Asha Jyothi, India
With increasing homelessness, illiteracy, and a lack of of substantial healthcare, every bit of effort helps. Asha Jyothi, a volunteer based non-profit based in Chantilly, Virginia, is aiming to make impactful changes in the lives of families and children. Its mission? “Being dedicated to serving the needs of the underprivileged by providing access to Education and Healthcare while being guided by core values of strength, commitment, collaboration and integrity.”
Shivani Puli, a lead teen volunteer and local high school sophomore gave us valuable insight into Asha Jyothi or AJ’s history. “AJ was started in 2003 by Sekhar Puli, my father, with a core urge to give back to the less fortunate and to reduce the inequities in life. Being a first generation immigrant and growing up seeing the other end of the poverty line made him aware of all those underprivileged who don’t have such opportunities without any fault of their own and hence the motivation to give back. He realized that the best way to escape poverty is through education. It was with that realization that he created Asha Jyothi.” The organizations name roughly translates to “Every Ray of Light Brings A New Hope”, something the organization has lived up to.
Puli herself, has played an integral role in the development of the organization - “I have been involved in it right from an early age, first as a fun activity to meet my friends and then slowly pitch in - be it lemonade sale, car wash, putting fliers in the neighborhood, asking neighbors to register for the 5K and later on as a Lead Teen volunteer to make calls to local business, companies for sponsorships, etc.” She continued, “The original idea behind AJ was creating a charity that gave its supporters 100% confidence in where the money was going. We pride ourselves in being giving back every single penny that we receive. What makes our charity unique is we give people a choice about where their money goes. We provided a platform called “Your Campaign” so that others have the freedom to give back to a cause of their choice anywhere in the world. Supporters can choose which of the existing campaigns they want to contribute to or they can create their own campaign as long as it fits the AJ Campaign criteria.”
Asha Jyothi’s path has not been one without bumps, however. Recently, AJ made a six figure donation to Chantilly High School, zoned in one of the richest counties nationwide. Her answer was simple. “The answer to that is that there is poverty everywhere. The Innovation Lab was a “Your Campaign” started by people who recognized that there were underprivileged children even in Chantilly who will benefit with this new addition to their school.”
Asked about AJ’s operations, she replied, “India is one of our major focuses for AJ campaigns. As most of our core volunteer group are immigrants from India, we understand how fortunate we are to live so comfortably in a prosperous country. The fundraised money goes to a multitude of campaigns in India all based on two main motives of promoting healthcare and education for the underprivileged. Recently, we were able to donate to those who suffered from Kerala Flood by getting volunteers in India to buy clothes and food. Our long-term campaigns include building schools, supplying education materials like books and backpacks to hundreds of impoverished children, and providing healthcare to suffering families in India. Of course, AJ also supports many other initiatives in the vicinity of Fairfax county and in Texas and Haiti.” Their most popular event are 5Ks around the country in Northern Virginia, Kansas, and San Diego.
“We do what we do to reduce the inequities of life and to help those who are so below the poverty line that their voice is neither heard nor their presence felt. Like Nelson Mandela said, ‘overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity but it is an act of justice.’” We certainly hope that AJ keeps up its work and you can help too. You can donate here or find their volunteer page here. Be sure to check out their Facebook or Twitter too.