As the biggest cycling race in Asia, the Hero MTB Himalaya gets set to begin next week in Shimla, organizer HASTPA’s social outreach program, ‘Mission SMILE’, will use the opportunity along with sponsor, Hero, in collaboration with e-Shishya, to extend mentorship by professionals from around the world to thousands of bright students in more than 100 villages covering 50 government schools in 9 days.
The team will distribute more than 15,000 notebooks and hold lessons on environmental and health topics. Hero MTB Himalaya volunteers from South Africa, Portugal and the USA and professional mentors from online education platform, e-Shishya, will travel from school to school, interacting with children and teachers over the course of 8 days (starting from 27th September, 2018) as a part of Mission SMILE.
By government estimates, every fifth person in India lives below the poverty line. Overall illiteracy in India is close to 26% while for females, the rate is close to 35% as per Census 2011. A recent ASSOCHAM-Deloitte report found 950 million Indians were digitally illiterate. India’s digital revolution is still localized in Tier I and Tier II cities, internet penetration in rural areas is a meager 17%. In the 6, 50,000 villages in India, most citizens struggle for a basic education. Remote and overlooked parts of India have been left behind as new technologies continue to emerge and their population is increasing.
“To help governments meet this challenge, HASTPA and e-Shishyawill supplement the Union’s National Digital Literacy Mission by bringing the power of the online world to school children in Himachal Pradesh and ensure that they are not left behind in a rapidly changing world. Through simple phone and video calls, our partnership will bridge the gap between talented professionals and deserving children from low economic backgrounds”, says Pankaj M Munjal, Chairman HMC, a hero motors company.
Last year, too, HASTPA reached out to 5000 students in 35 government schools and 22 villages in merely 8 days. The outreach program also helped build libraries across several schools in the state. The Hero MTB Himalaya has been commended for immersing participants to local food, folklore and culture and thus acts as a platform to harness the power of cycling for the greater good. In 2017, MTB riders engaged with orphans in Africa, helped fight Leukemia in Spain and cycled together against animal abuse.
“When we were told about the social outreach program – Mission Smile and the impact it has made in Himachal Pradesh remote areas, our team was inspired to contribute to the cause. We hope to connect bright young minds with mentors from all across the world. This long lasting relationship would indeed be an enriching experience. We hope that this high-adventure environment resonates with the same energy in both children and mentors”, says Mohit Sood, President of the Himalayan Adventure Sports and Tourism Promotion Association (HASTPA).
Unlike its previous initiatives which lasted for a few hours, HASTPA’s reformed program will allow it to have an ongoing and more sustainable association with the schools year after year. The mentoring program will be focused on making children ready with 21st century skills, covering topics like Geo-Literacy, Environment and Health, Science, Information Technology etc. Mentors come from reputed academic institutions such as the IIMs, IITs, LSE, Ashoka University and organizations such as Moody’s, McKinsey, Flipkart, National Human Rights Commission, Teach for India, among others.