Lina Ashar, founder of Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd, Dreamtime Learning |
A former finance sector professional, Anubha Sharma started Angel Xpress Foundation in 2012 and now has 30 learning centres for children from underprivileged backgrounds
In 2011, having worked for over two decades in the cutthroat sector of finance, Anubha Sharma (49) felt the need to take a break. Influenced by spirituality, she wanted to give back to society.
After volunteering with various grassroot causes around education, she started Angel Xpress Foundation in 2012. “Even though I didn't know much about education, I knew how to start and run several organisations,” Sharma said. The aim of the organisation was to build a model education and exposure regimen for underprivileged children using the community as a resource.
Angel Xpress Foundation (AXF) which started with one centre now runs more than 30 centres across Mumbai and the wider Mumbai metropolitan region.
At AXF, stay-at-home mothers make up a large chunk of the volunteer force who provide education to children from marginalised backgrounds, often empathetic and educated adults living in high-rises who reach out to first-generation learners from the neighbouring slums. “Some of the older volunteers have rejected their own children's offers to relocate, just to stay and work with the children here,” Sharma said.
AXF centres impart teaching in maths, English and life skills to the students who otherwise would not meet well-educated people in their lives outside school. “To be able to show them the world outside of their limited view is a fulfilling feeling for all of us," Sharma said.
She said that at AXF, they took up the task of enabling concerned citizens to undertake effective civic action, to help bridge the social divide. The model creates opportunities for volunteers to help disadvantaged children experience a happier childhood and build the foundations of a better future. “From homemakers to school and college students, from freelancers to active retirees, we have a large cross section of society participating in the AXF cause,” Sharma said.
Several schools have participated in volunteering, by hosting an AXF centre, This includes Billabong International School, Malad, where a daily class for 80 children is managed by parent-teacher association members and students. Other schools that have joined the effort with student volunteers are Ecole Mondiale World School in Juhu, the Gateway School of Mumbai, Jamnabai Narsee School, National College, St Xavier’s, Avabai Petit, Cathedral and John Connon High School, and NMIMS.
“The entire organisation is the labour of love of our volunteers who work tirelessly in exchange for the love and affection of the children and the community of like-minded people that come together around AXF centres,” Sharma said.
Sharma believes that professionals must take time off work to explore their emotional, mental and physical fitness and their individuality. “My interest in spiritualism helped me here tremendously. In the beginning, just having faith was making things fall into place,” she said.