Bhumi: The Beginning and the story so far…

In March 2006, when we, a few passionate young people, wanting to do our part in changing society met up and discussed ways to do it, we decided the surest way was through education. So, we approached Bala Mandir children’s home to start a teaching programme and were promptly given the go-ahead. Our plans were vague, but our approach was steady. We would meet half an hour before every class and decide what was to be taught. We started off with a bang; there were just a few of us with a little over 50 children. From English, Arts and Craft, to Science and games, we managed to bring in a pool of educational activities. Enthralled by the response, we started a ‘community development’ programme for slum dwellers in Pudupettai with some support from a local NGO. Our plan was to reach out to older people and ‘change’ their mindset by first gaining the confidence of their children (We thought it was an easy task!).

As the country turned 59, the seeds of thought to form a non-profit organisation were sown, which finally led to a few of us penning down the objectives of the organisation on October 2, 2006. We decided to call ourselves ‘Bhumi’.

Though at the core, both Bala Mandir and Pudupettai projects were meant to teach children English, the lack of objectivity on what we wanted to do reflected in our classes. Except for a few, people kept walking in and out, but things progressed smoothly, at least to our satisfaction.

A small break was created due to exams and vacation. When we approached the Secretary of Bala Mandir orphanage to restart the classes, we were asked to submit a report about how the children benefitted from our classes. This was an eye opener; we didn’t have an answer, and hence we were unable to resume our classes there. About the same time, the Pudupettai NGO refused to share their premises for our classes. It was these experiences that spurred us to turn an informal group into an organisation with a scalable model of measuring the progress of children.

2007 dawned; we were still a bunch of young people wanting to do ‘something,’ yet having done nothing. Our interaction with the children enlightened us on the glaring deficiencies in the system and the wants of these children. Most children wanted to learn better English and master the computer, something they hadn’t ever touched before. Science and Mathematics came a close second in their wish-list.

Driven to do our bit, we continued to meet at least once a month at Gandhi Mandapam to discuss our work. The numbers started dwindling and one such meeting stretched into a garage conversation between Ayyanar, Hari Shankar and myself. Amazingly we realised that by putting together unused resources lying at each others’ homes, we had one working computer! Thus ‘Kanini’ was born.

The wisdom from our past experiences made us wait until we had a complete plan before we even sought permission at Anbu Karangal to start ‘Kanini’ in March 2007. After sometime, Vivek pitched in and gave us his only computer and soon we had three computers to teach the children at Anbu Karangal. By August 2007, Vaishnavi joined Bhumi and started Kanini at our second centre, SOS Village, Tambaram, along with Purnendu. In January 2008, we began the Career Counseling programme (now Dronacharya & Ekalvya), with Prakash and Mallieswaran helping us consolidate as we got into quite a few things quickly. At the same time, Lakshmi, Mini and a few others began teaching English at Anbu Karangal. After a few classes we realised that without a proper syllabus and goals, we would only end up repeating our mistakes. In our pursuit for a scalable fun model of teaching English, we partnered with Make A Difference (MAD), Cochin, in March 2008.

In June 2008, when over 200 new members joined us, we expanded our programmes to 6 centres. We considered it the greatest confirmation of our methods when, in August 2008, we were welcomed back into Bala Mandir after having sought their consent to start Kanini and later MAD.

In December 2008, we initiated ‘Joy to the World’ connecting children with employees of several MNCs, fulfilling their simple wishes. In February 2009, we began ‘Little Einsteins’ to improve their conceptual understanding of Mathematics and Science. We added 500 members to our roster in 2008, our initiatives benefiting 759 children from 10 centres that year.

The need to provide an opportunity for children at orphanages to exhibit their talents led to an idea in March 2009, blossoming into Siragugal in Novemeber 2009. The second edition of Siragugal was held in July 2010. 100+ volunteers working day and night with monetary contribution from over 2,000 donors resulted in a memorable science, art and cultural talent carnival for 915 children from 37 children’s homes. We added 720 members to our roster in 2009, our initiatives benefiting over 1500 children.

