|Name||Mr. Kartheeban Chandramohan|
|One-liner||Kartheeban’s story portrays the journey of a young individual who set-up a unique organization to help a large number of people contribute to society|
About “Team Everest”:
Everest is a volunteer driven group set up by Kartheeban in 2006. The group’s main focus is on education. The group also supports some orphanages and old-age homes. Major activities are:
- Increase motivation levels of government school students.
- Financially support poor students so that no one stops studying due to lack of money
They conduct activities at schools such as puppet shows, moral classes, art, dance, etc. They even travel to remote places for a day or two over weekends to serve schools there.
The group has around 3,500 volunteers on record and a majority of them work with Cognizant Technology Solutions.
Kartheeban hails from the Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu. He grew up in a rural environment till his primary schooling and moved to Chennai to complete his schooling. Post his engineering, he has been with Cognizant since 2006. Having been in a techie for a while, he has moved over to be a part of Cognizant’s CSR division.
He was moved by his schoolmates struggling even for nominal fees and basic amenities like books and pencils. Most of their parents were farmers or coolies and some unfortunate had only a single parent. Some of his mates even worked post-school to supplant their parents’ income and make both ends meet.
During his final year of engineering he decided to help the under-privileged especially in the area of education. His mother, headmistress of a school in a remote village, suggested him to start from that school. He along with 3 of his friends collected funds and sponsored books and uniforms to the school. That was the genesis of the Team Everest.
From the humble beginning in 2006 with 4 friends, today Everest counts nearly 3,500 volunteers.
In 2007, they chose 1 school from each of the 31 districts in Tamil Nadu and distributed motivational prizes to top rankers in that school. The schools were selected from referrals of Everest volunteers.
In 2008, they conducted talent competitions – ‘TalHunt’ across corporation, panchayat and government schools. The group ideated that many students do not participate for the fear of not winning so they decided to give certificates to not only winners but all those who participated. The message was that winning is not always important. The results were phenomenal. Participation levels boosted from 20% to 75% of a school’s strength. Some of the school principals were astonished at the high participation levels. By the end of the program 110,000 students from 385 schools in 4 states had participated. For many of the kids, it was their first achievement and their parents’ joy was beyond bounds.
In addition many schools have been adopted. Kartheeban quotes the example of one such school, a government school in Pallavaram, Chennai. Before Everest stepped in, the school had a poor graduation percentage of 42% among 12th standard students. The school had poor blackboards, improper hygiene and lacked some basic infrastructure. Everest volunteers in addition to solving those issues interact regularly with the students and explain any academic doubts. As a result, the graduation percentage has risen.
ü Communal Volunteering
Everest is built on a unique “communal” volunteering concept. Volunteering opportunities can be identified by any member and other members in the group sign-up if it fits their interest as well. In fact, of the 700 events conducted by Everest so far, 90% have been based on volunteer ideas and referrals. All the members are empowered to initiate an activity or adopt a school. As a result members get to contribute in their way and they remain highly motivated.
Kartheeban counts this as the biggest factor for the rapid growth of the team. In spite of no efforts or advertising to enroll members, people wanting to volunteer join because of word-of-mouth from friends and colleagues.
ü Spreading Moral Values
The group has targeted to spread moral values to children in 6-12 grades through their school heads. They first published a book of 100 1-page write-ups written by the volunteers in Tamil. These books were distributed through the District Educational Officer to school heads. The heads were oriented on the objective of the exercise and requested to narrate one write-up a day at the school assembly. The short and simple stories in their native language drove the moral message home to the children. Riding on the success of the initiative in one program, Everest plans to launch it in other districts as well.
Kartheeban’s message to all: “Volunteer at least once in a month”. He believes that India will be a great nation only if its citizens are socially responsible as in Japan. Just like a visit to a temple or going for a movie, some amount of social service will give great personal satisfaction and help the country.
To NGOs he suggests from personal experience that raising volunteers from a closed group like colleagues, housing society, club members, etc has been much more effective and sustainable. The group trusts its members and will contribute better than a diverse set of individuals.