Asha | UFlorida The UFlorida chapter of Asha for Education site Fri, 06 Mar 2020 21:07:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tanvi Ajantiwalay Mon, 21 Jan 2019 03:32:46 +0000 PhD student, Materials Science and Engineering
University of Florida

About me:

Greetings everyone! My name is Tanvi Ajantiwalay, I am a PhD student in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Florida. I recently joined Asha Florida, when I heard about it from my roommates and friends. I was very intrigued when I learned about the Asha chapter and its goal of providing education for underprivileged children in India. As a child, I always got quality education, huge thanks to my parents. After I completed my bachelors, my parents encouraged me to pursue post-graduation since they are strong believers of continuous learning at every point of life. As I entered the PhD program, I realized how lucky I am to obtain high level of education, of which some children in India can only dream of. Due to the enormous population and widespread poverty in India, a large number of families can’t even afford basic primary education for their children. I firmly believe that each and every child deserves to have access to education and hence was searching for ways to make a change to this situation from the United States. In this process, I got connected with Asha Florida. With Asha, I am actively participating to raise funds that would be utilized towards the education of underprivileged children in India.

My Running experience
I have been active in sports since my childhood. I was an advanced level skater in school and played cricket for my college. Due to this, I was used to warm up exercises and running. Running for longer duration and distances was something I never tried before. Gate River Run seemed to be the perfect opportunity to test my capacity as a runner. As I started training with Team Asha and obtained excellent guidance from our coaches, I gradually improved my running. I hope that with so much practice, I will be able to complete this 15k and raise funds for the children in India. I feel privileged to be a part of this noble cause.

My Request
On behalf of Asha UFlorida and its 5 steward-led educational projects in various parts of India, I request you to consider making tax-deductible contributions by clicking the DONATE link and make education possible for the underserved and underprivileged sections of the Indian society. Banking on the generous support from friends and community members like you, I look forward to another successful campaign of achieving and going past the goal of $1,500. Let us join forces and work together towards a better future.

Asha for Education
Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam once said, “Learning gives creativity. Creativity leads to thinking. Thinking provides knowledge, and knowledge makes you great.” My goal is that every ignited mind in India must get an opportunity to learn and shape their own future. Even a little contribution would help me achieve my goal!

To learn more about AfE, please visit:

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TEAM ASHA GATE RIVER RUN KICK OFF PARTY Mon, 30 Oct 2017 19:42:17 +0000

Team Asha UFlorida is gearing up our efforts to raise funds for the education of underprivileged children in India while achieving health & fitness simultaneously. We achieve this goal each year by ‘fundraising thru running’ via participation in Gate River Run (GRR) in March at Jacksonville.
Please come and celebrate our Kick-off for GRR 2018 on Sunday, November 5 at Bivens Clubhouse – Facebook event.

Next year, the run is scheduled for Saturday, March 10 and we have started the training to go from 0 to 9.3 miles (15k). We run 3 times a week – Tuesday & Thursday evenings in Kirkwood subdivision on SW 13th Street and Saturday mornings on the Hawthorne Trail. All this under the tutelage of our endearing coach couple, Rick and Dana who make sure everyone imbibes the correct techniques and does not get injured along the way to the finish line. Hand-in-hand is our expectation that each runner will raise a minimum of $50 from friends and acquaintances by creating an online profile and request for contributions. We will help you every step along the way. Please check our GRR page for more info.

Here is the sign-up form for the GRR Kick-off Potluck celebration.

Please come join us in having fun time at the kick off party!! 🙂

Some pics from last year 2017 kick off party

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PRAHARSHA – The Festival of Hope & Happiness Sun, 11 Dec 2016 18:20:56 +0000

Asha-UF’s cultural event in early Fall attracts a large audience every year. The article provides a peep into the making of Praharsha – the festival of hope and happiness.