And thus, small stumbling steps turned into giant leaps. Numerous people have helped us and continue to guide us along the way. We would like to specifically thank

  • Soundarya Srinivasan – for walking our first steps with us.
  • Mrs. Maya Gaitonde, Secretary of Bala Mandir – for making us understand that we cannot waste the time of these children by doing ‘something’ just because we were volunteering.
  • Anurag Shrivatsava – for giving us a purpose
  • Ch. Gyanaranjan Samal – for shaping our ideology
  • Jithin C Nedumala and the MAD, Cochin team – for pushing us to think beyond

Now Bhumi is four years old, having 1,800 members with over 290 volunteers actively contributing at 15 centres working with over 1,000 children, keeping the Bhumi flame ablaze. We understand that there’s much more work to be done and there’s a long way to go, changing today to change tomorrow…

57 replies on “Bhumi: The Beginning and the story so far…”

  • Anonymous
    August 15, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    My journey with Bhumi and its people has been BEAUTIFUL. “Bhumi transforms lives, including yours” is a phrase the HR-PR teams use often. This has been 100% true in my case. From a shy, vision-less, dreamy person, I have become a less-self-conscious, an action oriented fine lady (if I may so :D). Thank you, Bhumi!! Thank you so much!! This phase (from 2007 – till date) has been life altering!!

  • August 15, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    @Vaishnavi, at Bhumi we’re proud of our First and Best volunteer… always!!

  • Praveen Nookala
    August 15, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    amazing write up.. Proud to be bhumian.. will involve my self more that what i am now to make sure that my thoughts are transformed to reality with the help of Bhumi.. Kudos to each and very volunteer and thanks to TOI who mapped me with Bhumi..

  • Anonymous
    August 15, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    It’s been an honour 🙂

  • August 15, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    @Praveen to each an every volunteer of course!
    @Uma the feeling is mutual 🙂

  • Purnendu
    August 15, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I am honoured to have been a part of Bhumi for a very very long time… Bhumi is where my heart lies and am proud about being sentimental about it 🙂

  • Anonymous
    August 15, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Beautifully written ! Can see BHUMI evolving through my eyes as i read it ! 🙂

  • August 15, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    @Karthik… written with lot of heart feelings :'(
    @Purnendu We miss you!

  • Harishankar
    August 15, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    For some Bhumi is enlightening, for some Bhumi is fun, for some Bhumi touches their life, for some Bhumi changes their life, for me, Bhumi is part of my life(though i am away from it…)

  • August 15, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    To me,Bhumi is not just about volunteering for a cause. It has made me more socially aware and has given me a sense of responsibility. More importantly, you get to meet a lot of people who are as passionate as you are. Makes you feel at home! 🙂

  • August 16, 2010 at 12:20 am

    To me,Bhumi is not just about volunteering for a cause. It has made me more socially aware and has given me a sense of responsibility. More importantly, you get to meet a lot of people who are as passionate as you are. Makes you feel at home! 🙂

  • VaishnaviSrinivasan
    August 15, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    My journey with Bhumi and its people has been BEAUTIFUL. “Bhumi transforms lives, including yours” is a phrase the HR-PR teams use often. This has been 100% true in my case. From a shy, vision-less, dreamy person, I have become a less-conscious, action oriented fine lady (if I may so :D). Thank you, Bhumi!! Thank you so much!! This phase (from 2007 – till date) has been life altering!!

  • August 15, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    @Vaishnavi, at Bhumi we're proud of our First and Best volunteer… always!!

  • Praveen Nookala
    August 15, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    amazing write up.. Proud to be bhumian.. will involve my self more that what i am now to make sure that my thoughts are transformed to reality with the help of Bhumi.. Kudos to each and very volunteer and thanks to TOI who mapped me with Bhumi..

  • UmaSekar
    August 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    It's been an honour 🙂

  • August 15, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    @Praveen to each an every volunteer of course!
    @Uma the feeling is mutual 🙂

  • Purnendu
    August 15, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I am honoured to have been a part of Bhumi for a very very long time… Bhumi is where my heart lies and am proud about being sentimental about it 🙂

  • Karthik_NK
    August 15, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Beautifully written ! Can see BHUMI evolving through my eyes as i read it ! 🙂

  • August 15, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    @Karthik… written with lot of heart feelings :'(
    @Purnendu We miss you!

