Akshai Abraham ‘s vision is to impact the lives of underprivileged children. After working in the development sector in various roles for seven years, Akshai decided to merge his interests in sports and social work to bring about a change in society. Thinking out of the box, he wanted to do this not with the help of traditional education but he wanted to impart crucial life skills through activity based and experiential learning techniques.
It was some time in 2010 that he started thinking about leveraging the power of play which ultimately led to the creation of Project KHEL( Kids Holistic Education and Lifeskill) in mid 2012.
Challenges faced to start Project Khel
Initially, raising funds was a big challenge with just an idea and a dream so he launched the programme with his own funds, buying equipment and paying salaries of part time facilitators with whom he travelled to various locations to conduct sessions. Another major issue was finding safe playing spaces to play, which remains an issue even today, they are now used to sharing a space with amused cows and indignant dogs on empty plots or unused agricultural fields.
Working in Uttar Pradesh, he says, is not easy. One is the lack of good passionate people with good work ethic. Another is the negative image that “NGOs” have as well as the “chalta hai” attitude. Being a perfectionist and strict task-master, he has been ruthless about maintaining professionalism and building a reputation as a dependable organization, Project KHEL is now a respected name in Lucknow.
A major portion of the funds which has allowed the growth of the organization has been through crowdfunding campaigns. Akshai says “This unique model of fundraising actually makes us more accountable to people. Instead of having to report to a single funder or write a couple of reports to a few funders, we actually connect with each of our supporters through social media”.
Project KHEL was started at 3 locations and a 100 children and in just 3 years the achievement the organization has achieved is outstanding. In addition, 3 additional programmes have been launched in the workshop mode which have imparted awareness to over 12,000 children on issues such as Child Sexual Abuse, Menstrual Hygiene Management and puberty and teen issues. It is a unique program which helps children from disadvantaged backgrounds grow into responsible and contributing members of society.
As a Founder Akshai partners with organizations working with orphans, children who live in streets, slums, villages, shelter homes and children of domestic and migrant labour. He ensures that these sessions are a bi-weekly interaction, over at least a 4 month period so that children get the full benefit of the program.
His Future Plans
Talking about his future plans, Akshai hopes to grow Project KHEL into an organization that works with thousands of children each day. There are already plans to start a 6 programme and a blueprint for a 7th programme under the Project KHEL umbrella! Akshai wishes to start a mentoring programme which will match interested and responsible adults to mentor underprivileged children from slums and shelter homes.
Akshai has been felicitated with the Karmaveer Chakra, a national medallion awarded by iCONGO in association with UN, VSO International, SOAP and various partner organisations. He has also been awarded the Sadguru GnananandaFellowship and has been invited to speak at various fora including the prestigious TEDx Talks. He has been covered as a ‘changemaker’ by Times of India, ‘unsung heroes’ by Infolona, and also on the Amazing Indians TV Show on Times Now.
Connect with Project KHEL at http://www.projectkhel.org/