Want to volunteer but don't know where to start? Here's why you should check out Chennai-based NGO Team Everest ASAP

Their I Am The Change scholarship programme identifies single-parent children or orphans and sponsors their UG studies. They currently sponsor 400 scholars who study in 75 different colleges
A snap from one of their workshops | (Pic: Team Everest)
A snap from one of their workshops | (Pic: Team Everest)

When Karthee Vidya was studying in a rural school back in his hometown of Arani, Tamil Nadu, he had a friend who couldn't afford to buy the books recommended. So, the said friend would work with his father, a mechanic, to earn the money and then buy the books. Meanwhile, the teachers used to punish him but the boy remained determined to work hard and earn the books. This tale of Karthee's bench-mate and lunch-mate is one that he still recollects in solitude. When Karthee moved to Chennai, he was startled and disturbed by the disparity — not just the financial aspect, but in the quality of education as well. And somewhere during this time, the need for an organisation that gives back to society — especially those parts that really need it — was felt deep down in the cockles of Karthee's heart.  

They have Digital Literacy programmes where they initiate computer labs in schools. They also teach life skills through football

Team Everest, the Chennai-based organisation that he set up to encourage people to volunteer for its pre-defined programmes, is 13 years old now. Focused on educational and the environmental aspects of society, which includes students right from class I to college, this organisation has 30 full-time workers and 1,500 volunteers. The beneficiaries of all their programmes are college students and students from rural schools. Apart from this, they engaged 4,000 corporate employees as volunteers last year alone. "We look at volunteering in a holistic way. One has to think about what skills they have that can be used to make a difference. For example, if you are an Android developer, teach those technical skills to others who could do with it. There are many ways people can support but the most important way for us is their time," says 34-year-old Karthee who focuses on rural schools to ensure that their initiatives benefit students who need them the most. Their Speak Out initiative is a case in point. Any volunteer with impeccable spoken English skills can download their app and connect with those college students who have signed up for these classes. And these one-on-one sessions are conducted over the phone. This is the fifth edition of this particular initiative and they have more than 800 volunteers who have signed up already. In the past, they have had as many as 800 volunteers participate from more than 12 counties. "It just goes to show how technology has broken barriers even in the social sector," he points out. For the rest of their initiatives, the volunteers visit the school and deliver all the programmes.

Karthee Vidya | (Pic: Team Everest)

Another key aspect of what Team Everest does is boost the volunteering culture among corporates. "As there are not too many people on any CSR team of a company, they outsource it to a non-profit organisation. So, we have 25-30 corporates on our list and per week, as many as 700 employees participate," explains Karthee. We wonder if millennials are as enthusiastic to participate as we assume them to be. "Philanthropy and charity are actually picking up and hence, so is our graph. So, yes, they are enthusiastic!" he exclaims.

Karthee says that he wanted a Tamil name for the organisation, but then thought against it because he wanted the name to resonate across India and then zeroed in on Team Everest  

The work of Tem Everest is mainly divided into four verticals:
School: They have started kindness clubs in various schools to help spread awareness about volunteering among children
College: They have many volunteering opportunities for college-going students alone
Corporate: Every week, they conduct at least one activity with one corporate or another
Family: "As a country, we go shopping and to the movies with our family, so we should start volunteering as a family too," says Karthee. This vertical is still under development  

Their work through pictures

For more on them, check out teameverest.ngo  

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