Published: 24th April 2019
What this mountaineer scaling Mt Aconcagua has to do with building a school in Hyderabad
Hyderabad-based Sphoorti Foundation is in need of funds for a new school and Mountaineer VJ Nagender Rao is going to climb one of the most dangerous peaks of the world to help them do so
School is not just a place, it's an emotion. It certainly does evoke a flurry of feelings about the formative years of everyone's lives. So it's important that this impressionable period is spent in the right atmosphere — which is why Sphoorti Foundation started a crowdfunding campaign in their quest to start a new school. Now, to bring you up to speed, the Hyderabad-based foundation doesn't just provide residential care, but also provide long-term care for children who come from broken homes or from homes where a single parent is unable to support them.
Wide smiles: Children enjoying Frooti on a hot day | (Pic: Sphoorti Foundation)
Started with three children in 2006 at Cherlapally, now they are situated in Dundigal on a three-acre plot (construction area of about 33,000 square feet) given by the state government back in 2010. As of this year, they have more than 180 children in their care. Another 50 children are pursuing their higher studies in private residential colleges. The premises are also equipped with a library with 1,000 plus books, a computer lab with 20 computers and ample amount of open space where children can play. "Our objective was to make these children empowered citizens who have access to the same opportunities, including educational, that everyone does," informs the founder Srivyal Vuyyuri. And the value they uphold the most is self-sufficiency, says the 42-year-old founder, adding that, "Though their survival instinct is strong already, we work towards amplifying that and help them become a part of the mainstream society without any hassles."
The foundation has won awards like Axis Bank Award for Service to Society, Valmiki Foundation Award for Social Service, Rotary Vocational Excellence Award 2014-15 and so on
And in doing so, education plays a huge role. Though the children go to different government schools around their area, the founder who has pursued his Master's in Economics from Ohio University, states that though they are happy with the infrastructure and teachers of the high school, the same can't be said about the primary school. "We assist them with teachers and arrange our own transport, which is quite expensive, so having our own school will help us monitor our children better," says Srivyal. And that's how the plan for the crowdfunding came to be.
They are focused: Children in Sphoorti's computer lab | (Pic: R Satish Babu)
On the trail
Campaign manager Tejaswini Vavilala set the ball rolling when Mountaineer VJ Nagender Rao, a Hyderabadi currently based in Dubai, reached out to them and offered to climb Mt Aconcagua, the second highest peak of the Seven Summits (the highest peak on each continent) and raise funds for their school. "We have been in touch with VJ and have started a fundraiser on Facebook for a $100,000 and are going to launch it on other platforms too," informs Tejaswini who currently works as a Project Manager with CA Technologies in Hyderabad and in the past, has worked with the United Nations.
You can donate, support a child, sponsor food, support a child's education and more through their website
Rather poetically, they are calling this endeavour Project RISE. The 29-year-old also informs us that they run four to five campaigns throughout the year for sanitary napkins, 10,000 notebooks, 10,000 kgs of rice and so on. Some of their students have even bagged national awards and scholarship and are studying in prestigious institutions like NIFT and Sreenidhi Institute of Science and Technology.
Game time: Children enjoying a game of carrom | (Pic: R Satish Babu)
Ask Srivyal about adoption and the number of street children on the streets of Hyderabad and he says, "Adoption is still not an option within progressive families and the government ought to promote it more. I feel that at the policy level, things are okay, but there is a gap when it comes to implementation. Of course, the ideal scenario would be to have no orphanages or old age homes." While Tejaswini makes good points about volunteering early on saying how she has been working in the social sector for 12 years now and yet, people always ask her why she being so young would dedicate her time to charity. "Social service needs to be inculcated much early on," she suggests.
In 2014, the construction of the building they currently live in started and in 2016, the children moved in
It's the climb
After climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for Rescue Foundation, a charity back in Mumbai which works to rehabilitate children who have been victims of human trafficking, Mountaineer VJ Nagender Rao has his eyes set on Mt Aconcagua in Argentina for Sphoorti Foundation. But first, some facts. This peak has one of the highest death rates of any mountain in South America and only 40% manage to reach the summit of the mountain. How VJ is preparing for all these challenges is training for over ten hours every week, focusing on building strength in legs, building endurance levels and making the core stronger. "When I climbed Elbrus in Russia in June 2018, I knew I had to be stronger for the next climb as I was struggling towards the end. This time around, I don't want to leave any chances. Usually, a summit demands that we prepare for three to four months, but I am giving myself nine solid months for Aconcagua, which is a 20-day climb," says the determined 34-year-old who plans on climbing Mt Aconcagua this December. (If anyone would like to sponsor VJ, please contact him of Facebook)
Striking a pose: Mountaineer VJ Nagender Rao | (Pic: VJ Nagender Rao)
But what got him started on the mission of climbing mountains? There's a sweet story behind it. "When I was young, my mother wanted me to join the army, but at that time, I did not understand the importance of passion for one's own country and wasn't able to live up to my potential. The desire to see the Indian flag on top of every summit has often pushed me even when my body gives up," admits VJ who works with a media organisation in Dubai. "I have climbed two out of the Seven Summits. I wish to climb them all and see the Indian flag above it," says VJ.
Facts about Mt Aconcagua
Location: Mendoza, Argentina
Height: 22,837 feet
First recorded ascent: 1897 by Matthias Zurbriggen
Past: It was an extinct volcano active until about 9.5 million years ago
Attempts: Around 3,500 climbers attempt to climb Aconcagua each year
We want to make sure that these children have a good chance at life and a future. We want them to have the best of the opportunities that are available
Srivyal Vuyyuri, Founder, Sphoorti Foundation (Pic: R Satish Babu)
Whatever VJ is doing is extraordinary, especially considering the risks that are involved. Whatever he is doing though is for a good cause for children and their future
Tejaswini Vavilala, Campaign Manager, Sphoorti Foundation (Pic: Sphoorti Foundation)
Biryani costs `150, if you don't eat just once and donate it to the cause instead, it would really help. Climbing mountains is an expensive affair and this one can cost close to $7,000-8,000
VJ Nagender Rao, Mountaineer (Pic: VJ Nagender Rao)
Going to the crowds
Some of the most recent and largest crowdfunding campaigns from India were:
Kanhaiya Kumar's crowdfunding campaign
Former president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, Kanhaiya Kumar who is contesting from Begusarai, Bihar as a candidate of Communist Party of India crowdfunded for his campaign. He has raised `70,00,000 plus and reached his target
After the devastating Kerala Floods of last year, Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan launched an online crowdfunding campaign and asked everyone to donate so that Kerala can be rebuilt. The fund release has already started
Kerala-based start-up Exploride, which was started by Sunil Vallath in June 2015, started a campaign on Indiegogo. They crossed the initial target in five days and have reached $500k in 40 days, setting a record in the history of crowdfunding by Asian startups
For more on them, click on sphoorti.org you can donate on https://milaap.org/fundraisers/projectrise2019 and find them on Global Giving as well.