Mission Education is a project to provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged children. It was started by Shradhey Ji and Suyesh Ji, the sons of Shri Satpal Ji Maharaj. Under their leadership, as at November 2016, 142,000 poor children in 22 states of India as well as children in six other countries, had been helped. This was accomplished in less than a year.
The fundamental principle behind it is that those who have, share with those who don’t. Children who have resources are asked to share with other students who lack them. They are asked, “If you have an extra pen, or a book or exercise book, if you have anything you don’t use anymore, please donate that.” When students are promoted to a new class, they buy new books and throw away the old ones, with no thought as to how many trees are cut down, or the damage caused to the environment.
It all started with a young Nepalese man, who, along with a couple of friends, visited five or six schools in Kathmandu and got Mission Education boxes installed there. He talked to the schoolchildren himself and encouraged them to donate any spare stationery or books they had. Then he went to impoverished areas where children still used slates and chalk. Some of the villages were so remote that the friends had to walk for hours carrying the donated items on their shoulders.
Shri Vibhuji relates, “I was shown a couple of photos. The first was of a little girl about 5 or 6 years old, wearing a tattered old uniform and sitting dejectedly with a slate in her hand. A second photo showed that today, in the 21st century, this little girl held a pen and notebook for the first time and she looked so happy! So it seemed to me that if one person, with one idea and with the help of a few others, could make another soul happy, then his life is indeed blessed. When that little girl uses her pen and notebook, the desire to go to school will arise in her.
‘If you set up a medical camp, you need money to buy the medicines. But the simplicity of Mission Education is that it doesn’t ask for money. We say to schoolchildren, ‘You are studying in good schools. Your parents provide more than you can use in a single year. You have enough pencils to last you for 10 years. But just think about this: there are schoolboys and schoolgirls in parts of India who don’t own a single pencil, so can’t you give them one of yours?’ And that sharing attitude is what drives Mission Education. The best thing about it is that school children empathize with those who don’t possess even a pencil to write with and want to share with them.”
At the same time they are being exposed to the idea of giving. Education is of no use if we can’t impart values to students. A Jewish educator once said, “Along with educating a child to become an engineer, a lawyer or a doctor, I want them to imbibe a value system.”
That single idea has traveled from Nepal and in just 10 months has placed 840 drop-boxes all over India. Not a single penny has changed hands and money at all is put in those boxes. A simple idea is driving Mission Education not only in Nepal but in India, Kenya and South Africa.
A similar program has been running in Guadalajara, Mexico for at least six years. Twice a year, volunteers go to this city’s most impoverished area and, in partnership with local churches, take food there and serve it. Children who previously had to share a single pencil and notebook have been given stationery of their own. As more people have got involved and the project has spread to other areas, during the most recent distributions more than 800 children received pens, notebooks, books, toys, clothing and chocolates.