Meet the force who has educated over 50,000 kids in a revolutionary manner – Shaheen Mistri

Be it with Akanksha Foundation or with Teach for India, Shaheen Mistri has always worked to give underprivileged kids a chance to make it big, through education. Having changed the lives of 30,000 children so far, Mistri now spends Rs.10 crore annually on her mission.

Her privileged background, with an investment banker for a father, had not lulled her into a cosy complacence. Mistri had always cared deeply for children’s rights. Her grandmother’s house, which had few walls that separated rooms, led Mistri to think of the possibilities of open spaces. In 1991, she formally started the Akanksha Foundation with the pioneering idea of using vacant classrooms in big schools, colleges and offices as learning centres for disadvantaged children. But launching and running the TFI programme was not, in any measure, easy.

The main obstacles were raising funds, signing on people to work for the cause, and hiring an equally passionate team. “The registration processes to establish Akanksha was the second challenge. The government was wary of NGO start-ups. There had been many cases of fraud,” says the 44-year-old.

Family friends connected her to Citibank, which chipped in. Soon, more people and funds poured in. Currently, TFI works across seven cities, while Akansha has eight centres and 16 schools in Mumbai and Pune. The foundation, with its massive funding, has a massive team of around 1,100 fellows and 200 staff members, and over a 1,000 alumni. “I remind myself and my team of what is at stake when we fail by spending a few days every month visiting our TFI classrooms across the country,” she says.

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