by Deepa Garimella

Easing rural kids into education

Children have a pureness that no religion or economic status can tarnish. This is something I encountered at close quarters in my whirlwind tour of ASSIST’s projects. In the Transitional Educational Centres that I visited, the innocence of the kids was heart-warming, while at the same time driving home the sad realities of a childhood spent in rural poverty.

A Little Background

The following kinds of kids usually miss out on a formal education:

Tribal children: In communities that have a migrant, nomadic lifestyle, the kids have no anchor rooting them to a spot. Sending their kids to school isn’t a top priority for many such parents.

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How it all began

A Belgian Jesuit started it all. But not in the way you think.


Mr. Jashti Ranga Rao, one of ASSIST’s founders (now Operational Director), hails from the town Vetapalem in Prakasam district. Long before ASSIST was born, he was hired as a typist in VRO, an NGO founded in 1971 by a Belgian Jesuit Michael Windey.

It was only for a day that he worked as a typist, though. He was immediately moved to accounting, and he worked in this department from 1972, also moving on to take care of VRO’s projects in Tamil Nadu. In 1977, he came back to Andhra Pradesh, to work as the financial controller and project officer.

When a team of VRO volunteers wondered why Indian NGOs could not do what Europeans were doing in India, ASSIST slowly took shape.


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Volunteering Opportunities

If you can live in the rural heartlands of Andhra for a few months, ASSIST gives you lots of opportunities to volunteer. The accommodation provided is quite comfortable (it may not be luxurious, but you will be well taken care of), and the experiences as rich as you want them to be. You could teach at an ASSIST school, or help conduct a field study.

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