By Jnanesh Kumar, Director-Employee Success, India
On 8th Oct 2014, amid heavy rains, a team of six employees from Salesforce India took a late night train to a place called Karkihalli in Northern Karnataka.
Karkihalli is a village in Karnataka state, India – around 400kms north of Bangalore with a population of roughly 3,000, most of who are working in agriculture. The purpose of the visit was to build, paint, donate books and inaugurate a library for the inhabitants.
After 10 hours on an overnight train and an hour in a bumpy van, we reached this beautiful village based on the banks of river Tungabhadra. One of our team, Venkat Kosuri even challenged himself with a 10 hour motorbike ride all the way from Hyderabad. We were all was anxious about accomplishing our tasks within the three days but at the same time, we were really excited to get started.
On arrival at Karkihalli, we were given a traditional welcome by the villagers and then equipped with paint and brushes for the next two days work. The ‘artistic talent’ within us was going to be put to test!
Our partner on this journey was TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), a research institute based in New Delhi, India focused in the fields of energy, environment and sustainable development. TERI helped us identify this village, evaluate their need for a library and coordinated the execution plan for the project, while Salesforce provided financial support for this two-room building.
During our stay we also completed a JATHA or ‘walking mission’ to the nearby villages to create awareness of the library.
On day three we had the Library inauguration which was held within the campus of the newly constructed library. The representatives from all the villages were called on stage along with the volunteers from Salesforce and TERI. Children performed cultural programs and some of the key members were felicitated as part of this event.
For people in Karhalli and other villages in India, life is quite different than what the urban population is exposed to. Some of the common problems faced are overpopulation, illiteracy, unemployment and drought. Further, there are social problems like child marriage, caste system (discrimination based on community affiliation and hierarchy in the society) and dowry system (when a girl’s family has to hand over gifts, in cash or kind to the boy’s side during marriage.
There are also new emerging problems, some related to the environment like water pollution, de-forestation, land encroachment by builders and land mafia, political affiliation and related conflicts, lack of infrastructure or development. Gender issues are also rife.
There is lot to be done but we’re already seeing a good beginning with employees keen to provide their time, efforts and resources to help support these causes. The opportune moment to start getting involved and give back to society is now! We may not win immediately, but definitely we will win.
The unique philanthropic model of Salesforce is based on the fact that there is no greater joy than giving. We are not just donors who choose to give away more than we need to. We are accountable for this role as much as we are for creating new technologies and new business models. Many have the right intent but no visible action to pursue this passion. Needless to remind, as a team, the power and resources we can contribute and resulting impact around us.
I plan to donate my champion grant (which I will be eligible for, when I complete my 6 volunteering days for the year) to an NGO which deals with the education underprivileged girls. Each one of us can make a difference and leave this place better than we found it. I urge those not based in India, wanting to participate and contribute in Salesforce.org activities, India can offer you a fulfilling experience…please come, see, contribute and reward yourself with an experience of a lifetime.