Karthee Vidya who is nicknamed as ‘Volunteer Man of India’ is the Founder & CEO of Team Everest, a nonprofit organization working tirelessly to promote Volunteering in India.
Karthee grew up in a small town called Arni in Tamil Nadu. Throughout his school years, he was friends with kids who had a tough time even affording a notebook that cost just Rs 25. But things changed in high school. Karthee did well in his exams, and his mom, wanting the best for him, borrowed money to send him to a top private school in Chennai for his 12th grade.
At the new school, Karthee quickly realized his classmates were from well-off families, a world away from his old friends in Arni. The quality of education he got in Chennai is also 100 times better than what he got in his village.
This hit Karthee hard. He couldn’t shake the thought: “Why should good education be a privilege? Why can’t every kid, rich or poor, get the same quality of education?” This question didn’t just bother him, it drove him. He told himself, “One day, I’m going to do something about this.”
And he did. Karthee after completing engineering, started ‘Team Everest’ in 2006 when he donated part of his first month salary to educate children in rural areas.
Founded in 2006, Team Everest’s vision is to inspire everyone to volunteer. In 17 years, Karthee, via Team Everest, has inspired One Lakh+ individuals to volunteer. Team Everest’s dream is a world brimming with volunteers, where volunteering becomes a habit, a day-to-day lifestyle of people. Karthee says, “We want to build a world where volunteering is also a casual coffee table discussion!”
Team Everest’s USPs:
- Dual Focus:Not just beneficiaries, Karthee and his Team Everest, focus on giving an enriching experience to volunteers as well.
- Age-Inclusive:Anyone aged three to 95 can volunteer in their programs, making volunteering accessible to all age groups.
- Diverse Opportunities:They offer 75 different types of volunteering opportunities, both virtual and in-person.
- Employee Volunteering Program:They offer end-to-end program management for corporate employee volunteering, fulfilling CSR goals.
Team Everest is widely recognized as one of the Top 5 Nonprofits in India for Engaging Volunteers at Scale.
“When you think volunteering, think Team Everest,” says Karthee.
Today, Karthee is known affectionately as…
The Volunteer Man of India
Because Karthee tirelessly keeps introducing new volunteering opportunities via Team Everest. In his 17 years of volunteering, he has inspired One Lakh+ people to volunteer and touched a million children’s lives.
Karthee has consistently made educational strides through innovative programs like One-to-One Virtual Mentoring. This program has bridged the gap for over 20,000 underprivileged students by connecting them with corporate volunteers. Through this initiative, students gain many practical skills, including financial literacy and creative thinking, that prepare them for the future.
Team Everest took its commitment to education a step further by offering scholarships to over 3600+ undergraduates from financially constrained backgrounds. These students are part of Team Everest’s ’I am the Change’ scholarship program, ensuring financial limitations do not impede educational progress.
In addition, Karthee and his team focus on infrastructural support for government and free schools. They’ve improved the learning environment by providing necessary furniture and educational aids, impacting another 2,00,000+ students.
An Augmenting Positivity
What sets Team Everest apart is its volunteer-driven approach, utilizing the skills and experience of corporate professionals for personalized mentoring. Operational challenges, such as scheduling and tracking, have been efficiently managed through automated systems developed by their tech team.
The true success of Team Everest lies in its broad and deep impact. It has not only uplifted individual students but also transformed entire learning environments.
Sharing his opinion on the impact of advanced technologies on the social reform sector, Karthee says adopting modern technologies has been nothing short of transformative in the social reform sector. Karthee was a Java Developer during his IT Career and truly understands the power of technology. He uses technology for good at scale to promote volunteering in the country.
Virtual Volunteering Program
An example is their One-to-One mentoring program, where thousands of volunteers teach students virtually daily. This more personal, direct approach allows students to have candid, meaningful interactions with their mentors. With the help of technology, this initiative has managed to break down barriers, ensuring that personalized education is not a luxury but a norm.
Team Everest employs an in-house application to track thousands of these mentoring sessions. This allows for data collection and analysis, ensuring the mentorship provided is effective and efficient. The Data Process and Automation (DPA) team plays a pivotal role. Not to be left behind on the social media front, Team Everest leverages platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to reach a wider audience. They even use AI tools like ChatGPT and Bard to manage social media posts, answer queries and scale volunteering in India.
Karthee informs, “At Team Everest, we do not look at technology as just an operational aid but a catalyst for social change.”
Trial-Error and Triumph
Considering the current industry scenario, Team Everest has to constantly overcome challenge after challenge. One of the most formidable challenges that Team Everest faces stems from the inadequacies of the educational system in preparing individuals to become social entrepreneurs.
