Udai: Impressive Student Initiative Towards a Better India

We often put the spotlight on one particular individual within a non-profit organization in our Non-Profit section of our magazine. This week we decided to put the spotlight on the tremendous work an organization does as a whole. Udai, founded in 2005, is a completely student based program aimed at raising awareness and making positive impacts on pressing social issues in India. Udai’s team works around the clock to implement projects such as their “Inspiring Independent India” internet campaign or collaborating with the Love Foundation to help support HIV/Aids affected children. Take a moment to read, learn and be inspired by this non-profit as we feature Udai in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.

About the non-profit

Udai is a student-based initiative to promote awareness of social issues in India and other countries and contribute towards their alleviation. We work as an extremely informal group, currently based in San Diego (USA) and Waterloo (Canada). Udai has threefold objective: (1) Help grass-root organizations at technical/intellectual/manpower/financial levels. (2) Raise awareness about important social issues through campaigns and seminars. (3) Provide a platform to learn about the philosophy and heritages of countries. Collaborations with other organizations to combine complementary skills are critical to our working.

Organizations day-to-day responsibilities?

Udai’s working is centered on the projects. Our members work on different projects in small teams, and the day-to-day responsibilities depend on individual projects. There are very few formalities to be taken care of, and we ensure that instead of distributing organization wide responsibilities, we divide the work based on individual projects depending on members’ interests.

Most notable milestones

Our first major project was the ‘Inspiring Independent India’ internet-campaign to raise awareness about the achievements and problems of India since its independence. We later partnered with NetIP San Diego and Power of Love Foundation to organize a large fund-raiser to support Jagruthi, a Bangalore based non-profit that provides health-care to HIV/AIDS affected children. We have utilized the technical knowledge of our members to build websites for non-profits including Jagruthi and SHAII. Waterloo chapter has taken a large Knowledge-Bridge initiative to collect several thousand used books and ship them to needy children in India. Besides these, we have been regularly hosting panel-discussions and exhibitions to raise awareness on several issues. Our website http://udai.org contains a more comprehensive list of the projects that we have undertaken.

What’s the niche?

Udai exemplifies a new model of non-profits that are making large contributions with almost no resources. We have tried hard to maintain our nimble and informal nature, while ensuring continued progress on several projects with significant impact. As a matter of fact, we are not actually a registered non-profit, but rather a recognized student organization at multiple universities. This has allowed us to do away with a lot of paperwork. We work as a 100% flat organization with no organizational posts and offices (except what the university policies enforce). We do have leadership but that also is project based and this model has worked really well for us so far. It will be an interesting challenge for us to continue this mode of functioning as we grow further.

What’s the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge lies in working with the grass-root organizations that may be located in a remote location in India, across half the globe. In such cases, regular communication becomes a major challenge. Telephone calls and emails are usually fine, but not always sufficient or feasible. Some of our members have been able to personally visit such collaborators during their home visits. We realize that human interaction is of critical importance in social work. But given our minimalist budget, Udai cannot fund such international travels, and this is a big challenge for us.

What’s in store for the future?

Udai is less than 2 years old, and has been on a relatively fast track, rapidly taking up and finishing small projects. This makes it hard to accurately predict where we will be in the future. As we continue to work and gain experience, we expect to grow in number and to more geographic locations. We are also trying to establish our center in India that could provide a direct bridge between the grass-root activities in India and our members spread in different countries. Irrespective of our growth, we will continue to maintain our informal and flexible work culture that defines us!

Who would you like to be contacted by?

Working jointly with other groups and organizations is an important part of our modus-operandi, and we would love to get in touch with such groups with complementary resources and skills, in the fields of education, health, applied technology, cultural heritage or awareness building.

Many of our members already work from distant physical locations, and we certainly need many more hands and minds to support our activities. We would love to get in touch with any individual, irrespective of where he/she lives, who finds our activities worthwhile and is interested in being a part of the effort. Our websitehttp://udai.org provides information about our activities.