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Dispelling the darkness

An NGO aiming to educate its students to nurture the society and nature around them.



Features

Students from Lunar foundation visiting Mumbai. Credits: James Serrao

Vedika Mane

For someone looking for information on supporting a good cause, the big concern is if the fund would go to the right cause and reach the needy. Guide Star India (GSI) provides comprehensive information on NGOs and has more than 10,000 verified and 1,600 certified NGOs in its portal. The Lunar Foundation is one such extraordinary organization. It was founded by James Serrao and Dinesh Alagar in May 2012 with the idea of enhancing the quality and quantity of education. Today, the foundation is working to provide education to underprivileged children, empowering them towards self-sufficiency.

James Serrao was born in a lower-middle-class family and was raised by his mother single-handedly by working at a garment factory. His maternal grandmother was a huge support as she also helped them financially. His mother struggled to help him complete his education. He was such a diligent and bright student that he started giving tuitions at the young age of 10 and did odd jobs to support himself. “Growing up, I felt passionate about education but also realized the bitter truth and the gap between the privileged and underprivileged. I observed that there are so many destitute children who are not able to get proper education owing to financial instability,” said Serrao.

“Initially, I started teaching underprivileged children around me at home. Eventually, a few of my students and their friends formed a small group and took up initiatives such as donating stationery to orphanages and needy children from the municipal schools and conducting activities for them. Gradually, people around us started supporting our cause as they appreciated our transparency and intention. They encouraged us to register our group as a charitable trust. On July 2, 2015, the Lunar foundation was finally registered as an NGO. After becoming an NGO we worked even harder and initiated constructive and fruitful activities.”, he adds.

The vision of the Lunar foundation is to nurture students to grow into excellent human beings who are self-sufficient and yet mindful of others. They want to educate their students to nurture the society and nature around them.

James Serrao reading to the children at night at the foundation. Credits: James Serrao

As the organization grew, they adopted a few Municipal schools and started visiting them regularly. “We began our journey by teaching spoken English, confidence development, analytical skills, team building, and leadership through various activities. In this process, we realized that most of the children didn’t have access to the digital world. So I purchased a second-hand computer and started teaching computer basics to a few children. Soon some of our well-wishers donated their old computers and we started our very own first makeshift office,” said Serrao, who is also a teacher at Fatima High School, Badlapur.

In June 2016, they started a project, ‘SCHOOL CHALE HUM’ (Let’s go to school) during which they adopted dropouts. This project, which started with just one student, has 30 students today from Badlapur, Ambernath, and Ulhasnagar. As the number of students increased, the foundation required a larger space to accommodate them. So, on October 15, 2020, the birth anniversary of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, they inaugurated their latest centre with 50 students studying under them.

The foundation doesn’t have any regular volunteers and the activities and projects are conducted with the help of students and ex-students of the Lunar activity centre. Lunar has a small yet dedicated group of donors who donate regularly.

Little ones engaged in an activity with Mr Serrao. Credits: James Serrao

The foundation also educates its students about the environment and the need to preserve our ecosystem. They have conducted several projects such as collecting empty tetrapack cartons from people on the streets, washing and drying them and sending them for recycling. They also began composting at the centre and in the last two months have redirected more than 120 kilograms of kitchen waste from the dustbins to their composter. They’ve been conducting lake clean-up drives regularly to conserve biodiversity. The organization didn’t stop during the lockdown and supported 800 needy families with ration kits.

“One of the greatest moments is when our Lunar kids come back and donate to the foundation from their little earnings. This is the moment that makes us emotional and proud at the same time”, adds Mr James.

Lunar Foundation is at Rijo House, Behind Hanuman Mandir, Vandrapada, Ambernath, Maharashtra 421505. James Serrao: 98907 34922


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