His long fingers adeptly wrapped around the yellow crayon, as he hurriedly drew a sun on a large sheet of paper.
Take your time.
Raj was a creature of habit. He had recently been rescued from a shoe factory, where he was kept locked in a dark room, in cramped conditions with a daily quota of stitching to complete. He worked fast; if he didn’t finish, not only would he not get paid, but he would be beaten across his palms, making work even more difficult the next day. Raj was 9. The only existence he knew before his rescue was his 3 1/2 years of bonded labor in the outskirts of New Delhi. Raj looked at his paper. The sun should be bigger, he thought. He took his crayon and began enhancing his image – this time, slowly, and more deliberately, as if the rays he was drawing jumped off the page and warmed his soul.
All in favor?
A quick, unanimous ‘yes’, and the Ek Disha Foundation (EDF) board of directors agreed to fund another project, this time, in the slums of Karachi, Pakistan. The Houston based organization, which in Sanskrit means “A Focus” or “A Direction”, was founded 10 years ago by business man and entrepreneur, Rick Pal, with the sole focus of impacting lives in areas that sometimes bigger nonprofits weren’t able to reach. Rick’s vision was to partner with organizations that were already on the ground and had a solution to a problem. EDF would then provide the funding to help the partner organization go to scale and help alleviate or eradicate the problem. A kind of “more bang for the buck” approach. EDF funds projects in the areas of health, education, and enterprise, and although geographically agnostic, many of the funded projects over the past 10 years have been in the developing countries of South Asia. The Ek Disha Foundation relies heavily on its donors, many of whom reside in the Houston area. In addition to a yearly gala, the Foundation sponsors many lunchtime lectures to raise awareness and money by bringing representatives of the partner organization to talk about the problem and the potential solution that EDF is attempting to fund.
Every project has a beginning and an end, with measurable results. We don’t provide a bandage to a problem, but a sustainable solution. It’s the only way to create meaningful change.
Karachi, Pakistan, 2015. The Dream School has now been operational for almost two years. In a country where the literacy rate among girls is less than 20%, this school is breaking all barriers. Four years ago, the Dream Foundation, based in Pakistan, was determined to change the cultural mindset of the communities in the slums of Karachi. Through countless meetings and mentoring sessions, the Dream Foundation convinced the community that education for both boys and girls was the only key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Aided by donations from Beyonce and Madonna, materials for construction were purchased, and the community began building the foundation of a new beginning and a new school. Upon completion, the Dream Foundation partnered with the Ek Disha Foundation to provide furniture for the school. Today, the school runs in three shifts and educates over 1800 students each day. Oceans away, the Ek Disha Foundation is impacting lives and creating pathways for bright futures.
Over the past decade, the Ek Disha Foundation has made a difference in over hundreds of thousands of lives all over the world. From providing welding training to women rescued from the sex trafficking trade, to distributing sanitary napkins to women in rural villages, to helping families gain access to clean water, to helping tribal communities integrate into mainstream education, to name just a few projects. EDF has even provided the gift of livelihood by returning the ability to function either through cataract surgeries or providing artificial limbs. They have increased infant survival rates dramatically through the use of portable, non electric incubators, and decreased maternal mortality rates by providing birthing kits to midwives. They have helped reduce the homeless population by providing necessities for people living on the streets to move into homes. The number of lives irrevocably changed for the better is the motivating force behind continuing to seek sustainable solutions to many problems. Whether on the streets of Houston or in the villages in India, or any of the areas in between, EDF seeks to improve the human condition.
Raj looked over his drawing. There on the page, a family was walking hand in hand in the bright, Delhi sun. A smile slowly spread across his face as he remembered the tall, gentle giant, who rescued him from the darkness of the cold, industrial building he had been sequestered in for so many years. He called the man ‘Dada’, but the world knew him as Kailash Satyarthi, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who dedicated his life to championing for children’s rights. Because of Satyarthi’s work in recognizing the human rights violation and severity of bonded labor, organizations like EDF were able to help fund the efforts to change generations of cultural beliefs, and help reintegrate and rehabilitate both families and rescued children into mainstream society. Raj, who hadn’t seen sunlight in years until his rescue, clutched his drawing to his heart. He was going home, to his mother, whose welcoming arms he had only dreamed about the past 2 years. He didn’t know who or where the Ek Disha Foundation was, but because of them and ‘Dada’, he had a new lease on life, and couldn’t wait to see what the future had in store.