Foundation For Excellence Newsletter (Vol 01-2018)

President's Message

Holi festival brings joy and color to all parts of India and being there in Delhi with friends and family this year was very special for me. Color uniquely blends us to unite beyond many difference, and brings hope to a future where equality can be cherished by all. FFE has started 2018 with great momentum and we plan to keep it going throughout the course of this year to ring in our 25th anniversary next year with pride and success. We have many volunteers stepping up to initiate events to raise awareness in bay area and beyond, we encourage you to join hands and help celebrate this much like the spirit of Holi festival! 

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FFE board member, Ruyintan Mehta has endowed The Erach and  Meheroo Mehta Memorial-FFE scholarship for economically backwards students who desire to study at the elite IIT Mumbai campus but find it difficult to pay the fees.

Mehta, a 1970 graduate of the elite institution has donated a sum of Rs1.27crores to be disbursed over four years. The first round of funding has already gone to provide scholarships for the spring 2018 batch.

Mehta is candid when he admits his donation is like a 'guru dakshina' for the debt students like him feel towards their alma mater especially living away from India and becoming successful. He hopes more alumni association and corporates come forward to help needy students.   

The news has been widely covered in the press and some of the links are below.


Events and More 

February 3rd - Peninsula MATHCOUNTS Chapter Competition: FFE supported an event organized by Peninsula Mathscounts chapter. The competitive event is held every February in Palo Alto. This year, 36 middle schools with over 300 students participated. Mathcounts is a not for profit organization helping middle schoolers build confidence and improve attitude towards math and problem-solving. Since FFE is also in the education space, there was a shared synergy. FFE board member, Raj Shah's wife, Pallavi, is the coordinator for the Peninsula Chapter.

Pallavi Shah is a great teacher, coach, mentor and under her leadership her team was national champion twice, each time she was recognized and honored at white house by President of United States of America. While FFE volunteers helped run the event, FFE banners at the venue created awareness resulting in people asking for more information on FFE's work. 

February 26th and 27th - At an event at ITU (International Technical University), we shared the goals, objectives and achievements of FFE with 50 attendees from universities across USA and Europe. The theme of the conference was "Global Collaborative Research". FFE was represented at the event by Board member, Mr. Venkatesh Shukla who was a keynote speaker and Executive director, Ramesh Yadava who was a panelist.

February 28th - The goals, objectives and achievements of FFE were shared at the Indian Chamber of commerce event at Silicon Andhra University.  There were 100 attendees from across the bay area. Indian Chamber of Commerce President, Ms. Manjul Batra plans to follow up with regards to future FFE events, one of the topics FFE touched upon during the presentation.

March 3rd - San Francisco Public Library invited FFE volunteer, Dhaval Shah  to host an Indian awareness musical event. During the event, FFE's goals, objectives and achievements were shared with over 100 attendees.  

Upcoming Events

March 25th - Everyone is invited to FFE's first networking/informational Mixer of the year hosted by the Young Professional Advisory Group (YPAG), a youth wing of FFE. The event is to be held on the rooftop of 1 Hawthorne Building in San Francisco . There will be light refreshments/drinks and a chance to meet the YPAG Board as well as  fellow young professionals.

You can play some games, marvel at the breathtaking view of San Francisco. and get a chance to meet other young professionals who are interested in learning about and participating in the FFE cause. The YPAG Board will be in attendance to answer questions. Please feel free to bring anyone who would be interested in learning about the Foundation For Excellence.

March 26th - FFE Awareness Event at Oracle - FFE is fortunate to have dedicated volunteers like Neha Chaurasia and Sushil Shukla, who took a leading role in increasing FFE awareness among Oracle employees. A brown bag event has been scheduled for March 26th at Oracle Campus, Redwood City, CA. FFE volunteers and staff will be sharing the FFE story with a display and using handouts. The brown bag series event is an effort to increase awareness, about FFE, among various companies and organization.

May 4-5th - TiE Inflect 2018 - Building on the twenty-five year legacy of TiEcon, we have designed TiE Inflect 2018 to focus on the business and human impact of AI. Come and learn from the world’s best minds on how AI combined with disruptive technologies like Blockchain and IOT are radically transforming every industry including FinTech, MarTech, HealthTech and more. FFE will be present at TiE Inflect, to promote and increase FFE awareness. Please stop by our booth to get more information.

June 10th - FFE New York chapter's third gala on June 10th promises to be a fun evening. Stay tuned for details on the keynote speaker and the entertainment. We request members to spread the word to friends and well-wishers in the New York area and maybe even plan on attending. The venue is the exclusive Pierre, a Taj hotel.

