The dank, dilapidated looking school that houses Daffodil could pass for any unkempt building in a small village.
But what sets this organisation apart from the others is the gentleman running the show – a garrulous old man with a stocky built and a never say die attitude. So it came as no surprise when he shared with us that he is a retired Indian Navy veteran. Mr. M. Prasad, not only brought glory to the country in numerous wars, but after being selected by the Indian Government to train in the U.S.S.R., erstwhile Russia, had the opportunity to update our naval officers with the advanced ways of the Soviet and bring us on par with the world.
The Naval-touch is seen through the organisation’s credo, which is “The war is over yet the battle carries on.” It was originally meant for the Bombay Ex Servicemen Association, out of which Mazi Sainik Shikshan Ani Swashthya Kalyan Sanstha (MSSASKS) has been born and continues today. The main focus of the organisation is Daffodils, an English medium school at, Sainik Nagar, village Dikshal, Karjat. In the 1990s, Mr. Prasad along with Commodore Mistry got land from the government in Dikshal for the rehabilitation and welfare of ex-servicemen. However, extreme poverty coupled with the absence of educational and basic facilities in the area touched their hearts and distracted them from their initial focus.
Their desire to better the quality of life of the local tribals and underprivileged thus saw the birth of MSSASKS in 1998; followed by the pre-school Daffodils in 2004. Armed with a purpose and nothing else they started the school with three kids. As the school grew so did the costs and Mr. Prasad was praying for a miracle to save him. That miracle came in the form of Ms. Hilary Timner, a 65 year old Dutch lady who was the president of the Indo-Dutch Foundation. She inspected the school and once she was convinced of its intentions, agreed to help with funding. It’s said that no battle is won easily and her support overcame many hurdles to come through. A major one being FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) permission. With the official FCRA certificate taking time, Mr. Prasad applied for prior-permission, which luckily was granted. And Ms. Hilary Timner’s funds were invested in a bus and a Tata Sumo to ferry the kids to school.
10-years down the line, life seems to have come full-circle. After a decade of use, the school bus was retired and the organization’s most pressing need today (July 2014) is to get another bus! After that the leaking roof and dripping walls will be repaired, then the 3-computer lab will be upgraded, then a generator will be bought (power supply in Karjat is quite iffy). There’s more on the wish list – hiring more and better trained teaching staff, adding the “play” to their ground, and most importantly making education free for the students – so that the fees are never a barrier for families to send their children to school (currently, students pay Rs.230 each, annually, with exemptions given to those who are unable to pay the sum).
The organisation is not leaving everything at the hands of fate; they have started promoting their cause on Facebook and have also come out with a fully functional website. With such a wishlist, it’s wise not to 😉 Here’s hoping that the universe also conspires to support his vision and the dreams of the sixty odd incredibly gifted children at Daffodils.