Investing in the Future, Mahabodh Foundation
By Miles Bolton
A lot of high school tenures end with a corny graduation speech about how “you can change the world!” or “achieve any goal”, and yada yada. Not to be cynical, but these sorts of graduation speeches have been the norm for so long that they’ve nearly lost all meaning that they once might’ve had. But the sentiments of these cliche speeches have been reverberating in my noggin when talking to my high school buddy Abhilash Kumar, the founder of the Mahabodh Foundation and a junior resident in internal medicine at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India.
Abhilash, his brother Anupam, and I went to high school together in New York City at Nest+m, a public school in the Lower East Side that specializes in math and science. Since the days of high school, whether we were studying together in AP Biology class or training together during Track practice, Abhilash has always carried himself with a quiet confidence and humility that stood out. Especially in a NYC public school where those with acerbic wit and creative expletives are highly valued amongst the student body, Abhilash’s consistently thoughtful and compassionate treatment of others distinguished him amongst our peers. In addition to his highly demanding academic load packed galore with AP classes and extracurricular activities, Abhilash had invested thousands of hours in community service on the side to give back to the community.
The habits Abhilash fostered in high school and during his hours of community service has led him and his brother to start the student run NGO the Mahabodh Foundation.
Origins of the Mahabodh Foundation
The Mahabodh Foundation was founded on August 15th, 2014 by Abhilash Kumar, his brother Anupam Kumar, and Rishika Verma. The Mahabodh Foundation is a student run NGO operating in the Gaya/Bodh Gaya region of the state of Bihar in India. The word “Mahabodh” has its roots in Buddhism as the Mahabodhi Temple in the Bodh Gaya region of India is believed to be where the Buddha attained enlightenment, the word itself translates to “great awakening” or “great knowledge”. They are dedicated to the twin missions of providing higher quality educational opportunities and preventative healthcare to Indian women from rural communities. To accomplish these goals the Mahabodh Foundation launched the Mahacure program and the Anantya Scholarship program with the help and expertise of local Medical Professionals.
The literacy rate for Indian Women currently sits at 65.46% as compared to the global average of 79.7%, in Bihar the literacy rate drops to 51.5%. Female participation is at a 31.2%, essentially excluding Indian women from contributing beyond the household. India has made strides to make education more accessible for women by making elementary education free and compulsory with the the Right to Education Act in 2009, however there are still significant obstacles to ensuring more women are educated. Indian women are often expected to give priority to household tasks or farming over education so even with improvements in education, a staggering 63.5% of female students drop out. More than 50 million young women neither study nor work.
To help tackle this problem, the Mahabodh Foundation started the Anantya Scholarship program, which provides academic scholarships and mentoring to young girls starting from 8th grade onwards. The program also funds transportation (Rs. 2000/month), extra classes, and if needed boarding (Rs. 5000/month). In addition to funding, the Anantya Scholarship programs connects their scholars with notable women in the community who can serve as mentors and help their scholars navigate their academic journey. The Anantya Scholarship program currently funds 14 scholars as the Mahabodh Foundation continues to grow in it's capacity to serve the community.
The Anantya Scholarship program is guided by the belief in the value of women's education and it's trickle down effect on the community as eloquently stated by the Mahabodh Foundation below:
"When a girl is educated, she passes on her knowledge to others since the woman ensures education is provided to her family as well as her community members; also empowering women to be successful, and strong individuals capable of fending for themselves and withstanding the violations of the corrupt. They are able to seek many new avenues of growth and development for themselves and their families. A girl's education is a tremendous advantage for all communities, and at Mahabodh Foundation, we are dedicated to helping women, and their communities, fulfill their potential"
The Mahacure Program seeks to address the disparity in access to healthcare in rural communities by educating communities on preventative healthcare and by providing access to medicine and checkups. Due to lack of proper nutrition, lack of access to healthcare, and a bevy of other reasons, many people in rural communities die from easily preventable diseases. The Mahabodh Foundation strives to mitigate the spread of these diseases and promote a higher health standard through a variety of initiatives to actively support rural communities in Bihar, India. The Mahabodh Foundation utilizes expertise from supporting doctors and their own staff, as they have plenty of medical expertise themselves, to carry out their mission in an informed, effective manner.
Production of pamphlets, brochures, and posters for health & nutritional awareness.
Build online awareness among urban populations about needs and shortcomings in rural areas.
Presentations in rural areas about basic hygiene and nutritional habits.
Collaborate with local health organizations to distribute much needed medicine and nutritional supplements in villages as well as offering free medical check ups at camps.
*Held the first adolescent health awareness events in Gaya City and Guraru. With help, organized free monthly checkups & education events.
*In 2014-2015 they provided preventative health education to more than a thousand people
How to Help Their Cause
The Mahabodh Foundation is funded entirely by generous donations from their partners and the community, with a lot of the early funding coming out of pocket from the founders. Support their cause by clicking on the link below to make a donation. Any and all support is appreciated and may the Mahabodh Foundation continue making a difference in rural India.
It's hard not to biased when your high school buddy is out there doing big things but the work the Mahabodh Foundation is doing is incredibly important and if one wants to see change in the world it takes more than thoughts and prayers. It takes funding, active support (volunteering, etc), and word of mouth. Make it happen!