Aashraya foundation: An Uphill Climb

In the remote reaches of Uttar Kannada district, inhabitants struggle to eke out a living, while dealing with issues of education, health and transportation. Rajiv Goenkar talks to us about how his Aashraya foundation is helping to make a difference on all fronts.


In the remote reaches of Uttar Kannada district, inhabitants struggle to eke out a living, while dealing with issues of education, health and transportation. Rajiv Goenkar talks to us about how his Aashraya foundation is helping to make a difference on all fronts.

Uttar Kannada district of Karnataka is known for its lush dense forests, the highly trek-worthy Sahyadri mountains, delectable cuisine and the famous Yakshagana art form, a predictable tourism magnet. What is also true is that the district faces on-ground challenges on a variety of development issues, from lack of infrastructure to irregular MGNREGA wages and public education quality.

Few NGOs operate in the hilly terrains of Uttar Kannada, working to support the needs of the people, and Ashraya, run by Rajiv Goenkar, is one of them.

Formerly a businessman from Bangalore, Geonkar decided to shift base to his hometown in Uttar Kannada District to work with the people there. A previous 14-year volunteering stint at the NGO ‘Helping Hand’ in Bangalore gave him an insight into the know-hows the NGO world.

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Aashraya works with children in various ways in Uttar Kannada district. Pic: Ashraya

Aashraya Foundation was set up with the aim of uplifting the weaker sections of society in the remote villages of Uttar Kannada district. The organisation works towards the education of children, keeping the problem of transport and quality of education in mind. Government schools are supported with a lot of infrastructure facilities including sports kits, microphones, wall clocks and fans.

An eye collection centre at Ankola is another of Aashraya’s setups. The centre creates awareness about the importance of eye donation, and also collects and sends donated eyes to the nearest eye bank.

Next comes the Uttar Kannada district railway line; one laid a long time back, but barely functional, with no sanctioned trains routed through it. Aashraya personally took it upon itself to file an appeal in the high court to do the needful. A successful attempt as a train now runs through all the villages in Uttar Kanadda, connecting them to the state capital, Bangalore.

The Western Ghats are known for their miles and miles of rich fertile land. It is also prime target for “development” projects, something Aashraya continues to fight to this day. Their first battle was against a 4000 Megahertz power-plant in the vicinity, resulting in the plant plans being withdrawn.

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The eye donation program of Ashraya. Pic: Ashraya

As the organisation ploughs through various development challenges, the Bangalore Marathon has been of great help in the last few years, they say. This year’s collection of Rs.30,000 from the TCS World 10K is modest, but Goenkar says the gains in terms of awareness of their work has been great. Aashraya did not target a specific group to support them at the marathon; it was friends and relatives mainly who ran for their cause. “We run because of the satisfaction helping the cause gives us. There was no pre-determined amount of funds to be raised. We raised as much as we could.”

“The concept of a marathon to raise funds and awareness is very efficient, as we are now put on a recognizable platform. It has created much needed awareness amongst the corporates”, says Goenkar. But he also believes that lump-sum donations raised in the name of bigger NGOs should be divided equally, and distributed in parts to smaller, striving NGOs, with the permission of the former.

Being one who has strong faith in people’s goodwill, Goenkar compassionately says, “In whatever field of life, every man wants to support a cause. The only restraints are time, or accessibility. Every small contribution counts for us.”


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Simrin Chhachhi is a second year student of literature at Jyoti Niwas College, Bangalore. She is spending her summers at The Alternative, meeting inspiring people and telling their stories. She is passionate about literature, writing and the like. When she is not spending her time jotting down her thoughts, she likes to sing, dance and be with her pet dog and cats. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Simrin Chhachhi is a second year student of literature at Jyoti Niwas College, Bangalore. She is spending her summers at The Alternative, meeting inspiring people and telling their stories. She is passionate about literature, writing and the like. When she is not spending her time jotting down her thoughts, she likes to sing, dance and be with her pet dog and cats. more

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