Thomas Thekkethala Family’s Journey with the Sneha Programs
Thomas Thekkethala is an Indian-American entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist who has worked for over twenty-five years financing, building and leading global technology companies in India, Europe and the US (www.thomasthekkethala.com)
In December 2011, Thomas, his wife Lisa and his son Matthew, traveled to India and visited the Sneha Care Home and Shining Star School in rural Bangalore where his sister-in-law was a volunteer and teacher. They were so impressed by the confidence and enthusiasm of these young, vulnerable and orphaned HIV+ children, that they decided to be a sponsor the Sneha programs. Thomas found the children to be far more confident than kids of their age group in regular government or private schools in Karnataka – a real testament to the teachers and volunteers who gave the children so much personal attention every day.
Matthew and Thomas Thekkethala founded and the family funded Learn for Life Foundation (LFL) www.learnforlifefoundation.org to help the Sneha kids and disadvantaged youth like them around the world achieve their fullest potential. They also raised awareness through local events, corporations and a network of family and friends in the US. LFL quickly became one of largest financial supporters of the Sneha program.
Matthew Thekkethala returned to the Sneha Care Home to volunteer and teach at the school which was a very rewarding and inspiring experience. We realized our family’s efforts were indeed making a real difference in these children’s lives. We arranged for the sponsorship of these children through our network and encouraged visitors and volunteers to come and work at Sneha Care Home.
In the summer of 2013, we returned to the Sneha Care Home to produce a documentary film to raise awareness about the entire Sneha project which now included Snehagram, our second phase for the adolescent students, in rural Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu. Matthew continued to teach English, Math, and History classes.
2014 was a breakthrough year for LFL and Snehagram. We completed the building of the TV Vareed Learn for Life Center for online education at Snehagram in memory of Thomas Thekkethala’s father, who was passionate about children’s education. LFL returned in the summer to help launch the center which is powered by solar panels. LFLwas able to source used laptops donated by various Indian corporations for the students who could access NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) course material and prepare for the examinations at their own pace.
Matthew Thekkethala spent three weeks orienting the staff and students with the laptops, NIOS course material and the new hybrid educational model where students could learn at their own pace and teachers could serve as mentors during the regular classroom hours.
In April 2015, 12 Snehagram students completed their 10th Grade equivalency requirements under the Government of India’s NIOS program, one of the first successful results of its kind for children with HIV in India. Matthew returned in the summer and continued to teach, mentor and guide students in their preparation for vocational training and eventual re-integration back into their communities as leaders.
Over the past two years, 45 students have completed the secondary and senior secondary certifications administered by the Government of India, which is a first for any program of its kind in India.
Snehagram’s holistic and online education approach could become a model for educating vulnerable and disadvantaged children both in India and around the world. Learn for Life Foundation intends to continue raising awareness and expanding our financial support of the Snehagram program and model
For more: https://learnforlifefoundation.org