Published: 05th January 2021
Here's how PassionGuru is helping underprivileged kids pursue their passion online free of cost
Gurugram-based PassionGuru conducts online lessons on dancing, singing and other activities for slum kids served by NGOs. And it's for free!
'What do you want to be when you grow up?' This question has been asked and answered by most of us during our childhood. 'Pilot' some would say, 'Astronaut' would also be echoed and some would even say 'Dancer'. But how many actually go on to live out their passions? Not too many, unfortunately. So imagine, if it is so rare for us (who we are assuming are a privileged lot) to pursue our passions and desires, how difficult will it be for the underprivileged kids? With the very little monetary and other kinds of support they receive, almost everyone is pressured into pursuing a conventional, money-oriented career, essentially smothering their passion. And this was exactly what Avneesh Chhabra thought when he began PassionGuru, an online platform to nurture the passions of underprivileged children.
Launched in May, Avneesh's platform conducts online classes for kids being served by NGOs. With over 35 NGOs from ten states collaborating with PassionGuru, several hundreds of kids will now be able to pursue their heart's desires. But how did it actually begin? Avneesh says, "Parents, teachers and everyone else put immense pressure on these children to study and succeed. If they are asked what they want to become when they grow up, the answers usually ranges from 'engineer' to 'doctor', which was the goal that was inculcated by their parents, teachers and even the NGO. But during one of my NGO visits, when I happened to ask the children what they really liked, it opened the door to their passions. I received completely different answers. Some kids wanted to paint, some others wanted to dance. There was even one kid who wanted to build robots and another who wanted to become a hacker." This made Avneesh realise that these kids also have passions that could be pursued.
Avneesh Chhabra, Founder, PassionGuru | Pic: PassionGuru
And so began Avneesh's initiative that he later called PassionGuru when COVID-19 hit — which initially functioned under his first social organisation Qause, a platform that enables NGOs to get an online presence. "Before the pandemic, no NGO would come on a video call readily. We were conducting physical classes, but those were not as regular and were done on a smaller scale. The move online facilitated and regulated the classes — now passion classes are conducted online every day from 4 pm to 6 pm and more kids from different parts of the country can join," says Avneesh, adding, "Kids shouldn't be discouraged from pursuing their passions just because they feel they don't have the rights or means. Singing and dancing just require some time and not a lot of money to learn."
The kids are being mentored by a team of 20. "While some of them are volunteering for the cause, some others are doing paid work. We have also asked celebrities to conduct live classes with the kids," says Avneesh. So, what is it that the kids are learning? Everything from painting, dancing, singing to martial arts. But what about access to phones? Avneesh states, "In most NGOs, someone will have a smartphone and an internet connection. While it is not ideal to make 20 to 25 kids sit in front of one small screen, we are trying to improve the situation. A donation drive is being conducted where anyone can donate their old phones to us and we'll ensure that more kids have access to a screen."
Avneesh and his team have now developed an all-purpose app, which will be launched soon. "Through the app, the kids can not only attend their passion classes but also log their attendance and upload their assignments. Parents and NGOs can also keep a track of the students and their progress. This creates a real-time account and makes it easier for the NGOs to show the work they have done in their annual report as well," says Avneesh.