Yogi Patel: Crusader for India's Children

Raised in poverty by an illiterate father, Yogi Patel was nevertheless encouraged to pursue an education and his dream to move to America. The Gujarat native succeeded, graduating from Oklahoma State University and building a career in chemical engineering and the oil industry.

At age 50, Yogi retired to return to his roots and pursue more meaningful work: to help the impoverished in India. When he discovered Pratham, an organization that focuses on education as a way out of poverty, Yogi felt a connection and began donating his funds and time.

“What do you do with a 14-year-old uneducated girl?” says Yogi when asked about India’s large population and high illiteracy rates. “You marry her off, and then come children. They come too early, they come too frequently, and then they come too many. An illiterate girl has no say as to when she will marry, when she will get pregnant and how many times, and that leads to population explosion… The illiterate are breeding illiterate.”

A past president of Pratham USA and current board member of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter, Yogi spends about 40 weekends each year fundraising across the US, whether that means speaking at large events or inviting folks to his place for coffee. In 2013, he raised close to $30,000 for Pratham USA as part of the Skoll Foundation’s Social Entrepreneur Challenge.

Yogi is proud of his work with Pratham, citing the nonprofit’s literacy programs as effective, low-cost models that are easily scaled. “In most Pratham centers, you won’t find a building, furniture, walls, playground, but you will find 20 children who are eager to learn and one caring soul who lives in that community who is willing to teach,” remarks Yogi. “This is our model, and because of the simplicity of the model, our cost is very, very low.”

The 70-year old pledges to continue working for India’s children as long as possible. “They have dreams, they have hopes, they have aspirations. All they are asking us for is an opportunity for an education that you had and I had—and they can have—if we can take action.”

Like Yogi, you too can take action to help India’s poor. Learn more.

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