Sankalpa's founder member,
Vinayak Naik writes about
Sankalpa evolved from this desire…a desire deep down in our hearts to give back to our homeland – to help the lesser privileged in some way.
The concept of Sankalpa was born at an informal gathering during the Ganesh Utsav Celebration in September 2000 at The Ohio State University. The idea sparked off here while we were discussing avenues to give back to our home country. One common feeling was that we are all considered to be the crème de la crème of India (at least the popular opinion says so… :)) and it is our moral responsibility to give back to our society. We needed to break out of this mundane circle of assignments, mid-term exams, and projects and to some extent dedicate ourselves to the betterment of the lesser privileged in India. I suggested that, we begin our own special group, dedicated to the cause of helping the society where we all came from. This idea got everyone excited; we decided to name it Sankalpa - Our Resolution. We had 40 interested members on roll the very same day. We planned to meet over the weekend to discuss the idea.
The beginning of the organization was marked!; We planned to meet every fortnight and discuss social and developmental issues in India. We would brainstorm on ideas to developmental projects. Everybody was charged up and was full of ideas. However, the next few meetings saw a steady decline in attendance. Mukta, Sandip, Ajay, Neeraj, and myself kept at it. We were still optimistic about our mission and had a strong conviction to make a difference. Few months after the first meeting, we had solidified our vision for the organization; we decided to concentrate on micro-developmental and sustainable projects in areas of sanitation, health, education, and agriculture. We believed that these areas are highly integrated and key to India’s development.
Our first fund raising activity was what we fondly called “ Chaat for Charity”. We sold Bhelpuri at a campus festival and made a good profit. This activity gave us the much needed momentum and a feeling of accomplishment through teamwork. On the morning of January 26th 2001 India was hit by a tragedy – Bhuj, Gujarat was shaken by a devastating earthquake. Help for the victims was pouring in from all corners of the world. In Columbus, Sankalpa joined hands with Federation of Indian Associations (FIA), Association for India’s Development (AID), Children’s Relief and You (CRY) and other organizations to raise money for Gujarat Earthquake Relief Fund. This was our first fundraising effort as an organization.
Unfortunately, the lukewarm response at the meetings still continued. We got busy with the usual graduate student life and almost for a year Sankalpa took a back seat in our lives. Personally, I was very disappointed that our enthusiasm had dried up. I wondered if it was hard to motivate individuals because it was a not-for-profit cause. But, little did I know then that the flame hadn’t died away completely. In March 2002, Mukta, Ameya, Swapna, and myself were driving back from Pittsburgh and Sankalpa popped up in our conversation. Ameya and Swapna’s infectious enthusiasm put us back on track and in a way rejuvenated Sankalpa. On coming back to Columbus, I called up Sandip and he was overjoyed to initiate our resolution again.
The next step was to look for intelligent and motivated individuals on campus who felt the same way about giving back to the society. Our hunt brought in Nandan, Michael, Puneet, Reshma, Savitha, Saurabh, Sayantan, Shunahashep, Sucheta, Suja, and Vinayak. These fresh minds renewed our vigor and Sankalpa has seen a steady stream of activities since then. In a short span of eight months Sankalpa had successfully completed four projects in areas of health and education. Apart from this, we also conducted two fundraisers. Sankalpa members have made a unique resolution that they will make a voluntary donation of $10 each month for Sankalpa’s development fund. Money from this fund is utilized to support our current projects in India.
The New Year began with a new step – so far Sankalpa had always worked with individual social workers or Non Government Organizations (NGOs) where we had personal contacts. But the year 2003 saw a broadening of our relationship with other organizations as well. Currently, we are looking forward to working with Prabuddha Bharat towards their goal of ‘Holistic Education’ by supporting village libraries and youth development projects in India.
Sankalpa is not just about a group…all it needs is the motivation and commitment from everyone of us to burgeon many such Sankalpas in every corner of the world. Many thoughts put into action with a “resolution” to make a difference can be instrumental in bringing about developmental revolution in India. Our “Sankalpa” is a humble step toward this destination. We hope this step will motivate many others with similar vision to come forward and contribute in any way to this common cause.
--Vinayak Naik, firstname.lastname@example.org
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