Making Volunteering a Way of Life: Anubha Sharma

Written By

Nandita Ghosh

Anubha Sharma Loading

SiyaWoman dedicates this month to a lady of strength and character, who left her flourishing career in Finance to pursue her true calling – that of helping the underprivileged kids of our society to get a good education and become responsible citizens of the world. SiyaWoman dedicates this month to Anubha Sharma, the founder of AngelXpress Foundation in Mumbai.

Anubha, born in Ghaziabad, spent the first 33 years of her life in Kolkata, amidst the air of cultural richness. She has two siblings and as she says, she had a remarkably unremarkable childhood, living in Kolkata, where parents left the kids to explore and entertain themselves.

She is a bookworm and likes reading about the people who chose to make a difference in the life of others.

One such story that left a lasting impression on her was a story of a French man in Kolkata, who adopted 5 street children and ensured that they got all the opportunities to grow like other children. This was a real life superhero for Anubha.

Anubha exemplifies the saying “ Winners never quit”. She started her career as a research assistant accidentally. She started with a salary of 1000 rupees a month. Her job actually was in the era of no Internet, or computer, to file newspaper snippets, putting them in labelled envelopes and storing them. She wanted to quit within the first 3 days of joining.

But the strong-willed Anubha decided to stay put and explore all possibilities that the job had to offer. This resilience paid off and she was cherry picked by the new CEO for a job in sales, marketing and setting up new business from scratch. She never looked back. She moved on to join Kotak Mahindra in Kolkata and within the first 10 years, she was on the list of the employees with the highest income.

Like Robin Sharma of the ‘Monk who sold his Ferrari’, after 18-19 years of this successful career, Anubha started to soul search for her true calling. Though she liked setting up businesses, she yearned for more, yearned to help more people than herself. Probably, it was divine interference again that made her take a sabbatical to heal an injured back and catch up on her life. After 20 long years, she took a year-long sabbatical. She wanted to feel like a woman again, having fought tirelessly in a male-dominated world of Finance and Marketing to remain on the top.

She spent her time catching up with friends, watching movies during day time and reading voraciously. She also got to spend more time with her spiritual guru and Reiki Grand Master Prasad Karmarkar. She had no idea, what she wanted to do with her life next and was considering plunging into existing opportunities in her field of Finance and Marketing.

During this time, on one of her usual morning walks, she was impressed to see a group of children being taught by elders from the nearby vicinity. She went one day with breakfast for everyone. That’s when they urged her to teach as well.

She started spending a few hours a week, teaching these kids and that’s when she realised the wide gap in their knowledge and that they needed help.

One of these cold winter mornings, a child asked her if he could sit in the middle of the group, as he was cold. This made her post on Facebook, asking for warm clothes for a certain age group. Within ten days, she had 3000 people contacting her with various offers to help.

This made her realize the power of people providing a channel to people who are eager to help. Having worked as a sales person all her life and building businesses, Anubha knew that her strength was connecting people – those who wanted to help and the children who needed help. With a strong push from Mr. Prasad Karmakar, she plunged into setting up AngelXpress Foundation (AXF) in 2012, with Beenaa Advani, who incidentally was one of the 3000 people who had extended support as a response to her Facebook post.

That’s how AngelXpress Foundation was formed and since then it has been going strong. Today, 1000+ school goers from slums receive between 250 – 300 hours of lessons in English, Math and values. While thousands have supported this venture over the years, even today as many as 300 socially conscious volunteers (largely stay at home mums and retired senior citizens) get the opportunity to give back meaningfully.

AngelExpress Foundation (AXF) is supported by BMC gardens. Lessons are held in 10 locations in Mumbai , all shaded gardens. Apart from lessons, overall development is ensured through life lessons, trips, picnics and talent development through certain extra curricular activities. Regular distribution drives for clothes, books, toys and shoes are conducted. During the lessons, healthy snacks are given to the children.

The main innovation that Anubha brought through AXF is re-distributing the resources available in the neighbourhood. Well-meaning individuals – elderly people, stay-at-home moms, students and others, who could afford to spend few hours a week in teaching the children happily participated in bridging the gap AXP had in terms of the student – teacher ratio.

AXP also provides free consultation to schools, corporates and communities that would like to adopt this model. Anubha hopes to make this format a part of the lifestyle of all urban communities.

When asked what her biggest learning was, Anubha says, “Take it easy and don’t be hard on people. Considering the aggressive targets we chase in our corporate careers, this learning makes so much sense. We do not need to whip ourselves as well as others all the time.”

Anubha believes that there is a long way to go for AXF. She would like to have millions of children to get this opportunity to develop themselves and have a better future. Her dream is “One day volunteering will be a lifestyle choice for every household in Mumbai.”

Anubha’s message for us is, “ Everyone owes it to their selves to becoming bigger than self. Being an armchair critic of everything that is wrong in the world will help no one. Everyone should make a contribution to correct the wrong and the best place is to start with your neighbourhood.”

We @Siyawoman congratulate Anubha and everyone who is part of AXF and wish they achieve greater heights by touching more children, not only in Mumbai but all across India and beyond.

If you would like to contribute to AngelXpress Foundation, adopt their model for your community or school, or would like to volunteer in anyway, please feel free to contact at info@angelxpress.org

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nandita Ghosh works as a Software Engineer and is the proud mother of a young, talented daughter. She currently lives in Germany. Her passions include writing, painting and travelling. She loves to write poems as well as prose about the small joys of day-to-day life. If interested, please follow her on: https://nuancesofthemind.wordpress.com/

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