By Manu Shah
Rajeev Aluru inherited more than an analytical and goal-oriented mindset from his father. Growing up, he silently observed and absorbed his father’s philanthropic zeal from helping countless families to overseeing the construction of the town’s well-known Balaji temple. Similarly driven, Rajeev is leading Ekal Vidyalaya’s educational initiatives as its Houston chapter president. As he shares his plans for the nonprofit’s future direction, Ekal’s youngest president is clearly energized about his new role which he describes as “a divine opportunity that knocked on my door.”
A relatively new Houstonian (he moved from North Carolina in 2020), Rajeev, 41, outlined his vision for Ekal with the leadership in Houston. He found them highly receptive and with their “invaluable guidance and his new team’s backing,” he is more than ready to put his plans into action.
Rajeev’s journey with Ekal began in 2014 in North Carolina when he accepted an invitation to a fundraiser dinner from a colleague Ramesh Kalagnaman. Three things struck Rajeev that evening: the organization’s transparency, the magnitude of impact and the effectiveness with which the funds were used. The event spurred his resolve to open the doors to opportunities that he had been fortunate to receive from “God and his parents.”
Rajeev became an active volunteer and developed a keen understanding of the foundational impact Ekal was making in rural India’s education. Today the Ekal movement, started in 1989 with one village and one school, has the distinction of overseeing over one lakh schools offering free schooling, vocational training, digital competence, agricultural education and much more.
Underscoring the importance of education coupled with opportunity, Rajeev draws attention to the fact that 40% of the schools are self-sustainable in five years, a reflection of Ekal’s effectiveness. Simultaneously, Ekal is also tackling systemic issues such as corruption and female literacy at the grassroots level. In an Ekal village, for instance, villagers held local politicians accountable for the money spent on the village development. Equally heartwarming is the 50% ratio of girl students in schools which will empower villages to be “economically stable and future strong.” The Integrated Village Development and Gramothan Resource Center programs, he emphasizes, serve up to 30 villages.
As we face a post covid world, Rajeev realizes the need to rewrite Ekal’s outreach strategies. His team is drafting a model to facilitate entrepreneurship, jobs, avenues to profits, and an approach that will empower villages to a point where “they don’t need us anymore.” He intends to create a program to encourage donors to visit Ekal schools in India to witness firsthand how their contributions are benefiting millions of underprivileged children. While pointing out that Ekal is “winning on its own,” he adds that it could become more impactful by collaborating with organizations that align with Ekal’s mission and values. The organization will also leverage digital marketing to augment Ekal’s presence beyond the traditional fundraising events. The new president has an ambitious one-million-dollar benchmark for this year’s fundraising.