For inquiries about any event, please email us at eventregistration@ffe.org or call us at 408.985.2001.


Spotlight Interviews

Scholar - Sudhanshu: Not only were hunger and poverty a part of his formative years, FFE scholar Sudhanshu also faced disdain for education, considered meaningless and a waste of resources by his orthodox family. Despite their prejudice and the ineffective Government schools that constituted his early education, Sudhanshu persevered with his academic pursuits eventually gaining a one month, provisional admission to his desired technical course in naval architecture and ocean engineering, provided he arranged for funding. His chosen field of study is not popular and Sudhanshu was not eligible for scholarships in the usual categories of religion, caste, region etc. He spent his free time researching options on the library computer and had almost given up hope when he came across the FFE website. They offered scholarships under a general category with a wide spectrum of eligibility. Sudhanshu applied and FFE came to his rescue. “My college fee was very costly, and it’s only thanks to FFE I managed to pay the 9 lakhs.

There’s a saying,’Bhagwan jab deta hai, to chappar fad kar deta hai’. That’s what FFE did, showered me with God’s blessings. I cried for monetary assistance from so many organizations but no one took a chance with me.”  According to Sudhanshu, the application is neither easy nor difficult. It’s imperative to submit the required documents and FFE takes care of the rest. He was impressed at how FFE was more concerned about the ease of the application process after he submitted his request. FFE staff took a personal interest in his well-being. Operations director, Shekhar Shastri interacted with him frequently because he initially doubted Sudhanshu’s ability to complete his education and get further funding due to his parent’s low annual income.

However, Sudhanshu persuaded him otherwise and was finally given the scholarship. The confidence boost he got from Alyssa Madam, manager of special projects helped him overcome his emotional and financial constraints, taking away his worries and allowing him to focus on his studies. His dealings with Preethi from the student interaction program were beyond expectations.  Coming from a family least aware of his chosen branch of study, the student interaction program boosted his confidence. Though he hasn’t personally met any other scholars, he is connected to a few on social media. He is keen on sharing his story and hearing about the struggles of others because he realizes his situation is not unique and there are many underprivileged students in India. Sudhanshu believes FFE’s strength is in providing merit based scholarships to underprivileged students irrespective of caste, creed, technical field etc. thus benefiting hundreds of needy scholars. His field is so specialized and if not for FFE’s faith, he would never have managed to complete his education.

FFE’s network takes them to the ground zero of Indian villages and semi-urban areas, reaching out to youngsters most in need of support and nurturing. He did detect a lacuna in the FFE system. Some students use their allocated funds to live a lavish college life instead of focusing on their studies. Sudhanshu believes FFE needs to be choosier about who gets scholarships. On the other hand, he is impressed by stories such as the one about an FFE scholar who lost his father at a young age and was supported by his vegetable seller mother. He worked at a factory part-time to fund his high school education. Thanks to FFE, he finished from a good college and eventually secured a job at Google. Sudhanshu himself works as an assistant manager at a leading shipyard in India, Cochin Shipyard Ltd in Kerala, known globally as a hub for ship building and ship repairs. He is currently the officer in charge of a vessel, Sagardeep, which is at the yard for repairs. In future, he expects to be a more crucial player in the FFE story. He hopes to volunteer for FFE and participate in more open sessions. One day he wants to become a donor too.  He admits he does not think of himself as a role model or an active crusader for the underprivileged but he’ll be grateful if the story of his struggle can inspire even one student. His humility in itself is inspiring. Sudhanshu personifies how education overcomes adversity, smoothing the path ahead. 

FFE Board Member and Donor - Sarosh Kumana: A chance meeting with FFE board member, Venk Shukla, brought ‘s’avvy Sarosh Kumana into the FFE family. They met at an event held by a tech start-up fund and stayed in touch, becoming friends over the next couple of years. Venk invited Sarosh to an FFE event in New York. In Sarosh’s words, ‘The personal stories of FFE scholars blew me away. I was literally in tears and resolved there and then to contribute and support FFE.’ 

Sarosh Kumana is a Bombay boy. After graduating from Sydenham college, he moved to London and entered the world of mergers and acquisitions until an MBA at Carnegie-Mellon brought him to the US. Starting out in various capacities at Citibank mortgage in Michigan, he eventually arrived in San Francisco as Controller of Crocker Bank before moving on to becoming a self-employed investment manager. FFE was meant to happen. Initially, he attended a board meeting as an independent observer and liked the people, process and the way scholarship recipients become a part of a community like an extended family. He began volunteering and his dedication eventually led to him being invited to join the FFE board. One of his earliest projects was to hold an event for the next generation of FFE leaders. He also introduced FFE to the San Francisco start-up community, in which he plays an active role. 