When Karthee founded the organization, he navigated unfamiliar territories such as finance, fundraising, human resources, and legal compliance. This steep learning curve necessitated a ‘jack of all trades’ approach for him and his team. The organization fosters a culture of lifelong learning to ensure its members can rapidly adapt and thrive in the constantly evolving landscape of the 21st century.
Team Everest is no stranger to setbacks, primarily because of its open approach to experimentation. Karthee vividly recalls an early failure that served as a watershed moment for the organization.
Initially, Team Everest offered scholarships for undergraduate studies, focusing solely on financial support without considering the beneficiaries’ skill development. They discovered that many recipients struggled to secure employment despite completing their education. A deeper examination revealed that most of these students were first-generation graduates lacking proper guidance for the next steps in their lives. This realization led to a significant shift in the organization’s approach. Instead of merely offering financial aid, Team Everest began to incorporate skill-building training, internship opportunities and even arranged job interviews with various corporates and startups. This holistic approach has been instrumental in maximizing the impact on the lives of their beneficiaries.
Volunteering – the Bedrock of a Better Future
Karthee envisions a future where everyone volunteers. He tells “As a family, we go to a restaurant, movie or shopping. But, as a family, we do not volunteer.” He wants to change it by making volunteering a habit, a day to day lifestyle of people.
Karthee, who started from a small town in Tamil Nadu, would advise budding social entrepreneurs to be prepared for lifelong learning. He formed Team Everest with little knowledge of how to run an NGO, but what he did have in abundance was the passion to make a change. Through years of trials, failures, and successes, he has learned that you don’t need to be an expert in every field but must be willing to learn and adapt.
Being the Change You Want to See in the World
On envisioning scaling his organization’s operations and offerings in the future, Karthee shares that Team Everest has always been about scaling impact. He states, “Through our innovative programs like One-to-One virtual mentoring and the ’I am the Change’ scholarship programs, we’ve already touched countless lives. Our strong network of corporate partnerships and community volunteers is the backbone of our growth strategy. But we’re not stopping there.”
In the next five years, they aim to engage one million volunteers. They believe that the collective effort of a million committed individuals can bring about an unprecedented wave of positive social change. Utilizing the latest technological tools, they plan to create a more streamlined and user-friendly experience for their volunteers, encouraging more people to join the cause.
Let’s Come Together to Transform Our Tomorrow
Moreover, they plan to expand their reach geographically and programmatically, targeting more schools and communities in need. By doing so, they aim to create a ripple effect that will uplift entire communities, not just individual lives. By the end of 2023, they will be operating and running their social initiatives in 12 cities of India–Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, Ahmedabad, Gurgaon, Noida, and Kochi.
Team Everest’s past successes serve as the foundation for these ambitious plans. “With the continued support of our volunteers, corporate partners, and the community at large, we’re confident that the future looks bright where we will engage a million people to volunteer,” concludes Karthee.
*Volunteer Testimonial: ”Till the Pandemic, I volunteered non-stop without any obstacles. But COVID stopped my volunteering journey. I was frustrated. I was looking out for ways I could continue my volunteering. I found Team Everest NGO and its virtual volunteering programs. I started volunteering in their phone-based one-to-one programs. I connected with a child over the phone, mentored them, and taught them creativity, moral values, time management, and many other crucial skills. I am happy I discovered a way to help children even amidst COVID. I’m one of the active volunteers for all Team Everest programs specially designed for children.” Nithin, Team Everest Volunteer.
*Beneficiary Testimonial for skills building training Program: ”I was feeling low at the start of the sessions. Because I was embarrassed as I could not even speak a sentence in English. But, my Team Everest volunteer motivated and encouraged me. I still remember his words. He told me, ‘You should not worry if you speak broken English. What matters is that you are communicating your point. You should not worry if others laugh at your mistakes.’ This inspired me a lot.” – Santhosh, Beneficiary.
*Beneficiary Testimonial for Scholarship Program: ”Team Everest scholarship gave me more than just financial support; it gave me a future. It helped me pursue my undergraduate, and I am confident to crack job interviews because of their skills development training.” – Saravanan, BCA, 3rd year.
~Awards and Recognitions:
- Puthiya Thalaimurai Best Person of the Year – 2010 Award.
- iVolunteer Hero 2013 award.
- Radio City FM Chennai Citizen Award in 2020.
- Leader in Volunteer Engagement 2020 award by iVolunteer.
- ASSOCHAM CSR Sustainability Awards 2022 – Leader in Corporate Employee Volunteering Award.
- Great Place to Work award in 2023.
- ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award by ‘The CEO Magazine’ in 2023.
In addition, Karthee had the privilege of meeting Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam four times, where the latter appreciated Team Everest’s work and encouraged them to touch more lives.
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