  • Harishankar
    August 15, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    For some Bhumi is enlightening, for some Bhumi is fun, for some Bhumi touches their life, for some Bhumi changes their life, for me, Bhumi is part of my life(though i am away from it…)

  • August 16, 2010 at 12:58 am

    > Ashwin That’s the whole idea! 🙂 To be a platform for socially minded youth to change the world around us
    > Hari Come back soon!

  • August 16, 2010 at 6:28 am

    > Ashwin That’s the whole idea! 🙂 To be a platform for socially minded youth to change the world around us
    > Hari Come back soon!

  • August 16, 2010 at 8:20 am

    @ Hari and Purnendu – Miss you guys a lot!! Come back soon!!! :'(
    @ Karthik – 🙂 🙂

  • August 16, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    I am proud to be a Bhumian! I have taken a print out of this and stuck to my wall so that I can see it everyday and be motivated to do more to the society through Bhumi!

  • August 16, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    I am proud to be a Bhumian! I have taken a print out of this and stuck to my wall so that I can see it everyday and be motivated to do more to the society through Bhumi!

  • August 16, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    > Aarthi Kumari… I’m truly touched by your actions 🙂

  • August 16, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    > Aarthi Kumari… I’m truly touched by your actions 🙂

  • Ishaqdalal
    August 16, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    i m very angry with Abdul…:( i came to know so late about BHUMI..:( I always wanted to do something to be proud of myself and for my self satisfaction and BHUMI gave me this chance..thanks BHUMI ..proud to be a BHUMIAN…:):)

  • Ishaqdalal
    August 16, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    i m very angry with Abdul…:( i came to know so late about BHUMI..:( I always wanted to do something to be proud of myself and for my self satisfaction and BHUMI gave me this chance..thanks BHUMI ..proud to be a BHUMIAN…:):)

  • Ashwin V
    August 17, 2010 at 5:30 am

    I have never in my life associated with any organization(I also mean my Job) so long.But Bhumi has some Magnetic effect it pulls me close to it.I thank My Project Heads(Malli and Ayyanar). Hope to travel with Bhumi Till i am 30(and even after if we change our policy)….

  • Ashwin V
    August 17, 2010 at 11:00 am

    I have never in my life associated with any organization(I also mean my Job) so long.But Bhumi has some Magnetic effect it pulls me close to it.I thank My Project Heads(Malli and Ayyanar). Hope to travel with Bhumi Till i am 30(and even after if we change our policy)….

  • August 17, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    > Ashwin, We’re so glad to have you, one of the pillars of Kanini team with us 🙂
    > Ishaq let’s beat him up for bringing you in so late 😛

  • August 17, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    > Ashwin, We’re so glad to have you, one of the pillars of Kanini team with us 🙂
    > Ishaq let’s beat him up for bringing you in so late 😛

  • August 17, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    > Ashwin, We’re so glad to have you, one of the pillars of Kanini team with us 🙂
    > Ishaq let’s beat him up for bringing you in so late 😛

  • August 17, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    > Ashwin, We’re so glad to have you, one of the pillars of Kanini team with us 🙂
    > Ishaq let’s beat him up for bringing you in so late 😛

  • Gyan
    August 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    No doubt this must be written by Dr.Prahalathan.I am happy that the dream is alive among all of us.Change is life.Though i am away from bhumi,i am emotionally attched with the cause.

  • Gyan
    August 17, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    No doubt this must be written by Dr.Prahalathan.I am happy that the dream is alive among all of us.Change is life.Though i am away from bhumi,i am emotionally attched with the cause.

  • August 17, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    > Gyan 🙂

  • August 17, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    > Gyan 🙂

  • August 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    “Bhumi” is one of the best things that has happened to me in life so far 🙂

  • August 17, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    “Bhumi” is one of the best things that has happened to me in life so far 🙂

  • Raj Swaminathan
    September 3, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Firstly excellent work… you guys have grown so much and that’s really amazing . The amount of hard work and guts that’s needed to pull of something like this, can’t even imagine. Proud to know some of you.

    Thanks for sharing this story.

    Since you are at a stage of being well recognized and received, here’s my two cents on a future course ..

    I understand that you guys are non-profit with all efforts completely voluntary. My suggestion is to keep open the idea of continuing to be non-profit but with paid volunteers. You can start with something small… like say 100Rs per month as salary and grow it. slowly.