FFE’s effectiveness, efficiency and results-oriented approach is consistent with other organizations Sarosh is involved with such as Global Footprint Network and the Non-Human Rights Project. At FFE, Sarosh is particularly impressed by the self-sustaining program in which scholars give back by committing to support other economically challenged and deserving students. It’s a model he would like to see replicated in all countries grappling with growing income inequality and lack of economic mobility. Sarosh likes FFE’s unique approach of focusing on bright students to achieve their true potential by helping pay for an education they would otherwise not be able to afford. India has many non-profits working in the area of primary and secondary education but FFE plugs the lacuna in more expensive sectors of engineering and medicine.  The pledge to support two students is commendable but that apart, FFE scholars continue helping with fundraising and many have also gone on to start non-profits for other causes. The FFE gift thus causes a multiplier effect that will reverberate over generations, spreading hope and inspiration and providing upward mobility. 

Sarosh emphasizes his high regard for FFE President Minoo Gupta, Sudha Kidao and the entire board and staff for their dedication. Their labor of love shows a depth of commitment. As a board member he is privy to the rapid identification of issues that are dealt with thoughtfully and quickly. He also admires how 100% of funds raised are disbursed among scholars since FFE founder, Prabhu Goel bears all administrative and operational costs. 

Furthering his commitment to FFE, Sarosh is involved with setting up the YPAG program, the marketing portfolio, some operational plans as well as providing strategic direction, which includes possible ways FFE can scale its operations. Away from FFE, he actively shares its story and encourages more people to volunteer for the cause. Sarosh recommends attending the galas as a first-hand view of the amazing work done by FFE. Listening to the personal stories of recipients is deeply moving and extremely rewarding. Their commitment to paying back is inspiring and provides a glimpse of hope for the future of the world. 

Sarosh has a vision for FFE. Going ahead, it is his desire to see an increase in the number of scholarships provided, which necessitates an increase in donors, volunteers and FFE supporters. Amongst other things, he would like to see a tie-up with compatible organizations towards a common goal, more corporate involvement, developing a network of FFE alumni, inculcating soft-skills in scholars and building a template of FFE processes that can be adapted to other geographies. Sarosh is confident, honing operations, building tech support and committed human resources will enable the growth and expansion of FFE. His savvy business skills will hopefully help guide FFE to achieve this goal. 

FFE India Trust, COO - Sandhya Manoj Kumar: The ‘S’ in Sandhya Manoj’s name stands for success. A Hyderabad girl, she completed commerce and management at Osmania university before starting her career in sales and HR. She moved into consultancy in 2010 after successfully completing a stint at Monster.com as the Regional Manager for the South. Her recruitment training and allied services business led her to New Silk Route Advisors, a venture capitalist firm through whom she worked on a consultancy role with Chef Moshe. 

After twenty-five years in the corporate world, she decided to switch tracks, joining FFE as Chief Operations Officer in March 2017. A mutual friend connected her with FFE India coordinator, Sudha Kidao. FFE need an operations officer who would take the organization to the next level where it was not just about providing scholarships, but also about scaling up, mentoring and skills development. An inspired Sandhya realized working with FFE would put her in a position to bring about positive change. As a professionally certified coach, she felt she would add value. FFE was the right fit for her. The NGO space was not entirely new to her since her daughter had started a not for profit, as a teenager, to teach underprivileged children how to read English books. Sandhya sat on her board. 

At FFE, her interactions with students, their families and other team members have been a humbling experience. Whether at the office, at events or in their homes, whether they are children of weavers, drivers or maidservants; Sandhya finds most scholar stories have a similar tone. They don’t complain and simply accept the need to rise above poor living conditions and a lack of finances. Their grit to overcome adversity and score top marks is what impacts her the most. FFE’s role in nurturing their brilliance impresses her. 

Since she began her work at FFE, she has already begun making a difference by streamlining processes, increasing manpower, making plans to scale up and ensuring scholars are not just educated but also employable. Mentoring students is a mission close to her heart along with ensuring the fourth year students get internships and jobs. After all, FFE’s tagline is not just about nurturing brilliance but also transforming lives. Her intention is to close the loop. 

