Sudha Kidao didn’t want to wait until retirement to contribute to society

Though it has been around for over 18 years in India, Sudha Kidao, Managing Trustee of the Foundation for Excellence India Trust (FFEIT) believes that the foundation is the best kept secret in India.

The FFEIT is an NGO, which provides metric-cum-means scholarships for those who come from economically weaker backgrounds to study professional courses like engineering and medicine through donations. The trust works closely with its US counterpart the Foundation for Excllence (FFE), which was founded by Prabhu and Poonam Goel.

As a managing trustee, Sudha holds quite a few responsibilities. “I make policy decisions, I come up with strategies for scaling the organisation and I look for ways in which the foundation can enrich the student’s life beyond the scholarship. For instance I think of how we can partner with corporates to have them provide soft skill training or internships for the students.”

With a PhD in Immunology, Sudha was working on clinical trials of the HIV vaccine in the U.S.A when she was first introduced to the foundation in 2005 by her husband’s friend.

“I went for a fund-raiser and I thought their work had a high-impact. So I started getting involved in their fund-raising activities.”

She moved to Bangalore in 2007 and worked in the India Management Committee before she was appointed the Managing Trustee in 2010 as a full time volunteer.

“I hope I can show that India is as viable an option to raise funds as America because there are millions willing to give. I felt that it was time to do something meaningful. For me there was no justification to wait until retirement, that this was as good a time as any to start, especially since my husband supported my decision.”

Sudha initially found it demanding since she didn’t have a network in India, having lived abroad for over 20 years.

The organisation has grown to support over 12,000 students in 25 states since its inception in India in 2003 and now poses new challenges for Sudha.

“It is a challenge to scale effectively and to ensure that only the truly needy receive the scholarships. Communicating with the students is another challenge when they suddenly change their phone numbers or addresses. We want to build a vibrant community so it is important that the foundation is able to stay in touch with them,” explains Sudha. “We are also trying to ensure that no state is underrepresented by reaching out to student communities in states like Jharkhand and Chattisgarh and the North East where we currently do not have good representation.”

The foundation conducts a few events every year to bring together everybody who is involved with the NGO: volunteers, donors, students, alumni and eminent personalities. It is in these events the scholarship cheques are distributed to students.

“My vision is to reach out and convey to the alumni that they have earned the scholarship and that they should wear it as a badge of honour. At the same time, I would like them to feel a sense of responsibility for the community by giving back to the community. If every student takes this message of giving throughout their lives, I would feel we have achieved something.”