Vahani: Transforming Lives to Create Leaders of Change for India 

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India has the world’s largest youth segment attending school and college. Throughout history and across the globe, younger generations have been at the forefront of driving change in various fields. From political revolutions to social evolutions, technological discoveries to theological philosophies, the younger generation has consistently been the change-makers. Despite their potential, however, young people have often been held back by limited access to resources like limited educational opportunities or lack of financial support for innovative ideas, to name a few. 

This lack of resources can take many forms, from limited educational opportunities to a lack of financial support for innovative ideas. Furthermore, systemic biases against youth can lead to a lack of representation and voice in decision-making processes. These challenges can make it difficult for young people to fully realise their potential and bring about the change they envision.

We take a unique approach to supporting underprivileged meritorious scholars for their graduation into top universities across India. We provide financial support and mentorship and guidance to help develop each scholar holistically. Our two-pronged approach includes a full financial scholarship to cover the expenses associated with higher education and ongoing mentorship and guidance from experienced and successful mentors, tutors, and counsellors. This approach ensures that every scholar is well-equipped to thrive throughout their college. Our long-term vision is to create “Leaders of Change” who would make a difference in their local communities and beyond, regardless of their socioeconomic background, religion or gender.
This raises the immense need for educational support, especially post-pandemic, which rendered many households jobless and impacted family incomes. 

In an extremely biased education system, accessibility to quality education and life-changing opportunities like Vahani Scholarship Trust seek to bridge the gap to prevent bright, deserving scholars from dropping off the education grid. Despite the various scholarships and grants available, criteria such as gender, caste or choice of subject may deter many deserving scholars from pursuing higher studies.

After completing BA in Experimental Psychology from Oxford University, and during a trip to India on a project in 2014, our Founder and Chairperson, Reeva Misra, felt the lack of support in higher education. The underlying thought is that good education should not be a monopoly of only those who can afford it. Having noted this social inequality, she conceptualised Vahani Scholarship Trust in 2014 to bring quality education to those who could not afford it.

Reeva strongly believes that leadership is manifested through life experiences, failures and the ability to make decisions. The world around us, the people we interact with and the opportunities we come across play an important role in shaping our reality and creating awareness in us. 

We take a unique approach to supporting underprivileged meritorious scholars for their graduation into top universities across India. We provide financial support and mentorship and guidance to help develop each scholar holistically. Our two-pronged approach includes a full financial scholarship to cover the expenses associated with higher education and ongoing mentorship and guidance from experienced and successful mentors, tutors, and counsellors. This approach ensures that every scholar is well-equipped to thrive throughout their college. Our long-term vision is to create “Leaders of Change” who would make a difference in their local communities and beyond, regardless of their socioeconomic background, religion or gender.

Since our inception in 2014, we have dedicated ourselves to harnessing the talent of exceptionally brilliant underprivileged children. We aim to create a close-knit community of scholars who will become the inspiration and agents of change in their local communities. We believe that quality education should not be a privilege of the few who can afford it, but a right for all. That is why we offer scholarships to scholars across India and enable them to attend top universities.

We have collaborated with leading non-profit schools in India, such as Vidya Gyan, Shanti Bhawan, Him Jyoti and Happy Days, to identify the first batch of scholars from financially weak families. Since then, we have expanded our outreach to over 500 JNVs throughout the country, thanks to our growing network. By collaborating with NGOs such as Avanti, Salaam Balak, Tara Homes, and CRY, we have successfully raised awareness about our Scholarship Programme in 29 States and Union Territories. Our goal is to expand our reach to every State in India and ensure that every deserving scholar is aware of this life-changing opportunity.

Ishika Lohia

Ishika Lohia, one of our scholars, now an employee of Microsoft, says, “The guidance and motivation that Vahani has given to me is a great asset for my future.”

Each scholar is mapped and connected with a professional mentor who provides a learning experience outside the classroom. These scholars get a glimpse of the opportunities that the real world has in store for them. 

Meenakshi Yadav

Meenakshi Yadav, another Vahani scholar, says, “Vahani has unshackled my dreams from the darkness of adversities. It is transforming the lives of the underprivileged.” 

At Vahani, we firmly believe in recognising and supporting those who have excelled academically despite undergoing hardships and challenges. We have observed that children who endured poverty and prejudice from an early age develop an inner strength and a demand for life that creates a spirit of innovation, unlike any other. This spirit, when recognised, mentored, and channelled, becomes a massive resource for positive change in society.

Pooja

Pooja, another beneficiary, says, “Vahani has made my life a colourful painting in which the colours are made of all the things I dreamt of. It has given me strong wings and a fresh new start.”

