Travelling around India is both an astonishing, thrilling as well as a disturbing experience. Wherever the road takes you, miles and miles of barren land make it impossible to be unaware of impoverished areas, dysfunctional health centres and elementary schools. Dozens of people in line waiting for water and the intense gender disparity are a grim reminder of the hard fact that India is a country of immense diversity and sharp inequalities. How does one make progress when there are so many issues to be addressed?
In 2020, a group of young corporate professionals with a modest small-town, middle-class background realised their responsibility to give back to society. Raunak Singh went to Delhi along with some friends seeking a job opportunity. Because of the economic liberalisation in the early days, they reached their financial goals earlier than expected.
We used to meet and regularly discuss, exchanging our professional experiences. One thing that was common in all our discussions was 'giving back. I always wanted to give back to the society once I settled in my life", remembers Raunak Singh. It was driven by this will that he Founded SikhAid while still working full-time.
Sikh Aid is a national level development organisation working with a life-cycle approach of development focusing on children, their families and the community, addressing youth employment, women empowerment and healthcare issues. Their core area of intervention, however, is child education: "We truly believe that education is the end as well as the means. However, we realised that a child would never go to school regularly if the family is not cared for, the mother is not empowered, or the family health is not well", says Singh.
Currently, the organisation is reaching out to more than 300,000 underprivileged children, youth, and women directly every year through 158 welfare projects across 25 states of India.
One of the most impactful projects led by SikhAid is the Child For Child programme, which brings together children from both backgrounds – affluent and deprived- to foster a sense of responsibility in the privileged children towards their less privileged counterparts early in life. "We believed that there was an urgency to sensitise the privileged children too. If this happens from an early age, they will grow up as socially responsible citizens", says Singh.
Last year alone, the programme reached 200 districts of the country, engaging more than 600 schools and sensitising about one million children and their parents and teachers.
One of Sikh Aid's major challenges is finding the right professionals such as doctors, teachers, project managers, and community workers to work in remote areas. Also, retaining these professionals is another major problem as tackling development issues are a serious, long term and complex endeavour. "Next challenge is getting the right kind of community-based partners. As many of our supporters are corporate, achieving the 'perfection' outcome according to their expectation can sometimes be a challenge within the 'imperfection' at the grassroots level", informs Raunak Singh, Founder of Sikh Aid.