Updated: Jan 14
After an indulgent holiday season, it feels good to detox. And I don’t just mean doing Dry January and hitting the gym hard for until Valentine’s Day – but to take a moment to be grateful for what we and our children have, and to think about how we can give back to others.
Inspired by our first event of the year for Modi Joy -- which hosts a workshop each month, with proceeds going to a different children's charity each time -- below are nine nonprofits aimed at directly helping South Asian youth.
While each of these charities takes a different approach, they are almost universally grounded in education—and for good reason. According to UNICEF, about 25 percent of India’s children have no access to education and the numbers are higher among girls.
Children’s Hope India partners with local Indian organizations to improve access to education, as well as medical care, shelter, social services and job training skills, to children and their families. The first project was an orphanage in Mumbai—they’ve since grown to support more than 20 projects across India, as well as the U.S. and the Philippines.
Along with working in health and development, The India Development and Relief Fund programs provide affordable education to students across India and Nepal, focusing on girls and tribal children.
The Women’s Education Project helps prepare young, vulnerable South Asian women for formal employment – to date, more than 1,200 women have graduated from the program and more than 800 have entered their first jobs as pharmacists, lab techs, therapists, teachers, corporate and legal assistants and entrepreneurs.
CRY America is founded upon the principle that the “child rights approach” is the most effective way to make sustainable change -- the organization helps underprivileged children, including homeless children, those bonded in labor and children of commercial sex workers, with education, healthcare and protection from exploitation.
Led by South Asian CEO, Dr. Geetha Murali, and given the stamp of approval by the likes of Michelle Obama, Room to Read focuses on literacy and gender equality in education for low-income communities; the organization works in Africa and Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
In combination with education, health is also a popular cause for these nonprofits—63 million Indians are falling below the poverty line directly due to health spending.
Among its other work, The Desai Foundation helps run health fairs for children, with the goal of providing high-quality healthcare to children residing in remote areas of rural India. The foundation helps run similar health and hygiene camps for women and children, as well, with access to gynecology, eye care and general checkups.
Nepal Youth Foundation works in one of the poorest, most rural countries in the world. It began with a children’s home in 1992 and now supports thousands of children and has saved more than 11,000 girls of desperate, impoverished families from being sold into bonded servitude. The program provides psychosocial services to traumatized children, as well as nutritional camps providing health checkups and education to children and their families.
It’s become well-known thanks to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle choosing it as one of their chosen charities to donate to for their wedding, but Myna Mahila Foundation has been making waves in India for years. The nonprofit is based on educating Indian women about menstruation and other health topics often curtailed by stigma and taboos in Indian society—and the organization helps bring affordable sanitary products directly to women in need.
While education and health are the most championed causes, some nonprofits have found niche causes and are helping to fill gaps in support.
API Chaya works to empower South Asian and Pacific Islander immigrant survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking, often children, to gain safety, connection and wellness.
Slum Soccer uses football (or what Americans call soccer) to foster sustainable development within otherwise marginalized populations of India – children living in poverty. The goal is to provide social improvement and empowerment--coaches serve as mentors and 85 percent of participating children improve their health and “stayed out of trouble.”
Of course, there are countless other non-profit organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, around the world. I hope this list inspires you to learn more and if you're able, to donate. At the very least, support those who are taking small steps in making a difference. How? Attend the next Modi Joy event near you!
Avani Nadkarni is a former journalist who currently works in tech PR and is forever navigating the tricky balance of trying to raise her child in the U.S. while teaching him about his Indian and Sri Lankan roots.