Coimbatore-born Srini Swaminathan is using endurance sports to educate children in Rajasthan
Five full marathons, five half marathons and 1,000 km on a cycle later Coimbatore-born marathoner and educator Srini Swaminathan is close to reaching 50 percent of his target amount for his 2017 fundraising campaign to educate children from six-night schools in Rajasthan. And it isn’t so hard to see what drives this Electrical and Electronics engineer from BITS Pilani who grew up in a disadvantaged family in the city. “My father passed away when I was seven. My brother and I were raised by our single mother who was a school drop out. And through our growing up years she always stressed the importance of finishing our education and helping others once we were stable.” This sentiment gathers even greater credence in light of the fact that the 38-year-old gave up his job as an engineer in Australia and later New Zealand in 2009 to come back home to pursue a position in the social sector, including setting up the Chennai-chapter of Teach For India.
Excerpts from the interview:
Financial help is usually the preferred medium of supporting the underprivileged. What convinced you to take up a full-time job in the social sector?
Monetary support, despite the fact that it is a very powerful tool, is a band-aid approach. Education is only one aspect of creating change because it takes a society to raise a child. I wanted to understand the various facets that contributed to poverty alleviation and upliftment. Up until 2009, I would help by making donations and volunteering whenever possible. I was part of a volunteer group during the Tsunami as well. But, the more I volunteered I realised I wanted to do something about the situation. So, in 2009 I joined the Teach For India Fellowship, where I was a full-time teacher in Dharavi, Mumbai for two years.
How did you get started with running and cycling to raise funds?
I wanted to raise funds for my own classroom in the Dharavi Municipal School. I had always enjoyed running and running for a cause was just taking off in India then. I clubbed the two and ran the Mumbai Marathon in 2010.
Tell us about this funding initiative that you are leading for Barefoot College
Since 2014, I have been working on several projects and Barefoot College is one of them. Barefoot College supports various night schools for children who do not get a formal education. I started out with them by taking part in initiatives of education and training teachers in technology integration. These night schools are set up with solar infrastructure by Barefoot College which also pays teachers their salaries. Every year I dedicate myself to one campaign and this year it has been crowdfunding for six-night schools in Rajasthan. I committed to running five full marathons, five half marathons and 2,000 km of cycling to raise the funds through Milaap with the entire proceeds going towards the cause.
Training is an integral part of running marathons and cycling events. What is your regimen like?
It’s now just a part of my lifestyle. I’m always outdoors and training whether or not I'm participating in fundraising campaigns. Unless I regularly run, walk and cycle it is pretty difficult to be part of endurance sports like marathons or long distance cycling.
Campaign on Milaap ends April 30.