She quit Google to ensure underprivileged children dream bigger and better: Meet Gloria Benny

For children living in a shelter home within the gates of Providence Convent in Bengaluru, Gloria Benny is the beacon of hope for a better tomorrow. She has built two organisations, ‘Make A Difference’ and ‘Guardians of Dreams’, for underprivileged children living in shelter homes. She wants them to dream of an ambitious life by providing them education, infrastructure and psycho-social care.

Hailing from Kochi and raised partly in Saudi Arabia, Benny was 19 when she visited her first shelter home. “It showed me a part of the society that I didn’t know existed,” she says. She began volunteering and soon realised that the way those children looked at themselves was different from their more affluent counterparts, and what they aspired for was much lower than what a child ought to have been.

Along with Benny, Jithin Nedumala, Sujith Varkey, Kavin KK, Santosh Warrier and Jithin John Varghese, were instrumental in founding Make A Difference (MAD). The organisation was primarily powered by college-going volunteers who spent time teaching the kids after their classes, but unfortunately, not everyone took a team of 19 and 20-year-olds seriously and they were often ridiculed as a “bunch of idealist youngsters whose craze will fizzle out after a while.” But their perseverance paid off and gradually, the size and complexity of operations drove the need for a full-time workforce.

Volunteers who could spend anywhere from two to ten hours a week and commit at least one year of their time can be a part of MAD. So far, MAD has reached out to around 5,000 children in 77 shelter homes, across 23 cities in India. 

After having worked for almost a decade in this sector, Benny realised that even if teaching was a crucial component for the children, bigger systemic challenges were crippling the way shelter homes ran. She wanted to understand the way shelter homes operate and the way policies are framed around it and address the issue at the ground level, so, in 2015, Benny started Guardians of Dreams, her second stride in social entrepreneurship, to look at childcare as a whole. Today, MAD is India’s first NGO to run purely on a scalable volunteer model.

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