One of Sandhya’s goals is sustainability. She hopes to achieve this with a combination of fundraising and by encouraging scholars to give back. Currently, the pay forward model works as a soft pledge and is not enforced. She hopes to show scholars the importance of passing on the benefit they received, to other needy students. One of the ways she aims to do this is by setting up a tracking system to stay in touch with FFE alumni. She hopes to re-message the pledge so students inherently desire to give back. Sandhya believes, enhancing alumni engagement will encourage the desire to better the lives of others the way they benefited, otherwise the commitment gets forgotten as time passes. 

According to Sandhya, ‘beautiful things happen in small packages’ so though she may be small in stature she hopes to make a big impact. It’s just a question of believing in your goal. 

Volunteer - Sree V: From Telangana to the Bay area, FFE volunteer and enterprise architect Sree Vaddi, has come a long way. Armed with a Bachelors in biomedical engineering, he began his working career in 1996 as a research assistant with Professor Guha, an engineer and doctor at IIT Delhi. Though his family still lives in Hyderabad, Sree decided to explore options in the US and arrived in the Bay Area in 1999. His specialty in cutting-edge technologies took him to all major US cities working with Fortune 500 companies such as Price Waterhouse, eBay, Fleet Securities, Farmers Insurance, Wells Fargo, Walmart Labs to name a few.

In 2017, his company co-hosted an event at the Santa Clara Convention Center where he met IITian Sesh Ala. Their friendship continued beyond the event and that summer, he accompanied Sesh to an FFE event at the home of Sanjay ..... in Pleasanton, CA. They were warmly received by Sanjay and his wife and since they were the first to arrive, they pitched in with arrangements for the event. Sincere about the FFE cause, Sree began his journey into the world of volunteering. The Pleasanton event remains a highlight in Sree’s mind because he interacted with FFE scholars and learned first-hand how FFE's work impacts needy students. He also met FFE stalwart, Ramesh Yadav, whose passion and dedication to the FFE cause rubbed off on Sree. He decided it was time to give back and committed to becoming an FFE volunteer. His role at FFE, in a large part, pertains to shadowing Ramesh.

Sree also volunteers with Open Source projects, an initiative from work. Along with his pre-school teacher wife and young daughter, he plans to continue his association with FFE. At the SFO gala, he was responsible for the sand artist, Nitesh and his mom. Sree took care of their needs from the time they arrived until they left to return to India. He especially remembers taking them to see Golden Gate Bridge at midnight, the memory of which, Nitesh sealed in his Instagram post.  At the gala, apart from attending to Nitesh, Sree helped with signing in guests and organizing the table for the flyers. Sree was amazed at how well the gala was organized and, no surprises, his favorite part was the performance of Nitesh.


How to get Involved

In addition to being a donor, we have lots of opportunities for volunteers in a variety of roles ranging from marketing, operations, event development and coordination.  You can become a part of FFE's mission to make an impact in the lives of deserving students in India, enabling them to pursue their dreams. This would not be possible without the assistance of FFE's huge volunteer network. Please Visit www.ffe.org to learn more or send us an email at vishala@ffe.org


FFE Management Team

Our objective this year is to continue awareness campaign to achieve awarding of 10,000 scholarship by next decade. Our Volunteers have played a key role in helping us to stay firmly on this path. The team of Vishala, Vijaya and Surendra are committed to working hand in hand with FFE India team for continuous improvement in various process and procedures. We would love to have more volunteers participate with their innovative ideas in taking FFE to the next level. Please take a moment to visit ffe.org to learn more about this organization which will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019.

Editor's Note

According to an anonymous Greek proverb, “a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit on.” FFE encapsulates this belief. Repercussions of the work done by FFE volunteers, management, donors, alumni and the benefit reaped by scholars will continue into the unforeseen future. In this issue, we shine the spotlight on the alphabet, “S” by highlighting four people whose lives epitomize the words savvy, sincere, smart and successful. Future growth and expansion is the vision of FFE board member, the savvy Sarosh Kumana, while Sandhya Manoj’s successful corporate career has her effortlessly don the mantle to make FFE sustainable by streamlining processes, upscaling and bringing aboutreal transformation. Volunteer Sree’s sincerity about the FFE cause cements his desire to continue the association in whatever way he possibly can. Sudhanshu’s smartness is representative of the classic FFE scholar, capturing the essence of the lives FFE desires to nurture and transform. Whether through leadership or as volunteers, whether a beneficiary or providing benefits, FFE represents hope. As Christopher Reeves once said, “Once you choose hope anything is possible.”

 
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