: This works best if there are a group of like minded people. You take first
hand responsibility of a project and see it from development to deployment, and finally becoming independent. You will be supported by Asha core groups and chapters linked with the project.

Asha Internship Program: Are you visiting India for sometime (> 1 month)? You can intern at one of the Asha Projects and get hands on experience working at the grass-root level. Visit our site at and you'll see you'll not find an iota of boredom (after first few weeks of activity) when home.

And of course, we have Team Asha: A bunch of hyper-charged individuals (~70% of whom have never run long-distance before) decide to train hard and run a long distance run, 5k, 10, Half Marathon (13 miles) or Full Marathon (26 miles). Any long distance running is a pain, and as our running coaches put it, 'an uncomfortable thing, which is why not many do it'. Our runners take all the pain and dedicate their efforts to raising money for Asha. They call themselves 'Team Asha' and donations from their well wishers, employers, pals, peers, FB friends, long-lost school friends, acquaintances roped in around $8k last year. Besides it gets you in shape. You can be a runner for us, and help yourself while helping us in the mean time (BTW, I'm running the Akron Full Marathon in September 2011 too :) ).

1. Asha is a bunch of university students.
Not true.  While  students  form a major chunk of the active work-force in Asha Fundraisers, there has always been immense societal support and involvement.
2. The Money I donate goes through 'hundreds of hands' before reaching the children.
Untrue. While making your donation, you have the option to specify any particular chapter you want to donate to, more so, you can also specify a certain 'project' you would want to donate to. You can also choose to donate money for efforts of a Marathon Runner of Team Asha. 
Once you make a payment, the money is stored in secure bank accounts at the Asha Central level. As and when a chapter makes a request for money to be sent to a project, the central team disburses that money and it is wired DIRECTLY to the project's account. This process is absolutely transparent.
3. Participating in this is like joining a hobby club. I'd love to  but I simply don't have the time for this kind of involvement.
Well, firstly, you DO NOT have to be a volunteer or join Asha to be a part of the movement. There are a lots of ways to get involved sitting in the comfort of our homes (as mentioned above). Secondly, if you choose  to be a donor, all that is required that you visit our webpage and donate the way you want to. We will keep you updated with regular newsletters and blog updates (like this one, pl add this to your feeds). So you will be in the thick of action, even if you do not have the time.
4. What if I'm a  student and I don't have lots to spare  for charity?
Not a problem. Drops of water makes the ocean. As noted earlier, you can support a child, with as little as $10 a month. And you have complete information about where your money is going and who is benefiting from it.

So in short, Asha is an organisation anyone can support. It doesn't have to heavy on your time (just few clicks per month) or heavy on your pocket. It is one of the best ways to see your passion to 'GIVE BACK' actually bear fruit in a  robust, convenient and time-tested manner.

Charity begins at home. Lets continue when we are away!


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