This NGO is redefining the lives of socially and economically marginalized students

Their faces vivified as their anna and akka from an NGO explained how to capture the right moments with a camera. A bunch of curious kids, with gleaming eyes, leaned over and clicked their first photograph, followed by a thousand blurred ones. Yes, the children are learning photography and they know the weekend is going to be filled with fun stories, lovely music and a lot more learning.

Karpi, an NGO filled with young enthusiastic souls, is working to redefine the lives of socially and economically marginalised students in Chennai. Founded in 2018 by Akash Madhi and eight others, the NGO now has 90 volunteers helping more than 400 students in and around Chennai. “Karpi believes education liberates the lives of people. It has transformed our lives and we believe we are entitled to give back what we have gotten from society. So we created Karpi to help children,” says Akash. The NGO follows the footstep of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. The name Karpi was derived from his popular slogan: Educate – Organize – Agitate, Akash adds.

volunteers of Karpi go to T Nagar Girls Govt School, Choolaimedu Govt School, Santhome Govt School and Navbharat School to train the kids in photography, theatre acting, mime art, chess, carom, calligraphy, English, arts and crafts, silambam, music and dance— all expected to aid in their holistic development. They also visit students in children’s homes and tribal villages near Chennai.  The organization focuses on students from classes 6 to 9 and motivates them to strive harder to achieve their goals in life.

The members of Karpi are also working to bring back many students who dropped out of school after the pandemic.“We directly reached out to parents of students who dropped-out and talked about the importance of education and requested to re-enrol the children in school,” Akash says.

Apart from weekend classes, Karpi has a dedicated theatre artists’ group that regularly performs skits on Besant Nagar beach to raise awareness on issues like importance of education, child sexual abuse, manual scavenging and women’s role in society. Recently, they also performed on a ship following the request of the port department. “I believe our education should benefit others, especially children. I have been a theatre artist. Through Karpi, I share this knowledge with children,” says Vasanthan Chelladurai, another volunteer.

Karpi, along with the help of its students, organized a photo exhibition in 2020, which became a huge success.  After eight months of photography training, students from Navabharath School (a government-aided school) captured the reality of slums in Dharmapuram and exhibited it, breaking the stereotype of slum people’s portrayal in cinema and art.

Speaking about future plans, Vasanthan says, “The happiness in the face of kids is the reward for Karpi. In, future, we are planning to spread this smile on more faces and are working to improve the quality of government schools.”

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