Focus: Education, Children and Youth, Disability, Women

ENTHUSIASTIC, caring tutors can change the lives of children starved of opportunity and love – but at U&I the volunteer teachers are also transformed.

Young volunteers from India’s best colleges and corporates donate their time to tutor impoverished children to boost their chances of staying on at government and low-income schools.

They also help provide care and rehabilitation to battered and trafficked women as well as abandoned, mentally challenged boys and men in two government homes in Bengaluru.

These volunteers are encouraged to share their experiences on the charity’s Facebook page and it is clear they get just as much out of it as the students.

“There hasn’t been a single day that I've regretted being a part of this amazing experience. Saturday is the day I wait for in the entire week. This day alone gives me enough optimism to keep hoping that one day the world will be a better and happier place for all,” raved Pramod Bhakta, a student at the Somaiya College of Engineering and volunteer at U&I’s learning centre in Mumbai.

A major focus is to give the children extra coaching in English. Studies show that knowledge of the most-widely spoken language in the world boosts job prospects in metropolitan areas by 400%.

The goal is to have pupils stay in schools till they complete their education. Currently nine out of 10 drop out before Class 10. But with the individual attention they get from U&I volunteers – the tutor-pupil ratio is 1:3, compared to as high as 1:60 in municipal schools – children do better in their tests and are much more driven to stay.

Abdul, for example, was 11 and in Class 6 when U&I took him under their wing. His mentor Anuj, a working professional at PayTonic, recalls: “In his first assessment he didn’t even know his ABCs. By this second assessment he got a 50 out of 50 in his test. It was a proud moment for all of us.”

The U&I movement has grown from Bengaluru to nine other cities including Mumbai, Chennai and Coimbatore in partnership with orphanages, state homes, colleges, corporates and NGOs. Today U&I impacts 850 individuals in 10 cities across India.

The NGO also devotes itself to raising awareness of social issues and of how volunteering can enrich their own lives while helping others. Just two-and-a-half hours of volunteer teaching a week can transform the prospects of generations to come.

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U&I Care

U&I first began as a group of volunteers helping at Bangalore's State Home for Mentally Challenged Boys. Now the programme has extended this work to two other state-run institutions – one a social service complex for men and another for women escaping abusive situations. U&I staff provide rehab activities including vocational therapy, physiotherapy and special needs education. ₹2,000 will cover monthly costs for one child.

U&I Teach

THE key programme at U&I is non-formal education for underprivileged children. Most of the students are first generation learners whose primary language is their mother tongue. The emphasis on teaching English is to make them more eligible for further studies and employment. The programme also includes career days, life skills training, access to a library, field trips, medical camps and counselling. ₹1,500 will fund one student for a month in the U&I Teach programme.

About U&I

My journey as a teacher kickstarted when I realised that learning has no boundaries. These little ones may address me as their teacher, but I am the one who is glad to be learning from every one of them.

Kavya, U&I volunteer, Mangalore

One of the best decisions I've taken in my life! U&I has made me more human and these kids have taught me so much more than I have taught them.

Swathi Murali, volunteer, Chennai

Once when I had a ligament tear and attended the class wearing an ankle binder, the men gave me support with their hands on my shoulders though I was capable of walking by myself. That’s one of the most memorable moments I’ve had at the men’s home.

Rajath, volunteer at Government Home for Men with Disabilities, Bengaluru

I want to thank all akkas and annas for coming here week after week to teach us. Thank you for being patient with us and for teaching us not only our subjects, but also good values.

Reena, student, Class 8, Bengaluru

Three years ago, I took one my best decisions. Two cities, two programmes, multiple hours, various events later, this is the most significant part of my life. I’ve made friends, found family and become a fully functional person.

Aravind Kanna, volunteer, Bengaluru & Chennai

  • Ajit Sivaram Co-founder
  • Satish Manchikanti Co-founder