To be efficient as local organization at the chapter level, it becomes very important to reach out to the community and let them know who we are and what we do. The health of the chapter depends, to a great extent, on how well it is established in the region. As a chapter in a relatively small University town centered around the University of Florida (UF), what better way to do this than hosting a grand cultural show with top class performances and amazing Indian food!? The UF chapter has been hosting the event, called Praharsha, during mid-September every year since 2007. Praharsha is a platform to celebrate art and culture with the local community, welcome new students at UF, and create awareness about Asha. Starting June every year, we meet once a week for Praharsha preparations, in addition to the chapter’s regular meetings. Over the years, our predecessors have debated, experimented and come up with a good recipe – a 90 minute program with a classical singing program, 2-3 classical dance performances, 2-3 Bollywood singing performances (Bollywood here encompasses whole of Indian cinema), 2-3 Bollywood dance performances, 3-4 miscellaneous performances, including a couple of ‘non-Indian’ performances. How do we get so many artists to come together for a single event? This to us, is the one big distinction between hosting Praharsha and organizing concerts. Coordinating and arranging quality performances is a lot more effort, but also the single major factor which makes Praharsha completely an “Asha-UF event”. It is as engaging for the audience, to watch their peers unfold their talent on a big stage. We start by contacting well-known groups/bands who will be a good addition to the show. We then fill the remaining slots by hosting auditions (That’s right, we have auditions). That is the point when few art-illiterate folks like myself get to sit down with the experts, like reality show judges, and press the buzzer (just to clarify, we do not have real buzzers during our auditions. We are kind people).
The design team works on flyers, posters, and a big backdrop for the stage, which showcases the goal of our group in creative and eye-catching manner. The publicity gets under way in parallel when sufficient material is ready. Generating enough publicity to attract over 1000 people is by no means an easy task that can be done by a couple of FB posts. We put up flyers at all attractive locations in town, hand out flyers manually at important hubs, approach newspapers, radio stations, talk to people at orientation and other programs, and of course, flood social media with updates. The next big attraction at the event is free Indian dinner. Yes, we provide free and sumptuous dinner for 1000 people! We attempt to work out the logistics with multiple vendors to offer great food to our guests, at least cost. Oh, and did I mention the entry is completely free? Zero revenue from the event! We cover all the expenses (food, publicity, design and decorations, and AV arrangements), which usually amount to around $4000, through sponsorships and UF funds. We set out on the sponsorship drive to restaurants, companies, and individuals, to raise funds in return of publicity for their own business. All of this happens with most volunteers being occupied with regular Asha meetings, Shramdaan, Team Asha activities, and their own academic deadlines!
Finally, after hundreds of man-hours behind the scenes, comes the big day. Revisiting Praharsha ’14 – it was a fabulous event! It was one of those times when everything clicked… the performances were great, the turnout was huge and diverse, dinner was delicious, and people had a splendid time! But it certainly wasn’t a smooth ride all along. Whether it be a misplaced backdrop, or instructions from UF personnel prohibiting food from third party caterers, event day execution blunders or the usual frustration by burnt out volunteers, Praharsha ’14 had more than the usual share of goof-ups. After the show, all the pressure was forgotten and the horrors transformed into fun tales to narrate. We could visualize, within the span of 2 months, a team slowly gelling and working together for a bigger cause. To emphasize more on the cause, we lined up the hallway with project posters and took some time in between the event to educate the audience about Asha, our goals and methods. Few months or even years down, some people may remember the amazing performances, some may remember the decorations, some the awesome food, or simply the fun time they had that evening at the “Asha-UF event”. Someone may stray into one of our meetings, and say “Hey, I’d like to volunteer too.”, and that is the greatest revenue Praharsha would generate.
PS: What is the first thing we needed to do after packing up Praharsha ’14? Reserve the hall for Praharsha ’15… get back to work, people!

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Asha-24 Conference by Aravinda Mon, 05 Dec 2016 22:15:31 +0000

For two days in Gainesville, Ravi, Khiyali and I had the opportunity to attend the Asha conference and absorb a sense of the prevailing concerns that volunteers felt regarding education. For example, Anurag Behar, one of their speakers Saturday morning stated that “education is fundamentally a socio-political issue.” What then would be the indicators of a good education? Could we apply these indicators not only to individual students but to the social and political climate in which they pursued education? Could we look also at the socio-political climate of the classroom itself – who questions, who answers, who listens, and who learns?

