India. Lakhani, Maharashtra. A 27-year-old 7th-10th form teacher, Prashant Suresh Waghaye from a small village in Bhandara, joined with peers to create The Swapnapurti (fulfillment of dreams) Foundation in 2012 to address acute poverty in this primarily agrarian sector of central India. Prashant’s foundation undertakes to nourishing young minds with various community development programs. Prashant told Transcontinental Times that, “in our lives, each person feels that he must become successful and achieve something big, but to get bigger dreams fulfilled, one has to toil a lot. Only then will one achieve true success.”
Empowerment initiatives. Acute poverty in Tola and Lakhani in Garada made Prashant think proactively towards a social cause. Garada village has a higher literacy rate of 78% [Census 2011]; however, there is a lack of adequate facilities in these agrarian villages. Prashant himself came from an agrarian family but went on to achieve degrees in Teacher Education, English, and an MBA.
With the help of local professors, friends, and a well-known journalist, each contributing Rs.100 and a grant of Rs.5000 given by one of his former professors, Dr. Moon of Nagpur University, Prashant started this foundation.
Soft skills development. He wanted to create a platform for children to pursue various activities like planting trees, sports events, oratory skills, and theatre. He told a group of students through the Digital School of Jilha Parshad, “Success could be in any field. Just getting good marks is not enough. That does not signify a person with exceptional talent. Some may love singing, some playing a musical instrument, some love dance form, art or painting, sports; hence, these are talents which need be tapped.”
The foundation has provided good orators and artists to the village community. There is always a newness in whichever program the foundation undertakes. Prashant is also a consultant to many educational institutions supporting innovative initiatives such as preparing students for essay competitions, giving them expert guidance on career counseling, contributing towards differently-abled students, distributing equipment and clothes, and giving sweets to boost their self-esteem.
The foundation nurtures the development of about thirty students every year, and more are getting added each year. Furthermore, children benefit from different institutions where Prashant often visits to give lectures and hold seminars periodically. He told Transcontinental Times that “he wants the children to get a fair idea about climate change and how it is changing their agrarian life. Tree plantation is a part of such initiative, including the considerations of understanding the coexistence of the birds and animals, along with humans to maintain the ecological balance. The importance of developing other aspects necessary to forge ahead in life, such as getting good jobs in government organizations.”
Other areas where the foundation focuses is on training in self-defense lessons, painting competitions on special festivals, promoting the distribution of educational materials, like, pen, pencil, notebooks and other stationery requirements of children. supporting their extracurricular activities while suitably honoring the meritorious students for their achievements.
Dependence on donations. The foundation has been running sustainably due to the contributions made from like-minded people, friends, and supporters, and due to Prashant’s political youth activities. Prashant makes regular contributions from his teaching income. The programs and felicitations are held mostly on holidays and special festival occasions.
Prashant is determined to continue with the work he began in 2012 of uplifting the village children to help them become self sufficient into adulthood.