A Rotaract club strikes a meaningful CSR partnership

While Rotary International and the Rotary clubs in India are on a drive to set up partnerships with corporates for their CSR funds, a Rotaract club in India has done just that with the Rotaract Club of Mumbai Ghatkopar (RACMG), D 3141, striking up a partnership with Burns and McDonnell Engineering, a Fortune 55 company, to convert a rural school into a Happy School.

Rich Mahaley, CEO – Burns and McDonnell Engineering India, inaugurating the Happy School.

Despite the government’s best efforts, many schools in India, particularly in rural areas, have “broken roofs, lack of teachers, poor or no toilets and no water. But the silver lining is that at least these students have a chance to go to school,” says Prathik Chedda, President, RACMG.

This Rotaract club is active in the Palghar region of Maharashtra. “We distribute clothes and conduct medical camps in a few villages in this region. But we want to do so much more,” he says. Coming across the Rotary India Literacy Mission (RILM) website, he left a query and “was very impressed by their immediate response. The website is well planned, provides effective navigation and you have all the information you need to know about Happy Schools right there,” he says. Having made up their mind to create a happy school the next step was to spot a school.

The survey was hard and the ground reality is so harsh you want to help them all.
– Prathik Chedda, President, RACMG

Seeing the plight of the government schools in the region, Chedda zeroed down on the Zilla Parishad Prathmik Shala, located in Navaze village near Palghar. “The survey was hard and the ground reality is so harsh you want to help them all. But we decided to see how many children will be benefitted and this school had students coming in from four other villages and was educating over 80 students across classes 1 to 4,” he explains.

Rotaractors setting up a vegetable garden inside the Happy School.

Next came finding the money. “We knew what we had was not enough,” he says. So, they approached a few corporates for whom his club had conducted events and programmes. The request for help by the president of the club at the end of one such event put the club directly in touch with the CSR team of Burns and McDonnell Engineering (India). The CEO of the company Rich Mahaley, who wanted to invest his money directly into a service project, was “happy to partner with Rotaract and he not only donated funds but visited the school with us. It is so much fun to partner with people who think alike and are not particular about their names appearing on boards or being part of every photograph,” quips Chedda.

Following the guidelines prescribed under the TEACH programme and loaded with INR 300,000, RACMG step up a staffroom with furniture, constructed toilet blocks with water tanks, set up a new library, repaired the old hand-wash stations, provided clean drinking water for both, students and teachers, play material, games and sports equipment, school bags, uniforms, raincoats and shoes for every student, note books and stationery for an entire academic year, medical kits, and levelled the playground and built a rest area.

The school was inaugurated as a Happy School on June 19, 2017 in the presence of Mahaley, the local police and the head of the village. “That was a memorable day for each one of us,” says Chedda. “Whenever we visited the village while a few developments were still taking place, the kids would greet us with cheer and we took pictures together. ‘You built the jhula’, they would acknowledge and we would simply smile.”

In order to monitor the benefits of the facilities provided, increase in the attendance and improving health of students, RACMG, with the help of Rotaract Club of Caduceus and Rotaract Club of Palghar, is conducting quarterly visits to the school. “We plan to set up solar power equipment for the school, introduce e-learning for the students and also set up a public library (comprising vernacular language books) to support the adult literacy drive. But our priority as of now is cycles for four students who are coming from a far-off village.”

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