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Padakshep comes to aid of poor Bengalis

The US-based NGO supports under-privileged students in West Bengal

ccording to a recent newspaper report, the education sector in India receives maximum funds from America. But while most of the support comes from Christian humanitarian organisations, we recently discovered an NGO run by NRIs living in America.

Padakshep is a registered charitable body in the US which supports meritorious high school and undergraduate students in West Bengal by public charity. It supports underprivileged students who are unable to continue their education due to financial constraints. "The Bengali, padakshep means footsteps. But in this context, it means a step forward to give back to the society," explains one of its members on condition of anonymity. As its founding members hail from West Bengal, they decided to begin from the state.

"Our fundraising efforts began at a very personal level. We contacted our friends and acquaintances who contributed generously as many students who come to USA from India feel the urge to give back to their homeland in some way. Padakshep became an inspiring channel for them. Since you can contribute through the Internet, it is very convenient medium for us to pitch in. We also received a donation from Google Inc. via Google Grants, which installed a donation button on our website which processes our transactions without any charge," he told Guardian20.

But the group had its share of teething troubles too. "At first, people were not sure if their donations will be used properly. So we maintain our financial records and make it publicly accessible on our website. We periodically communicate with our donors about the academic progress of their beneficiaries," they say. Padakshep chooses its beneficiaries solely on the basis of two criteria: merit and means. Usually, secondary and higher secondary students who have done exceptionally well under extreme economic hardship get selected. Since, the entire workforce of Padakshep is based in the US, they do their preliminary selection based on local newspaper reports. After the announcement of the results, they closely monitor newspapers to shortlist students who meet their criteria. "For the final selection, we contact these students, talk to their family and teachers to know more about them. Sometimes, we also ask our contact persons in Kolkata to meet the student's family and give us a feedback," he says. Padakshep hopes to spread beyond West Bengal. as the number of their volunteers increase.

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