“SalamatRaho” an initiative by NomadLawyer recognises Vani Subramanyam, a teacher for her contribution in social work. This blog will highlight the story of “Friends of Children”- FoC. Students are the future of India and empowering the youth through education is the need of the hour. This will make India Shining.
Friends of Children, FoC– Right To Education
‘Education is a right in democracy and provides the tools to create a more egalitarian and just society.
And all children and youth have a right to a high-quality, comprehensive education’ !
This is what Vani Subramanyam believes in. A teacher by profession, she veered into social work with ‘Friends of Children’- FoC . She has been in Maharashtra for a major part of her life. Her father has been a technocrat and mother has been a Social worker, having been associated with The School for Blind Boys, Pune. As they say, don’t judge each day by the harvest that you reap, but by the seeds you plant.
Inception of ‘Friends of Children’ FoC
Vani met Aparna Pardeshi and Venkatesan at the Sassoon hospital pediatric ward as volunteers to keep little children engaged in early 2002. All three of them wanted to start something of value and reach out to others who were not as privileged as they were. This is how ‘Friends of Children’ came to being. What began as a small ‘pay it forward’ gesture in 2002 has now grown from a little seed to a large tree with branches, flowers and fruit!
After toying with many ideas of childcare, orphanages, senior homes to name a few, they felt that higher education was one option which remained quite unexplored as most students received scholarships but nothing beyond that.
Friends of Children, FoC- The Turning Point
This was the turning point moment – when the idea took root and the team started putting in the right fodder for the idea to grow.
It is always the initial steps which carry most of the weight. They collected a small amount of funds from close friends and began with fees for 13 students from the Yerwada area.
FoC was born
Friends of Children (FoC) is a non – profit trust, working in Maharashtra, providing financial assistance to needy college going youth to complete their higher education.
The underlying objective was to reach out to deserving youth using education as a medium, helping them grow as strong individuals with an opportunity for a sustainable livelihood
Within a few months, they had grown to 43 students. They continued to meet at the basement of a building in Yerwada and help these children with study camps, stationery and fees.
And then….. A random email from a village school changed it all.
A school master reached out asking for old sweaters for his 162 children who wouldn’t attend school in winter due to the cold.
Collecting money from a group of well – wishers, they loaded 162 new sweaters onto a Tata Sumo and set off for Lauki, Manchar. It was Sankranti day, 2004. Masters from all adjoining schools had come in for the function and FoC volunteers returned overwhelmed, seeing all the children in new sweaters, lots of good wishes and a clutch of requests from all adjoining schools for notebooks, blackboards, play equipment etc.
Vani realized that the rural areas were practically undiscovered and forgotten and their needs were unknown to anyone in a metro. Not looking back, she and her team started focusing on rural students and their needs. They got together a small group of Junior college masters who were keen on helping students. They became their first group of volunteers!
With their assistance, FoC began reaching out to various colleges and with referrals from the Principals, they were all set to sponsor really needy and meritorious students who would otherwise give up their education due to sheer lack of funding.
Numbers kept growing, regions kept growing and their volunteer group too kept growing. They expanded to Sangli , Mira, Soni, Kavalapud, Saswad, Someshwarnagar near Baramati….the entire Rajgurunagar to Alephata belt and Pune city.
Watch the video: https://youtu.be/kFJwE3_qs6Q
Friends of Children, FoC- Life Skills Sessions
They began Life skills sessions for these children. Corporate trainers who willingly gave their time over weekends, volunteered to facilitate these sessions. Next was Spoken English programs to enable the students speak English confidently, which progressed to Recruitment skill programs to ensure that they levelled the platform when the students reached employment levels. Their USP has continued through the years to be completely volunteer driven, ensuring that all donations go directly to the children and are not swallowed by administrative overheads.
Their Alumni have sprouted wings and flown to various jobs in various parts of the country. But they continue to be part of all activities and projects. They manage programs at a second level and ensure that projects run smoothly through the year. They also donate from their salaries and sponsor some students each year.
FoC Aims & Objectives were very clear.
-Financial support to meritorious students who are unable to continue their higher education due to financial difficulties.
-Motivate people’s participation at large to contribute to the development of education.
-Post finance support to students to achieve academic excellence and generate greater employability.
-Promote volunteering for the cause of society.
-Give youth the chance to dream, for then they would be inspired to work for those dreams.
When they began in 2002, FoC’s dream had been that one day, the entire program will be run by the students, for the students. Vani and her team are slowly and surely reaching their goal as the years progress and she is sure that Friends of children will grow from strength to strength, empowering the student community through higher education.
Their core objective is always the same – “Empowering youth through Education”.
These are the true frontline soldiers of our country. Kudos to them !!
Contact for further details and donations.
We will leave you with a photo gallery to showcase their contribution to education
SalamatRaho salutes FoC’s contribution for imparting education to the students who are future of India