Last week, Idea Fund welcomed Khushaal Talreja to its general meeting to discuss his role in Enactus, an organization that has a similar mission to Idea Fund itself. Khushaal visited Dickinson from H.R. College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, India, where he is the president of the school’s Enactus chapter. H.R. College is a branch of the University of Mumbai and enrolls over 7000 students, approximately 140 of which are involved in Enactus. The institution prides itself on empowering young leaders and promoting community service. Subsequently, its Enactus chapter is thriving.
As a whole, Enactus is an international non-profit organization that works between students, higher education, and industry to foster entrepreneurial action. Students like Khushaal work closely with professionals and academic advisors in order to implement projects that help the communities around them. Additionally, as an NGO, Enactus is able to attain tax-deductible funds from large companies. These funds help its chapters work continually and consistently on projects alongside community members in need. In his talk, Khushaal highlighted three of H.R. College’s current projects: Project Chirag, Project Aasha, and Project Saarthi.
Project Chirag aims to improve the energy usage in rural communities by way of light and solar panels. The project began in 2010 with service to Maharashtra, the state that H.R. College resides in. The team goes into villages and provides households with solar-based home lighting systems that include: a portable light with a charger, a wall or ceiling fixture, and a battery. Six months after installation, students return to the villages to check on the operation of the lights. Additionally, the project provides jobs for the differently abled who aid with assembly of the lights. Project Chirag has helped 5,262 villages to date and saved villagers thousands of dollars through the switch from kerosene to solar illumination.
The other two projects are designed to empower communities in the areas of literacy and economic independence. Project Saarthi identified a need for improvement in English education services in Maharashtra through a mapping process that tests primary school students on the alphabet, 3- and 4-letter words, and sentence comprehension. After team members identified the necessity of English enhancement, they called for micro-entrepreneurs in villages to be certified in the teaching program. With help from the NGO LeapforWord, Project Saarthi provides teachers with a phonetic book and an audio box that plays a translation of the book in the local language. Students complete lessons in the book and are certified to advance literacy levels by Enactus team members. Project Aasha originated when Enactus traveled into Maharashtra slums and asked women about opportunities that would empower them. The responses reflected a desire for in-home beauty services, and translated into a program that trains women in these services. With the program’s help, women are able to earn independent incomes, either through their own beauty parlors or work in an already established parlor. Project Aasha encourages female agency and works with the beauty industry to set women up with sustainable business options.
Khushaal highlighted all of these points at the meeting, and ended his lecture by encouraging the room to participate in Idea Fund. He noted that serving his community with Enactus, and helping to make inventive projects a reality, has changed his life. “Without Enactus,” he declared, “I would be a different individual.” Both Enactus and Khushaal are inspirations for the work of Idea Fund. The presentation gave everyone in attendance the chance to see how much good a group of passionate students can do, with the right strategy. It also emphasized how important and necessary organizations like Idea Fund are. There are huge opportunities for change everywhere and students can accomplish much more than they realize. Khushaal’s model of success and his strong support made everyone eager to work towards their own improvements of the Dickinson community. His presence at the meeting was incredibly valuable and will likely influence Idea Fund projects for semesters to come!