Online volunteers from across the globe have been developing and teaching daily online classes in various languages to children with visual or hearing disabilities across eight cities in India for Ann Foundation. The U.S.-based NGO is a volunteer organization dedicated to educating and empowering economically and socially marginalized children and youth with disabilities through partnerships with local organizations and agencies in India, Ukraine, Cameroon, Tanzania and Egypt. With the support of hundreds of online volunteers who have collaborated with the organization since its inception thirteen years ago, Ann Foundation has empowered over 2,000 children.
“Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and becoming a self-determining individual, says Ann Moideen, founder and CEO of Ann Foundation. The online volunteers contribute primarily as teachers and curriculum writers in subjects ranging from English as a Second Language to Basic Computer Literacy and Personal Development, but also act as role models and mentors to the children.
"Online volunteers are the backbone of the organization” confirms Swara Narayanan, a Project Coordinator for the Foundation, and their work is instrumental in achieving Ann Foundation’s commitment of improving the quality of education for destitute children and children with disabilities in developing countries. In April 2013, an assessment of one of Ann Foundation’s original projects in India of these online classes was done through a study carried out by a public university’s Department of Lifelong Learning and Extension. The findings show that the majority of the students who participated in these programmes improved their examination scores, with more than two-thirds of the students passing all their classes. In addition, 85 per cent of the students improved their English skills. By keeping the curriculum and teaching methods consistent for all online classes, Ann Foundation expects similar results for other projects.
Pavithra Rajan, an Indian national who works on a child development project at the Institute for Social and Economic Change in India, began as an online English teacher in September 2011 and later was made manager of one of Ann Foundation’s projects. "It is amazing to see how a few hours per week have caused such a drastic change in the lives of these children – they are more confident, more conversant and definitely more empowered!"
Cheryl Stafford, a teacher and disability services professional from the U.S.A., discovered online volunteering in 2011 while recovering from medical treatment herself: “I met many people, from an impoverished student with disabilities striving for independence, to statesmen, business executives, and famous celebrities. So from my lifetime home in a quiet rural corner, my world has grown to include the experiences of volunteers around the globe, the hopes and dreams of countless children and youth in other countries.”
Arundhathi Harikrisha, who is a counselor with ten years’ experience as facilitator and trainer, lives in Saudi Arabia and found in online volunteering an opportunity to make a difference. She visited one of the schools while on leave in her native India, which helped her improve her understanding of the children’s needs and performance. “The bonding with the children is invaluable; I am deeply touched by their aspirations and dreams. I am indeed fortunate to be associated with these children as they represent the meaning of perseverance to me,” she says.
* Ann Foundation has received support from hundreds of dedicated volunteers. Only pictures of those who have been quoted in the blog post have been published below.