“A journey of thousand miles starts with a single step.”
The story of UPAY started in the small village of Kumbhari. The children of Khumbari had a strange habit of consuming Kharra – a type of desi tobacco. Very few of these children attended formal schooling, and these numbers were lower among girls. Mr. Varun Shrivastava saw the situation through a much deeper lens. He saw these children being robbed not just of their childhoods, but of an opportunity to lead better lives. Thus, he set out to open an education center in Kumbhari to tackle the issue by breaking the chain of generational illiteracy. When Varun’s classmates – Sitesh Barche and Harshit Gupta, heard of the initiative they were immediately on board.
However, not everyone was enthusiastic about the idea. People outside of Kumbhari were challenging a status quo; this was bound to stir feelings of resentment from the villagers. But it did not deter the team’s determination. And so, with a renewed motivation they established the first Reach and Teach center of UPAY on 20th May 2010.
Classes ran successfully for months on a crocked footpath. This, however, could not go on for long. As people of the village had begun to recognize the capacity of change the center held within itself. So, a classroom in the village primary school was allotted to continue their classes.
Children showed up every day, with curiosity in their eyes. Through UPAY, they saw the hope for a better future. Today, many of these children work with UPAY to spread this hope to hundreds of children like themselves. The hope of a promising future is the first step anyone has to take to travel the thousand-mile journey to reach it.
“It is the roots which give the tree strength, not its branches.”
A plant doesn’t grow its roots overnight. Before it can extend itself out of the soil and towards the sun, it grows its roots and grips the ground tight, to help it endure many challenges to come in the future. Even though this process has been glorified and idealized time and again, it is rigid and slow.
Similar was the story of UPAY’s initial years. While the first Reach and Teach center was opened in 2010, it wasn’t until a year later that UPAY was officially registered as an NGO under the Society Registration Act. Even then it took the two more years to establish themselves in the Mauda region as champions for the education of underprivileged children.
They found comfort in the motivation and direction of their leaders, whose competence made the road easier to walk on. Today UPAY has its branches in big cities like Nagpur, Gurugram, Delhi, Bangalore, and Pune, but Mauda remains one of our largest and strongest centers.
What People Say
It is a great achievement for UPAY to have reached more than 10000 children in providing access to quality education to the children from deprived sections of our society. Congratulations to the entire team of UPAY!Umesh Yadav, Indian Cricketer
I congratulate Varun Shrivastava and his entire team for carrying out such noble work. Let us all come together to support UPAY and help the children learn and become better citizens of our country.Padmashree Dr. Vikas Mahatme, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha)
Let’s build a better future!
“Ambition is the path to success, but persistence is the vehicle we arrive in.“
It’s not uncommon to see children begging in many parts of India. Before they learn to read and write, they learn to cry on command to earn a meal for the day. When our founder Mr. Varun Shrivastav shifted to Nagpur, the plight of these children touched his heart.
One day he sat on the pavement with a blackboard and chalk ready to teach any child willing to learn when only one child came up to him. A little shy, in raggedy clothes, and with curiosity in his eyes, he gladly took the pencil and a notebook and attended his first class. He came every day with his two friends, and Mr. Varun taught the class of three with all his heart.
Soon, he came up with a solution. For weeks, UPAY volunteers distributed healthy snacks among the community members to form a strong rapport and communicate the motive and vision of the initiative. Gradually, these impromptu open schools now known as Footpathshala had the good fortune of teaching more kids each day.
“You are built, not to shrink down to less, but to blossom into more.”
Late in 2015, the UPAY team was approached to open its branch in Gurugram. The team was reluctant, and so the matter was dropped there. They say if sometimes things don’t go through, it’s because the time wasn’t right. But at the right time, things started gaining momentum, and the Artemis Centre of Gurgaon was established in February of 2016.
Around the same time, we started expanding into the city of Pune. Few of our local volunteers established 4 centers in the region within the span of 6 months. However, it became difficult to sustain all centers at once. Thus, they were closed down. The lessons learned from the experience, however, did help us reopen and sustain the center in Pune successfully later that year.
Maintaining a steady growth trajectory, soon we opened the gates to the first center in the Delhi Zone – the Karol Bagh center. No journey is hurdle free. Many Obstacles and roadblocks were faced when establishing themselves in Delhi. But each hurdle was gracefully overcome, and soon two new centers were established there.
The volunteers of UPAY have always been its backbone. Their dedication and support are what have brought UPAY to the place it is in now. The persistence, diligence, and consistent effort of one such volunteer resulted in the establishment of the center in Bangalore.
UPAY did not just extend its branches into different cities of India but also evolved its methods to reach a larger, more diverse audience. An online e-commerce platform sabkasaman.com was set up for underprivileged artisans and a mobile library for children, who the volunteer cannot reach.
Thus, in more ways than one, UPAY has blossomed into a young plant. It has come a long way in its aim to change the lives of children.
“It is important to show up every day, but more so when times are tough.“
No one can deny it when we say 2020 has been a rough year. The COVID pandemic is an international healthcare crisis that has triggered an economic crisis in many countries including India. In times of such destitution and despair, UPAY did its best to show up every day to reduce the sufferings of those in need.
In July a group of enthusiastic volunteers from Gadarwara started a center of UPAY amidst the lockdown for the children in the nearby village of Chorbaretha and Chandankheda.
Reflecting on UPAY’s decade long journey has made us cherish the good days and appreciate the lessons taught to us by the bad ones. We feel proud of upholding the virtue of giving back to society and never losing sight of it.
We especially feel grateful for our volunteers who have formed the backbone of our organization. They have been instrumental in the application of many key initiatives. Their support and dedication to the job have helped us smoothly transition our classes into a virtual platform. They have helped to create an inclusive environment that has allowed people from all walks of life to benefit from their involvement with UPAY.
From Mauda to Gadarwara UPAY has its reach in different parts of India. This extensity has given us the opportunity to welcome individuals from different backgrounds into our team, giving us the chance to trade stories and learn from other’s experiences.
UPAY has come a long way in working towards its mission, but its story is far from being over. It’s hard to accurately ascertain what the future hold. However, one thing is sure, we welcome it with compassion for our fellow citizens and unwavering hope for a brighter and better tomorrow!
Koshish ek behtar kal ki..