Varun Saraf

IFPD Board Member and YAC Member (India)

It all started when I had a walk with Christine (Chair of the IFPD Board) through Garibnagar, a slum dwelling in Bandra East. We walked through the narrow winding paths to the centre and I was immediately hooked.There was poverty, hardship yet there was a smile on the faces of the women. They were tough and had something to prove.
The incident that got me committed was when I saw two children, maybe 5 years old walking with a pile of books and discussing where they should be selling them.The kids knew that if the bookshop didn't give them the maximum value then they would need to sell it to the recycler and it was then I realized there is potential in these areas and I had to help them reach their capacity.
Our Hotel was located 600m away but I had never noticed this area. So in the following months I raised some funds from the hotel (through participating in a charity marathon) and deployed them into a Children's Activity Centre. We provide children with an afterschool learning program where they can read and learn through activity-based exercises. We partnered with the Hippocampus Reading Foundation and started our first library. Today we have 35 students and 120 graduates. Thereafter came the Women's Activity Centre where we started providing vocational training courses – tailoring, spoken English, computer, macramé and cooking. And as the skill level improved we helped them use their skill to establish a micro enterprise.