Sunday, February 4, 2018

Update on Lotus Funds - A visit to campus

Dear donors,

152 donors, 20 countries, 52k USD raised - Huge thank you!

I happened to visit India on a short trip and was lucky to spend a few hours at Lotus Petal.

Here are highlights of what I saw.

1. First, your donations are making a difference.

Lotus Petal Foundation raised about 2 crores in the recent fundraising drive at DelhiAirTelHalfMarathon and came up #1 (even surpassing Bharti foundation).   Your 33lakhs were a huge contribution to that.  Thank you.

12 new classrooms being built
The lotus petal facility is a rented property (rent is about 3 lakhs a month) but the property owner graciously allowed construction.  12 new classrooms are being built and construction work was at full swing.   Given that 75 students were added recently (out of 475 that appeared for registration), these new additions are very important.  There are total of 400 kids at Lotus Petal now.

2. Things that hit you off the bat when you visit Lotus Petal is the dignity and respect that these kids have.   Each one has a neat clean school jersey.   There are no special guests.  You, a visitor, get a visitor batch.   Kids pass you by, waving a "hello sir, how are you" and seem busy with their day.  It's fresh and vibrant.  No smell anywhere (a usual at govt schools and even some private schools if my memory serves me right).  Staff and students have access to same food, same water and yes, same toilet.  No division, no levels.  Did I mention genuine smiles on everybody's faces?  The green grass, neat and clean classrooms (given Gurgaon dusty air, I bet you that there is a person wiping the desks every few hours or is it the kids keeping their surroundings clean?), each classroom was well lit (with huge 4x6 ft glass windows in every wall of the classroom so you can see from outside without interrupting), nice cool breeze - are all very inviting.  I felt like picking up a book and sitting in one of those desks or in the green grass in the garden.

Lunch prep at scale
Kids were wearing school jerseys (and jackets are hoodies, which is very smart as Delhi cold would warrant a separate monkey cap otherwise). And classrooms look engaging and minimum level of noise (my memories of childhood were schools where there were lots of noise all around).

Mommy volunteers

Mr Ashok
3. The school kitchen is impressive.  As kids get breakfast/lunch every day -- it's a massive endeavor to prepare and serve.   On preparation part, 3 big machines (one tortilla machine, one for daal and one for Sabji) work pretty well.  Interestingly, kid's mothers were volunteers in the kitchen (I am sure they have an option of being out at some construction site and earning money but they chose to be at school - paying back?).  Met a lot of such parents in the school who were volunteering.   Whether its Mr Ashok, the chai walla, outside school, whose kid is studying at Lotus, or a mother who was helping upstairs (two of her boys are in class 7th - and you could see the hope in her eyes, that things will be different this generation onwards) or the mom's in the kitchen -- each seem to understand what's at stake here for their kids and that they need to be part of it.

Rita: keeping an eye on entire school
Admin staff

4. There is a separate room for admin staff.  These are the folks, who take care of admissions, donations and associated paperwork, and there is Rita, who keeps her eye on the 20 odd camera feeds through the school.  Given the co-ed nature of the school, I am glad someone has the vision to ensure there are eyes all over the school.

DNA structure class anyone?
5. Met the teachers (and attended a DNA structure class as well :).  Quite interesting meeting.  Teachers seem to understand that it's not mere chance that they landed here.   With leaders like Kushal and Saloni, and a chance to influence future of slum kids, they understand that they are part of something big.  Opportunities like this don't come by every day.

Had an interesting conversation with these confident young guns
Be the change you want to see.  The inspiring leaders Saloni and Kushal.  Such a joy to meet them.
Nervous or Happy faces? - Final exams in 2 months. World - here we come!
Getting my fundas cleared on DNA structure
Yummy lunch!
Temporary store room to hold kitchen supplies
6. Also met some students from 12th class at computer lab upstairs.  These are the kids who have been in school past 5 years and in a few months will make the 'transition' to the real world.   Some will take internships and some will go pick up skill classes (ITI etc.).

You could see the focus in their eyes.

And if you looked below the layers, you could also see this "subtle urgency" to be out there in the real world and prove their worth.

I can't wait to see how these futures will unfold.

400 kids today, 4000 tomorrow and all becoming better citizens of a better India/World -- that's quite a responsibility that they seem to understand the urgency and importance of.

I highly recommend a visit (and volunteering).  Get in touch with lotus petal on volunteering opportunities.  Though, given how busy the school staff/kids are during school days, just be respectful of how much your presence affects school's day to day operations .

edit:  those mommy cooks are not volunteers but paid staff of the school- all lotus petal kitchen & housekeeping staff comprises of parents of the children. You will be happy to know that all these people also get their salaries in their bank account (which lotus petal helped them open) and get all medical/PF/esi benefits from lotus.


  1. That's looks great Mr. Sharma...!! One thought though - the monthly rent of Rs 3 lakh - would it be better if they owned the property, esp. with all the construction going on? I know that'll take more $$ but depending on how much funding sources Lotus has, maybe that'll work out to be a more economical option in the long run.

    1. A new campus plan is in works (thanks to a generous donor who donated land), in very early stages and will be 5-10 years to materialize.

      Existing property lease is till 2027 which is pretty good deal IMHO given Gurgaon real estate prices.

      Owning the existing part (which is prime gurgaon property) is probably out of question in terms of sheer property value.