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Education For A Long-Lasting Change

This year, Smile Foundation handled close to Rs 100 crore of budget involving welfare projects spread across 25 states of India

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Santanu Mishra travelled to Delhi in the 1990s to study further and find a livelihood. This was also the period of early economic liberalisation. The economic reforms affected many sectors and finance professionals like him were the first ones to understand this transition and success that followed. In relative terms, the basic requirements of livelihood were achieved faster than he had hoped for.

Coming from a middle class background in Odisha, the disparities around him forced him to reflect upon what he was doing in terms of giving back to society. The very thought of doing something beyond just professional gain started haunting him.

A group of like-minded friends came together to start discussing what and how to do something which could impact lives even with their limited understanding on the subject and available resources. There was so much to do in terms of development and nothing would look sufficient. Children could define the future of a nation. So they started working in the area of child education as education is the only medium to prepare children and bring about a long-lasting sustainable change. Thus, Smile Foundation came into existence in 2002.

As the development sector was less professionalised back then Mishra gave up his corporate career and got himself involved in building Smile Foundation. According to him, when we look around, we find palpable inequality. And, it seems to be increasing. The resourceful segment may be having a convenient life, but the pursuit of happiness is there. On the other hand, the less resourceful one may be making do with constraints, but it also wants to seek happiness. Both the worlds wish to have a fulfilling life.

Interestingly, while a part of our society is struggling with abundance, another part is struggling with constraints. On a brighter side, many privileged people want to get engaged meaningfully and play a role in bringing a change. The relatively less privileged ones are waiting for that little push that can bring a great relief to their life.

People are a very important factor in any organisation, across the business as well as non-profit worlds. People are gradually becoming more purpose-driven across the globe. As a result, organisations have to make themselves aligned with the same. Practicing a culture of empathy not only helps pursue the organisational goals and its resultant impact on the ground but also assists in solving problems. This year, Smile Foundation handled close to Rs.100 crore of budget involving welfare projects spread across 25 states of India. As a non-profit organisation, the notion of profit and monetisation is not relevant to them. However, they mobilise most of their resources from corporate and also from individual supporters.

They aim to reach 2 million direct beneficiaries a year from the 1.5 million at present. In the 

long-term, they also wish to promote giving, happiness, and mental wellbeing as part of day-to-day life so that the dream of a kinder and better society is materialised.

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