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Shaheen’s ‘Akanksha’

August 29, 2009

Young, luminous, dynamic… just some of the adjectives you could use to describe Shaheen Mistry. These days, when people prefer to settle abroad for financial security, Shaheen stands out as someone who did exactly the opposite. She essentially gave up a comfortable life in the U.S. to run a school for Indian children living in shanty towns in Mumbai and Pune.

Shaheen Mistry, an alumnus of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, is the mastermind behind the Akanksha Foundation. She started it in the year 1989 when she was visiting her grandmother in Mumbai. In India, she realized the need for education among the poor section of the society. She started the Akanksha Foundation with the vision to one day give children from all strata of society the following things: education, skills, and most importantly, Character which they would need to lead empowered lives. Akanksha works primarily in the field of education, addressing non-formal education through the Akanksha centre and also formal education through the Akanksha Schools.

Most of her childhood was spent in foreign countries. Her father, being a banker, had done stints in Lebanon, Greece and Indonesia, besides U.S. and Britain, and all this drew Shaheen Mistry to her roots. To quote Ms. Mistry, “I’ve always volunteered with kids with some kind of problem or the other, largely kids with disability, wherever we lived. I thought whatever I did in India would be more meaningful.” She, therefore, decided to take a year’s leave from Tuft and see for herself if her plans to remain in India worked out. Eventually when Akanksha was born, it was built as an informal college project to educate 10 children in one slum in Mumbai. Now it is a recognized NGO, educating 1,500 children in Mumbai and Pune. At present, the organization has an annual budget of a little over $180,000.

In the year 2007, Shaheen embarked on a movement called ‘Teach for India’.  The movement was established when a group of individuals working to reform education in India came together to seek an innovative solution to ending educational inequity. Here’s what Shaheen has to say about this, “We believe that every child has immense potential and that it is only our belief and skill in enabling them to get there that limits the realization of this potential”

Shaheen Mistry and her folks are indubitably doing an incredible job! But this is only possible because of her conviction, faith, and passion to attain her ultimate goal!

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