Learning, in and out of school. Doodled by Khiyali during the Asha conference.

Along with the standard indicators assessed by instruments such as the ASER survey, whose results Aparna, a volunteer from Stanford, presented as part of a session on the current state of education and socio-economic inequality in India, what other indicators should we look for in a successful educational effort? For example, I would want to find out: How often do students ask questions? How often do students ask questions because they are curious about something, and want to know more about it, even if it is not directly related to the specific lesson? Several students, educators and activists who have looked at classrooms with these questions in mind have found that from elementary school to college, across rich and poor, indicators were very low, often lowest among those who otherwise ranked highly in standard assessments. How often is the classroom set up in a way that what the students are expected to do is answer the questions and how often are they given time and space to question the answer, and even to question the question? Even to reflect on the question, to ask, is this question even relevant, or is another more burning question in my mind? Am I able to give voice to the questions in my mind? Will anyone listen? Or will they say, “don’t ask questions!” At what point does a child learn that they are to answer and not ask questions? What must we change in order to defend a child’s right to question, and with it, the right to learn?

Changing the dynamics of power in the classroom calls upon us to change the way we respond to people who have less power than us, not only in the classroom but in society at large, and in our own homes, starting from birth and extending to every level of education and governance. We must examine, for example, what structures of power are upheld when we measure certain abilities and ignore others.

Without necessarily disputing that it is important to recognize letters and numbers, one can argue for indicators that are more meaningful for the cause of fulfilling one’s aspirations, individually and collectively.
Education and Socio-Economic Inequality. Talk at Asha Conference 24 in Gainesville, Florida, July 26 2015

What about ability to recognize caste injustice? What about ability to recognize gender discrimination? Or even – ability to recognize a forest? Because in today’s world of war is peace and ignorance is strength, there are those who have the power to tell you a forest is not a forest with a swoop of their pen and proudly announce that as their achievement. The press follows along and reports it as good news for the country.

Without education in critical thinking, in recognizing social justice and injustice, and in speaking truth to power, how will we challenge this wholesale exploitation and destruction in the name of development? in his keynote address on the first day of the conference, Ravi talked about some of these issues and the ways that AID has intervened through and integrated approach of sangharsh,nirman and seva. I was given the opportunity to address the conference on the second day and picked up on these themes in my presentation.

I started my talk by contrasting two visions of development. The dominant paradigm of development envisions development for the few. Those who believe in development for all are classified as “alternative.” So ingrained are exploitative notions of development that a vision of society that prioritizes universal well being is not even called development but rather an “alternative to development.” Space for alternatives is shrinking and the “few” who reap the benefits of development are also getting fewer. The growing share of wealth by the top 1% of India is also reported by the business press as “good news.” “Ease of doing business” has become a proxy for development and ease of passing exams has become a proxy for learning.
How can we call for a paradigm of development that promises development for all? Can we even believe that that is possible? What kind of education can prepare us for a world that respects freedom, dignity and right to life and livelihood for all? What kind of world will respect education that is based on the right to think freely and creatively, to question authority and engage with uncertainty?

I introduced some of my teachers – the communities and movements in different parts of India and described the kinds of issues on which people were struggling. Some important lessons we learn from these communities concern the ways in which we are part of the problem. I described efforts that we have made to recognize the ways in which we contribute to injustice and exploitation and to change our lives, including fair-trade and zero-waste initiatives, anti-dowry pledge, period of change campaign against menstrual untouchability and other practices of untouchability and caste. I shared examples from a classroom discussion on caste and gender issues guided by a curriculum called called Sangati, developed by Avehi-Abacus, and implemented in the schools of the Bombay Municipal Corporation that is designed to raise awareness of these issues, help children understand their own experiences and articulate them.
Of course, unlike numbers and letters, social justice is not such a straightforward topic to teach or measure. Nor is it easy to find teachers who recognize it. Not being straightforward does not however mean it is less important or that we cannot get a sense of it. It may well be more important, and more fundamental than literacy and numeracy and it may be that students already know quite a bit about it, though they may not know how to articulate it – or we may not know how to hear it.
The Sangati curriculum is designed with the aim of helping students make sense of their personal experiences at home and in their neighborhoods in a broader social, political and historical context. The students I met had learned about Savitri bai Phule who worked for the cause of education for women and girls, and read stories raising caste issues such as Premchand’s Thakur ka Kuan (Thakur’s well) and Eklavya.