Our Scholarship Programme began with supporting 20 scholars and has now more than doubled to 50 scholars a year, bringing the total number of scholars at Vahani to 200. We provide a fully-funded comprehensive scholarship covering academic, residential, and other expenses such as travel and laptops to our scholars. We support their dreams of attending the best universities across the country where they gain exposure to world-class faculty and discourse.

We run five mandatory programmes for scholars, with each programme to build their overall personality and well-being. We conduct focused programmes online (Zoom, Google Meet, Skype) and offline (Workshops and Events) for scholars on IT Skills, Creative Thinking, Entrepreneurship, English Communications, Mock GD/PI, Mental Well-Being, etc. We hope to broaden their horizons and enable each of our scholars to become more articulate, confident and aware.

The online application for the Scholarship opens every year in September, with no fee involved. Scholars in the 12th Standard who meet the eligibility criteria (above 85 per cent in the 10th Standard and a household income of less than Rs. 2 Lakhs per annum) can fill out the application form available on our website. We thoroughly review each application and conduct two rounds of video interviews before shortlisting the scholars. Conditional offers are sent, subject to them clearing their Board examination with 85 per cent or above and getting admission into college.

We are proud to receive scholarship applications from 29 different States in India, and we have scholars representing 19 States who are currently studying at top universities across the country. Our scholars are pursuing their higher education in prestigious institutions like IIT Delhi, IIT Mumbai, top NITs, SRCC, LSR, NLSIU, and Maulana Azad Medical College, to name a few. Despite growing up in extenuating circumstances, each scholar has shown remarkable resilience and determination to achieve their dreams.

We run five mandatory programmes for scholars, with each programme to build their overall personality and well-being. We conduct focused programmes online (Zoom, Google Meet, Skype) and offline (Workshops and Events) for scholars on IT Skills, Creative Thinking, Entrepreneurship, English Communications, Mock GD/PI, Mental Well-Being, etc. We hope to broaden their horizons and enable each of our scholars to become more articulate, confident and aware.

The annual workshops conducted during the summers and winters are the most enjoyed and anticipated events. Almost every scholar associates their best memories with these workshops. They experience many things for the very first time, like their first flight, meeting eminent personalities, and go-kart racing, among others.

To achieve our mission of providing quality education to scholars across India, we are working tirelessly to build a network in every State of the country. We understand it is a daunting task but we are committed to making it a reality. We believe that by providing deserving scholars with access to education, we are not only changing their lives but also transforming the communities they come from. We are proud of the impact so far and are eager to continue our efforts until we see our mission accomplished.

In 2019, the Lucknow City Edition of a prominent national daily featured a story about a young girl named Nidhi Kanaujia. She was the daughter of a washerman who lived with her family of six in a makeshift hut in Gomti Nagar. The story covered Nidhi’s 12th Board examination results and included photographs of her many medals hanging from the bamboo sticks of their humble abode. Pursuing higher education at that time seemed like an unattainable dream for Nidhi until a counsellor suggested that she apply for the Vahani Scholarship.

To her surprise, Nidhi received an acceptance email from Vahani, which would transform her life. The Scholarship provided her with the resources and courage she needed to study at Miranda House, University of Delhi, one of India’s premier colleges. During her time at Vahani, Nidhi interned at leading media houses and organisations. The college experience, mentorship, training programmes, and workshops helped broaden her horizon, and she grew into an intelligent, confident, and composed young woman.

Nidhi completed her undergraduate degree in Political Science (Honours) with a 1st Division and secured the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS) scholarship for an MA Programme in Modern Indian Studies at the University of Gottingen, Germany. Nidhi is the first and only RLS scholar from India, a remarkable achievement for a young woman who started her journey in a modest hut in Gomti Nagar.

Like Nidhi, 189 other young scholars from economically weak backgrounds find their lives transformed by Vahani Scholarship.

We are proud of a growing network of Vahani Alumni working in top MNCs like Microsoft, Deloitte, EY, KPMG, Bank of America, PharmEasy, etc., as well as exploring the social and development sector through well-known fellowships like Teach for India, Gandhi Fellowship and Young India Fellowship.

To achieve our mission of providing quality education to scholars across India, we are working tirelessly to build a network in every State of the country. We understand it is a daunting task but we are committed to making it a reality. We believe that by providing deserving scholars with access to education, we are not only changing their lives but also transforming the communities they come from. We are proud of the impact so far and are eager to continue our efforts until we see our mission accomplished.

Team Vahani (L-to-R): Rounak Barman, Mariya Ansari, Preeti Bhatia, Rashmani Singh, K. Hinga and Zubin Sethi