BURLINGTON, MA—The Desai Foundation, a Boston-based non-profit organization focused on India and the United States, has partnered with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Gandhinagar to develop student and faculty-run volunteer program in the Indian state of Gujarat.
The focus of the Desai Foundation, which empowers communities through health and education, has been on communities with which they are familiar – namely Metro Boston, Harlem, New York, and Gujarat, India.
To date, Desai Foundation has served over 72,530 people in India, and over 62,630 people in the United States through their various programs in health, hygiene, education and livelihood programs. For many years, the Foundation has been working with Columbia University’s Community Impact, an umbrella organization run by students across many disciplines to serve the Harlem and Morningside Heights community where Columbia University resides. Every year, 900 students volunteer to serve 9,000 individuals in 25 programs in surrounding areas.
A group of students from IIT Gandhinagar was drawn to the Desai Foundation work after they saw partnership between the Desai Foundation and Columbia University; they wanted to know how they could apply this model with the work of the Desai Foundation and its partners on the ground in the three community development centers, which serve up to 50 surrounding villages in Gujarat.
Samir Desai, founder and chairman of the Desai Foundation, said that his organization has been thrilled to participate in the expansion of the program at IIT Gandhinagar. Originally, the program focused on helping to build a better future for the families of workers on their campus to those living in the surrounding villages in Gujarat.
“We are proud that NYASA now in addition to helping the workers and their families, also serves the surrounding villages of IIT Gandhinagar,” Desai said. “Dr. Sudhir Jain, Dr. Achal Mehra, along with many students and faculty leaders have been instrumental in making this vision a success.”
On February 6th, IIT Gandhinagar, in conjunction with Desai Foundation, held their first Bal Health Mela, serving 1,400 residents from two surrounding villages and construction workers. Each of the attendee received a general physical – including eye exam, diabetes check and dental exam.
For nearly all of these 1,400 patients, this was the first time they had ever seen a doctor. They were able to distribute 400 eye glasses to those in need, which will help increase levels of socio-economic stability. For Children, all that were identified as malnourished were provided with life-saving protein powder. The children also participated in hygiene lessons and games – helping to establish clean practices to lead healthier lives.
Attendees participated in a raffle to receive one of 30 Smoke-Free Cooking Stoves.
J.P. Gupta, Health Commissioner of Gujarat, kicked off the Mela with the official inauguration. Outside of the many volunteers from IIT Gandhinagar, there were 50 Student Volunteers from MS University Baroda, IIPH Gandhinagar, a Government Medical College, and Gandhinagar.
“This shows the strength of IIT leadership to bring together the entire community to serve the greater good,” Desai said. “This partnership with IIT Gandhinagar is so important to us. We do a lot of work on the ground to help uplift those in rural India, but it is equally as important to ensure young generations who will be the leaders of tomorrow understand their responsibility to their communities – helping to develop their sense of duty. We are optimistic and energized for this program to grow.”