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Archive for June, 2012

Here is an article on our founder Venu Nadella. It was published in SAP´s employee channel SAP News today as part of their Extreme Volunteers series.
Venupriya Nadella recognized the need for a more empowering form of education for under-privileged children in India and decided to take action. Thousands of Indian school children are now benefiting from her work.

Venupriya (Venu) Nadella

As a student, Venupriya (Venu) Nadella’s mind wasn’t just focused on her own education. She was looking deeper into the social problems around her and noticing how gaps in the education system were limiting the mindsets and the future opportunities of India’s young people.

As she embarked on her own career path, Venu simultaneously began a journey of learning, researching, and strategizing an effective way to make a difference in children’s lives through education.

Eventually Venu launched Janyaa – which means ‘Life’ in the Sanskrit language – a charitable organization dedicated to enriching the learning experience of rural Indian school children in a way that prepares them for future leadership roles.

Insider insights

Through Venu’s own education and her observations she realized something was missing. “I perceived that underprivileged children were being taught to memorize but not to learn; to see, but not to do; to follow directions; but not to innovate. I realized a special initiative was necessary – a program that didn’t just provide academic knowledge, but helped children in solving real life problems,” says Venu.

Career opportunities took Venu to Australia and the United States, where she was exposed to different cultures and new approaches to working and learning, including experiential and hands-on learning techniques.

Venu’s desire was for all children in India to become creative problem solvers by learning such techniques. With these new ways of thinking, , they would strive for a better standard of living than that of their parents.

Ideas become reality

Venu started brainstorming with friends and colleagues about how her ideas might look in reality, and in April 2009, with their help, she founded Janyaa.  Janyaa provides innovative curriculum based science and mathematics training to children aged 10 – 15 years.  The program does so in a way that gives the children opportunities to design and implement their own solutions to issues faced by their parents and neighbors.

“Students of schools that have implemented the Janyaa program are now being equipped to take on the problems facing their generation, rather than just accept the existence of such problems,” says Venu.

With support through official channels, along with generous donations, the organization has rapidly expanded to impact a large number of children in a short span of time. In 2009, Janyaa targeted 800 students. Venu devised a model that guides Janyaa’s growth, which made it possible to scale the program to reach 20,000 students in 2011.

Janyaa is now operating programs in 210 schools and has gained the attention and approval of government and school officials. There are big ambitions for the future, too: Venu is on track for achieving her goal of reaching 50,000 students this year.

This growth was partly made possible due to financial assistance from SAP employees. When Venu organized fundraising events at SAP, she was blown away by the support she received from colleagues, including help with administrative tasks.

Venu is now encouraging more SAP employees to get involved: “We need both financial and volunteering support,” she says. “Employees interested in making a positive impact with their spare time can get in touch with me directly to discuss volunteering opportunities from either abroad or on the ground in India.”

The Janyaa team hopes to raise USD 40,000 this year by targeting large organizations (for example, the Livermore Hindu Temple in California recently donated a grant) and individuals alike. “I think employees will be surprised by how much Janyaa can achieve with their donations – for example with USD10 per paycheck an entire school could be supported with the Janyaa program for 3 years!” she says.

Juggling work and charity work

Finding time for her personal life was almost impossible for Venu initially, as she devoted all her spare hours outside of her SAP role to setting up Janyaa. The task was made even more challenging because Venu developed and launched the program remotely – she is based in Palo Alto as a development manager in the Sales on Demand group.

She utilized her contacts in India to identify the right schools to target, secure permission from the authorities, and implement the program. In the beginning stages she spend three to four hours daily on calls to India, but in 2011 Janyaa was able to hire its first employee, which has helped Venu get a bit more balance in her life.

There have been times when Venu’s friends and family members have also questioned her commitment to both her career and charity ambitions, suggesting she can easily donate money to good causes instead of taking on so much responsibility to run one herself.

But Venu is on her way to seeing a major transformation take place in many schools and communities of her home country. And seeing how much the children love and are benefiting from the Janyaa program, motivates her to keep going with it.

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