Students discuss questions of caste and gender during a Sangati class in a Bombay Municipal Corporation school

In their discussion we could see that while the material they discussed challenged social conventions and power structures, their ideas of how to challenge these in their own lives were yet forming and would take many more such discussions for them to articulate.
The politics of the classroom and the politics of their present reality layered upon one another, complicating the questions that the teacher asked based on the lesson. It poignantly revealed how far the students were willing to go in challenging issues of caste and gender which we like to think are settled.
Coming back to the question of indicators, when someone “fails” to recognize caste or gender discrimination, we understand that the failing is not that of the individual alone, but a collective failure of the society that is founded on such discrimination. What if someone recognizes injustice but refuses to challenge it? Even if they are the ones suffering from the injustice?
The Asha conference provided an occasion to reflect upon the role of education in addressing such questions.

— Aravinda

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Running as a Lifestyle: by Coach Rick Mon, 05 Dec 2016 22:08:07 +0000

Little did I know that when I began dabbling in running in the mid 1970’s that I would still be getting outdoors nearly 40 years later. I was simply looking for an activity that I could use to stay in shape after I joined the working world and found my time and opportunities to play team sports diminished. Running seemed to be such an activity. I never imagined it could be so much more. It has led to fantastic friendships, amazing adventures, terrific travels, self exploration and so much more. One popular t-shirt says that “running is my therapy”. It is unparalled as a stress reliever. It is the type of activity that sociologist William Glasser referred to as a “positive addiction”. It can be done almost anywhere at anytime by anyone with just a pair of shoes and some simple clothing. It can be done alone, with a solo partner or with a group. It can be just for fun, for personal accomplishment or as a competitive sport. As many different runners as there are, there are that many different reasons to run. But one of the major themes that flows through many of these runners and their reasons is the simple joy that running can bring. Most of us that have been running for years started for our bodies and continued for our minds. Running is good for our physical, mental and spiritual health.

Although we may not think of ourselves as animals, we are. And we are an animal that is meant to move and to be active. In our modern world where so many of us spend our days seated at desks, seated in cars or other transports or seated at home in front of a screen, running is the antidote to the sedentary lifestyle. Simply put one foot in front of the other. It need not be a punishing, grueling activity, just go at your own pace and enjoy the world around you. Take your time and expand your effort gradually. In fact, the mantra for our group is, “too much, too soon, too fast is the sure passport to injury”. So go out the door and take the first step. You’ll be glad you did. Go run, have fun!

Running as a Lifestyle: A talk by Rick and Dana
On July 24, 2012, coaches Rick and Dana gave a talk on ‘Running as a Lifestyle: Running for fun, Running for fitness, Running for a purpose’ at University of Florida’s Reitz Union, Room 285. Although the videos from that talk are no longer available, the talk was aimed at answering questions that probably come up in every beginner’s mind, for e.g. Interested in running but don’t know where to begin? They also responded to inquiries from folks who had been running and training professionally.

Through this talk, they shared their knowledge on the simple and yet so complex looking exercise called “Running”. In this talk, attendees learned how running is for all ages and fitness levels and how you can start it anytime; the do’s and dont’s of running; how charity organizations raise funds for their causes through running and how Asha UFlorida’s Team Asha does it.

Coaches Rick Swenson and Dana Moser have a combined running experience of more than 60 years. They have been involved in coaching for many few years now.

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