Have you ever thought that it is possible to provide the same level of education in remote villages as provided in big cities like Mumbai and Delhi? Is it possible for tribal children to get the same opportunities in sports as the city children? Well, someone thought and today that school has over 200+ students from surrounding villages and all those students are given proper education, encouragement to pursue sports, and wholesome meals. This is the story of Mrida, an organization with a mission to provide children from the most backward regions, access to quality education, sports opportunities, job opportunities, and much more.
Priya Nadkarni, the founder of Mrida, before starting her own venture, was working for a larger non-profit organization that works in coordination with the government to introduce various programs to train women and youth in Madhya Pradesh. During her work there, she noticed that many youngsters used to return to villages even after finding work in cities. She realized that work was needed with the children to bring about a meaningful transformation in the region. Priya, along with her partner Digvijay quit their jobs and started their venture.
The First Destination
Before deciding to set up the school, Priya and Digvijay conducted summer camps in Mandla and visited schools in Bangalore. But why did they choose Mandla? Mandla, which is situated in Madhya Pradesh is one of the most backward districts in the country. With most of the population consisting of a tribal community and children lacking quality education, Mrida’s primary focus was education, but it didn’t stop at that. They also decided to prioritize the region’s overall needs, encourage life skills through sports, set up a functional residential school, and provide nutritious food.
With a single facility to start with, consisting of 90 students, Riverside Natural School was started in 2016 with the mission of providing quality education to the children along with proper nutrition and co-curricular activities. Today, the school has 260 students with more than 200 students waiting to be enrolled. Of these, 120 live in the hostel full-time. While the reputation of the school progressed faster, there were many challenges too. The school’s attendance used to drop during monsoons as the roads used to get blocked and government buses are not available in MP. Many times, the students used to come hungry to school as their families didn't have enough food to feed them. But Mrida overcame those challenges by providing them with proper meals and residential school facilities.
Commenting on Riverside Natural School becoming a residential school, Priya said:
“It was not just essential for us to render comprehensive mentoring and tutoring, but such a support system was essential as most children lacked a conducive learning environment at home. Also, as our school started gaining traction with the community, more children started coming from very far away locations. Having transport arranged to facilitate the commute will not effectively address the deeper issues involved in sending the children back to their homes that are laden with poverty and had no one to help them with their studies.”
Since the school’s opening six years ago, the children have not only received quality education but also excelled in sports. Earlier this year in February, Mrida and Simply Sport Foundation, initiated our first contact and discussed how we can provide them with sports learning and support. With our mission being to support grassroots-level athletes and provide proper training, nutrition, and knowledge, Mrida was ranked high in our potential list of partners. After having a proper discussion with them, we decided to visit Mandla (Madhya Pradesh), where Mrida has their residential school, for the first time later that month. We got to know a lot about the school and its students and how respectful they were to every opportunity given to them. After our visit and frequent planning and contact, we started our first program with Mrida in July this year.
We started our first program, the Sports Science Program for the football team of Mrida consisting of 20 girls who were selected for the 61st Subroto Cup Tournament, scheduled to happen in mid-September in Delhi. By implementing our program, we aim to educate the girls about nutrition and mental fitness and help them get ready mentally too for this big tournament. As of now, we have conducted one nutrition session and two mental health sessions.
Today, Mrida has touched and impacted so many children’s lives. Many parents from surrounding villages are willing to enroll their children in Riverside Natural School because of its mission to provide education to the backward regions, provide them with proper meals, and encourage sports which has led the girls to get selected for the Subroto Cup.
We wish the Mrida girls all the best for this big tournament and we hope to continuously provide them with our best.
About Mrida Foundation
Mrida Education and Welfare Society was established in April 2016 with a residential school to make a lasting impact in the lives of children from tribal families in Mandla. Madhya Pradesh, India. It works to bring a fundamental change in learning through Education, Sports. Skill Development and Agriculture and also work on reskilling the youths for their future career prospect. Mrida is on a mission to build and scale impactful education, nutrition, and livelihood practices for school-going children in tribal belts and demonstrate an environment of love and care for the child.
About Simply Sport
Simply Sport is a sports policy research & development organization based in India. Simply Sport’s vision is to promote sports as an effective tool for the development of the nation. It focuses on policy research, grassroots development, and the use of technology in sports. To subscribe to Simply Sports Newsletters, Research & Articles, please write to email@example.com. You can follow Simply Sport on the Twitter handle @_SimplySport for more sports-related content.