Changing Lives with Pratham: A conversation with Darel D'Souza
We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Darel D’Souza, a passionate and long-time supporter of Pratham USA, to delve into his incredible journey of involvement and the deep personal impact Pratham has had on his life.
For nearly two decades, Darel has remained steadfast in his dedication to Pratham, playing an integral part in their mission to provide quality education to children and young people in India. From his early days as a volunteer at the University of Houston’s Pratham chapter to his current role as the Head of Pratham Houston Gala Volunteers, Darel has witnessed firsthand the life-changing outcomes brought about by Pratham’s work. In this candid interview, he shares his personal experiences, special moments, and hopes for the future, offering insight into the transformative power of supporting Pratham.
How did you first get involved with Pratham USA?
At the University of Houston! I was volunteering at the International Students orientation fair where I was helping new students to get acquainted with the University. Pratham@UH had recently started that semester and had an information booth at the fair. Deepti Vyas had introduced me to Pratham and invited me to their first meeting. The campus group was comprised of three members at the time but it grew to be one of the most popular and impactful organizations on campus over the years. I had the opportunity and honor to also attend Pratham@UH’s 10 year anniversary to witness all the accomplishments.
How long have you been a Pratham supporter?
I have been supporting Pratham since 2004. My team of volunteers have delivered and taken part in an array of supporter events over the years including: Art2Educate, Story writing workshops, Pratham Blackboard, Badminton Competitions, Bake Sales and annual Pratham Young Professional Karaoke Fundraisers.
For the past ten years, four to six Pratham supported Mysore schools have been sponsored financially – we also exchange handmade Diwali cards and do video chats.
Last June, I also started the English Story Reading program where volunteers in the United States connect with students in the Mysore schools via Zoom and read virtually. This has helped the students to not only improve their reading but also gain confidence in speaking English.
Can you share a personal Pratham highlight?
My first visit to a Pratham Balwadi in Mumbai. I was met by a Pratham coordinator who escorted me through the Dharavi slum to a small shack belonging to an ‘istri walla’ (someone who irons clothes). Every morning he opened up his home/work for the kids in Dharavi to be schooled by Pratham teachers. At 8:00 a.m. sharp, excited pre-school kids rushed in and sat on the floor eager to learn. Some didn’t even have a shirt on their back but their eyes lit up every time a question was asked.
Every time I volunteer for Pratham, I am reminded of this highlight and how my efforts will continue to give those kids a chance of a brighter future.
What is your message to those considering supporting Pratham?
Access to quality education is a powerful human right that I believe every child should have access to. By supporting Pratham, you make a direct impact! Every time I meet or hear about a Pratham student or success story, I know that I have played some role in making that happen.
Through Pratham, I have been blessed to meet like-minded and selfless volunteers – these are people I am proud to call my family. I hope through your support you get to experience that as well. It is profound.
Can you describe Pratham in three words?
Effective, Impactful, Community
What do you still hope to achieve through supporting Pratham?
To one day meet the goal of ‘Every Child in School and Learning well’.