This Mumbai guy is helping a Himalayan school from shutting down

Updated: Jun 11, 2017, 14:33 IST | Anju Maskeri | Mumbai

Meet the Mumbai lad who is helping save a Himalayan school from shutting down with a fundraising campaign

Manish Vyas (with child on his shoulders) at the Sikkim Himalayan Academy
Manish Vyas (with child on his shoulders) at the Sikkim Himalayan Academy

Manish Vyas, a Mumbai-based educator, is all too familiar with the joy of teaching, having worked as a tutor at non-profit organsations from the age of 16. However, earlier this month, when the 25-year-old set out for Sikkim to visit the Sikkim Himalayan Academy (SHA), a residential school perched on a steep forested slope in Buriakhop, Soreng, his goal was to more than educate. For the chemical engineer-turned-teacher, it was about helping a little known school in a remote Himalayan region raise funds to stay afloat.

Vyas has launched a Ketto campaign to raise R10 lakh to help the school continue providing free education to underprivileged kids. Founded by a handful of local teachers and a few volunteers in 2003, SHA also catering to the daily needs of about 100 children each year, starting from kindergarten till Std V. However, as things stand today, the school is struggling to survive amid dried up resources. "Each student hails from an economically challenged background, where the parents are daily wage labourers. Quite often, the child has almost eight siblings, so the parents are focused more on providing one square meal a day rather than education," says Vyas, who learnt about the school last year from his ex-employers, Sneha Phalle and Veeral Raj, of travel firm Mapping Journeys. "They volunteered there for two months and came back raving," he says.

The Goregaon-resident quit his corporate job earlier this year to get into teaching. "But, all this while, the idea of going to the Sikkim-based school was on my mind, and now with time on my hands, I decided to make the journey," he tells us in a phone interview from Sikkim. At the school, Vyas teaches the kids football along with academics. "While the local language is Nepali, the kids are fluent in Hindi and English. They are so warm, hardworking, enthusiastic and eager to learn, that I don’t miss Mumbai at all," he smiles.

Generating funds for a cause
The idea of raising funds for the school emerged during an interview with the school’s principal, Gumansingh Gurung, and its director, Puja Uchil, while being screened for volunteering last month. "There was a campaign launched last year, because the school was on the brink of a shutdown," he says. Through the campaign, it managed to raise Rs 2.42 lakh, it was a short term respite. Vyas’ aim is to now rope in long term donors. "The cost of sponsoring a child’s education for the entire year including clothes, medicine, hostel and food, is Rs 40,000. I am trying to rope in corporates who have the resources to do so," he says. Currently, the school, spread over 3,000 square feet has 62-odd children (31 day scholars and 31 boarders). Although it sees volunteers from all over the country, the tough terrain and harsh weather during monsoon and winters, makes it tough to navigate and the near-zero temperature making it difficult for everyone to work.

His current stint at the school has made his resolve stronger. "There are very few schools out there who do so much for their kids while expecting nothing in return," he smiles.

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