The ‘journey’ began in 2007 when four friends committed themselves to help educate the poorest of children in India. Their mission was aptly named ‘Yatra’ meaning ‘journey’ and has now grown to supporting more than 1,100 students every year from the deserts of northern Rajasthan to the beaches of southern Tamil Nadu.
“We were motivated by personal experiences that illustrated how far a relatively small amount of money could go if directed to the right people and communities,” says Sanjay Jain, one of the founders.
“We have just committed to support for further two years for 20 of these single classroom schools, taking the number of students we are supporting in this arid region to 750”
The Yatra Faria School, Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan was one of the first to be established. Set up in 2009 on the border of India’s most famous tiger reserve, this school was established in conjunction with Indian NGO GSK. Yatra now supports 120 students at this school, who come from four local villages, on land donated by a local farmer whose dream was to see his children at school rather than working in the fields.
Yatra also actively supports the sports programs with equipment at all four schools run by GSK. Recently, seven children from these schools were selected for admission into a national sports academy, validating the importance of sport in our curriculum. Yatra also helps conduct medical and dental clinics at the school. The Faria School is being rebuilt with architecturally designed spaces and classrooms, with the money raised by a 2015 Yatra bike tour. This school has now become a “model” school for the region with numerous government schools now wishing to emulate the teaching methods here.
Yatra Seva Mandir schools in rural Udaipur, Rajasthan, run in partnership with NGO Seva Mandir, has established 20 shiksha kendras (rural educational learning centers) each with an average of 30 students drawn from the corresponding local village with the teachers often sourced from the same village. “We are in the process of integrating a comprehensive health program into all of the 172 shiksha kendras run by Seva Mandir. We have just committed to support for further two years for 20 of these single classroom schools, taking the number of students we are supporting in this arid region to 750,” says Jain. In addition, Yatra together with Seva, is working toward building teacher capacity and also evaluating the long-term impact education has on the community. The annual fundraising bike tour in December 2017 will end this year at one of these shiksha kendra in Udaipur.
In Cuddalore, a district in southern Tamil Nadu, nestled near the tsunami-prone shores of the Bay of Bengal, the foundation helped establish the Yatra Isha Vidhya School. These students, who mostly belong to the local fishing hamlets, benefit from excellent classrooms and computer facilities where English is the medium of instruction.
“The students here receive a nutritious daily meal, cooked on-site in the school kitchen. Yatra Foundation also provides teacher salary subsidies to recruit and retain the best available teachers. Yatra is also involved in training teachers from local government schools to enhance their classroom skills and again, leverage our effectiveness in reaching a larger number of needy children. We are now seeing some extraordinary academic results especially in science and computing,” says Jain, who adds that they are now hoping to add year 11 and 12 to this school.
Want to be a yatri?
Yatra1000 is a project that aims to recruit 1,000 supporters (‘Yatris’ or journeymen/women) who are in a position to donate at least $10 per month (i.e. $120 per year) to help fund on going Yatra projects. Although the foundation’s fundraising events are successful in raising money to commence and support our projects, Yatra1000 provides a steady flow of monthly income in order to budget and to keep these programs sustainable beyond the short term.