    The reasoning behind this is, as your organization grows, the incentive of spending time for a good cause may not alone be enough to match the scale of growth … if you have a proper organizational structure with experience counting in your pay and position in the organization, then there’s more incentive and accountability.

    It might sound like sacrilege to a few, but most successful voluntary organizations are run by paid professionals who have goals and targets to meet. Most donors also like it when dealing with accountable professionals.

    When there’s a system in place, you can perfect it without trying to fill in gaps as and when needed.

  • Raj Swaminathan
    September 3, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Firstly excellent work… you guys have grown so much and that’s really amazing . The amount of hard work and guts that’s needed to pull of something like this, can’t even imagine. Proud to know some of you.

    Thanks for sharing this story.

    Since you are at a stage of being well recognized and received, here’s my two cents on a future course ..

    I understand that you guys are non-profit with all efforts completely voluntary. My suggestion is to keep open the idea of continuing to be non-profit but with paid volunteers. You can start with something small… like say 100Rs per month as salary and grow it. slowly.

    The reasoning behind this is, as your organization grows, the incentive of spending time for a good cause may not alone be enough to match the scale of growth … if you have a proper organizational structure with experience counting in your pay and position in the organization, then there’s more incentive and accountability.

    It might sound like sacrilege to a few, but most successful voluntary organizations are run by paid professionals who have goals and targets to meet. Most donors also like it when dealing with accountable professionals.

    When there’s a system in place, you can perfect it without trying to fill in gaps as and when needed.

  • September 4, 2010 at 1:45 am

    @Raj, we’re working and have started implementing other non financial incentives for our volunteer starting this year, but it’s for all irrespective of their time at Bhumi. It’s only for a part of the volunteers at the moment.

    Experience counts, we have two levels of people above the usual volunteers managing and or deciding things whether it’s operations or management.

    Yes we understand how much paid full timers can add value to what we do… soon maybe 🙂

  • September 4, 2010 at 7:15 am

    @Raj, we’re working and have started implementing other non financial incentives for our volunteer starting this year, but it’s for all irrespective of their time at Bhumi. It’s only for a part of the volunteers at the moment.

    Experience counts, we have two levels of people above the usual volunteers managing and or deciding things whether it’s operations or management.

    Yes we understand how much paid full timers can add value to what we do… soon maybe 🙂

  • Ishwarya Sankar
    November 26, 2010 at 10:40 am

    This is the 45th time I’m re-reading this post. I’m at work. But even now BHUMI is where my heart lies!

    • November 26, 2010 at 1:49 pm

      >Ishwarya Quite a story ain’t it? 🙂 But, TCSla idukka kasu kudukraanaga? 😛

    • November 26, 2010 at 1:49 pm

      >Ishwarya Quite a story ain’t it? 🙂 But, TCSla idukka kasu kudukraanaga? 😛

      • Ishwarya Sankar
        November 27, 2010 at 10:14 am

        Yup. A truly inspiring story. TCS la kasu epdiyum kuduppanga 😀

  • Ishwarya Sankar
    November 26, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    This is the 45th time I’m re-reading this post. I’m at work. But even now BHUMI is where my heart lies!

    • November 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm

      >Ishwarya Quite a story ain’t it? 🙂 But, TCSla idukka kasu kudukraanaga? 😛

    • November 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm

      >Ishwarya Quite a story ain’t it? 🙂 But, TCSla idukka kasu kudukraanaga? 😛

      • Ishwarya Sankar
        November 27, 2010 at 3:44 pm

        Yup. A truly inspiring story. TCS la kasu epdiyum kuduppanga 😀

  • April 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Had the good fortune of meeting some of the earliest Bhumians, mighty proud of Bhumi..More power to you!

  • April 14, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    Be the change you want to see in this world
    – Mahatma Gandhi
    We, Bhumians following it by Be the change today, we are making the change which we want to see tomorrow.

    Thats what our caption says “Changing today to change tomorrow”
    Vande mataram

  • May 24, 2012 at 12:51 am

    i would lik 2 do somthng 4 childrn n people in india bt i donno hw 2 strt if ua hav ny suggtn means plz tell me and am frm cochin (kerala)

Leave a Reply to Vashnavi Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *