Atma Soles 2015! Get trained by this cool dad!

September 18th, 2014
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Mark Bell at the 2013 Comrades Ultra (up-run) Durban – Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

Dear Atma Soles 2015!

We have roped in Mark Bell – an experienced runner to train you for the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2015! All Atma Soles will get expert tips and help on preparing their training schedule from Mark until they are ready to burn their soles on the D-Day.

So, what’s Mark experience with running? Here it from him!

Hello Atma Soles!

I arrived in Mumbai in December 2010 after moving here from Sydney, Australia. In September of 2011 I was asked if I would run the Mumbai marathon for Atma – I said, yes. They said, how far? I said a marathon’s 42 km’s – is it not? So I completed the enrollment papers and entered. About a week later I decided to get on a treadmill and managed 250 metres (by huffing and puffing!). I also had shin splints- so I decided to stop.

I had not attempted to run for at least 7 years. I then continued to run on the treadmill in the proceeding weeks/months leading up to the marathon and got up to around 3 hrs. Then came marathon day, I got to 23 km and pulled my IBT and proceeded to hobble for the next 19 km until I crossed the line where I was in too much pain to even go and collect my medal!

It was my own fault although running on a treadmill is exercise – it’s no substitute for the real thing! The next year 2013, I entered the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon again and completed it and even collected my medal.

I also entered Comrades Ultra 2013 (up run), a 87 km run in South Africa running between Durban and Pietermaritzburg over a mountainous route where the highest race day temperature of 39.5 degrees Celsius was recorded. I completed this run in 10 hrs 53 mins. This run was inspired by getting drunk and accepting a bet and the fact that my son called me fat dad! This year I have completed the SCMM 42.195 km, and the Comrades Ultra 2013 (down run), 89 km.

Four years ago I would have thought any of the above impossible considering 250m almost killed me, now I know anything’s possible if you put in the training. I am not a fitness freak, I do not run fast, I’m 46, I love bad food, I drink, I smoke but I have found that I love running and continue to do so and am proud to be associated with Atma and look forward to training you.



The Atma Soles training starts from 13th October, 2014. Get ready.


Muktangan-Atma professional development workshop for educators

September 3rd, 2014


ATMA Mumbai in partnership with Muktangan will be conducting a series of seven workshops meant for educators starting from September 20, 2014. The workshops are designed keeping in view the practical requirements of today’s educators and expectations of students.

Educators will have the opportunity to know about how to communicate and collaborate with students, explore what constructive learning is, be a participant observer when students work, be mindful about own preconceptions and attitudes and know how to make subjects like Maths more fun for students.


Workshop Schedule

Workshop Topics


Building  Minds for the 21st century 20th September, 2014
 Active – Constructive learning November 1st week
 Plan Do Review November  4th week
Making Mathematics more Interesting for Primary School Children December 3rd week
Equity in Diversity January 2nd week, 2015
School Librarianship for the 21st Century February 1st week
Child Observation February last week



The workshop Building Minds for the 21st Century focuses on questioning whether our school programs are enabling children to develop these skills in communication, collaboration, independence, critical thinking, problem solving and social-emotional responsibility and whether our teachers have the mindsets to give opportunities to children to build these skills. This is also a workshop where educators will question their own mindsets and beliefs.

Active Constructive Learning addresses the WHAT, WHY, HOW of Active Constructive Learning and the teachers role in it.

Jean Piaget, a Swiss developmental psychologist, once said, “Knowledge arises neither from objects nor the child, but from interactions between the child and those objects.” Plan –Do-Review will help educators understand what are best way to conduct interactions and how to make children learn from it. Suffice to say, young children learn concepts, form ideas and create their own symbols through self initiated activity. Plan –Do-Review is a process in which such activity is carried on within a social context in which an alert and sensitive adult is a participant observer.

Is there a reason why children are known to dread Math? Is it possible to encourage children towards the subject without scaring them? Making Mathematics interesting for Primary School Children explores Active Constructive ways of teaching Math and ways to make it both meaningful and fun.

The fact that the role of a teacher goes far beyond communicating the syllabus to the child cannot be emphasized more. Along with teaching course content, teachers also communicate their own attitudes and values to children, and have a powerful impact as role models for the children. Keeping this in view, the teachers themselves need to become aware of their own preconceptions and attitudes, so that they do not replicate these in the classroom. This was the genesis of this workshop Equity in Diversity aimed to expand teacher’s awareness of social issues by providing an opportunity for discussion and debate on matters that are of contemporary concern and which can strengthen their position as role models for children.

The school library is a critical component of school life, as students and staff try to keep pace with rapid developments in technology. Librarians of the 21st Century need increasing competencies to integrate information management with students construction of knowledge. School Librarians today provide a range of services like cataloging, reference services, reading promotion and basic IT services. School Librarianship for 21st Century is designed keeping in mind current or budding librarians who passionate about transforming their libraries as true centers of learning.

Preschool teachers spend much of their time looking at and listening to children for many reasons. Watching children is not new or difficult but channeling this observation to understand the wide range of normal growth and development is a challenge. Child Observation workshop aims to develop understanding of the reasons for undertaking observations and help you plan this activity systematically and develop your understanding of how to use observations in future planning.


For registration details contact:

Ms.Laila Lakhani

Muktangan Teacher Education Centre

3rd floor,Khed gully Municipal school

Khed gully,Sayani road Elphinstone Road


Tel No-24323525


Fee Structure:

Rs 1000/ per participant per workshop & Rs 5000/ per participant for all 7 workshops (includes tea and snacks).

The payment has to be in a form of a cheque addressed to ‘Paragon Charitable Trust.’

If any single institution nominates 3 or more participants for specific workshop, a group discount of 20% will be provided. Nomination cannot be carried forward to subsequent workshops to gain benefit under this scheme.

To register, click here

Vodafone makes a difference at Atma

March 7th, 2014


When I first signed up  for Vodafone’s ‘World of Difference’ program, I knew that it was going to be a great opportunity to donate my time and skills for a non-profit organisation. What I did not expect, was that these 7 weeks were going to become one of the most cherished memories of my life.

As a part of the Atma-CFLI project, I was approached by Atma to conduct a  2 day workshop on entrepreneurship for 30 young women from marginalized and low-income communities. At first,I thought to myself that I’ve conducted many entrepreneurship trainings & workshops before and have mentored several budding entrepreneurs in the past, so this can’t possibly be rocket science right? Wrong! Training students from mainstream colleges or professionals aspiring to be entrepreneurs is one thing. Talking about entrepreneurship to an audience who is young (16-20years), hasn’t undergone formal higher education, are from marginalized & low-income backgrounds and haven’t even possibly ever heard the word ‘entrepreneur’ is a totally different ball game! My challenge was not ‘what’ I was going to tell them, but ‘how’ I was going to present this complex subject.

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To address these issues, I decided to keep it simple. I thought of how most Indians are entrepreneurial in their outlook and great at ‘jugaad’. For the uninitiated, jugaad is a colloquial Hindi word for ‘a creative or innovative idea providing a quick, alternative way of solving or fixing a problem.’ So essentially, the skills exist somewhere deep within everybody, and I only had to find a way to help these young women draw out their hidden potential.

So there I was on the day of the workshop, with less than a week of prep and lots of jugaad, taking up the task of creating young entrepreneurs! I started with a simple ‘show of hands’ exercise to tell who really wanted to be self-employed. A couple of hands reluctantly went up – possibly without even knowing what that really meant.

The first day of the workshop involved fun team games, group activities, some theory and a lot of introspection. The focus of the workshop was to make the girls realize their own potential and to have them think through the simple opportunities that exist around them. When I look back now, the best part of the workshop was the girls’ hunger to learn and the desire to feel worthy.

On day 2, we asked the girls to put together their ‘Business Plans’ and present them to mock investors. This taught them to think through their business model, their distinct product or service, their unique selling points, their target market, their budgets and costing, their marketing & communication plans and the works! The energy was beyond infectious with each girl working enthusiastically with their groups to develop strong business plans.

Anyone who heard them present could tell that they weren’t simply selling their ideas, they were selling a part of their dreams! At the end of the session I asked how many of them felt they could be self-employed. To my surprise, each of them raised their hand. They felt that the workshop had instilled in them the confidence and motivation to be ‘something’ in life. They now had their thinking hats on and understood ‘what’ it takes for them to set-off!

So will each one of them really become an entrepreneur? May be, may be not. What I do know is that given the right direction and support, this generation can secure a bright future for themselves and for our country.


Volunteer Spotlight: Tiia Knuutila

February 21st, 2014

Excellence is never an accident. ~Aristotle

At Atma, we like to get it right and then get better at it. We understand that this can only be achieved through a commitment to learning and continuous improvement. We set the highest standards for ourselves and the people we work with, to ensure the best quality of work.

It is in line with this continuous pursuit of excellence that we present to you a publication by Atma Alumna- Tiia Knuutila. A student of marketing from Haaga Helia University of Applied Sciences (Finland), Tiia used her experience and learnings at Atma to write her graduate thesis. “How to make a style guide for an Indian non-profit organisation” is a culmination of her work with Atma portfolio organisation- OSCAR, where she worked on creating various marketing collaterals.

Of her Atma volunteership she says, “My experience with Atma exceeded all my expectations.I did not expect things to be as well-structured and professionally handled as they are at Atma. I felt empowered with my work and the responsibilities that I was given. At the same time I got all the support I needed to produce the best results. I would do another volunteer period with Atma as it is a meaningful way of learning and developing oneself professionally.”

We look forward to applying Tiia’s learnings and recommendations in our work. You can view the publication : ttp://


(Tiia receives her Atma Volunteer certificate from OSCAR co-founders Ashok and Suraj)

VOTE for Atma at the iVolunteer Awards 2013!

Mumbai Marathon 2014

January 31st, 2014

Over the past few years, India and the world has seen an explosion of mass movements, with people coming out onto the streets to stand up for their rights, protect democracy and to voice their anger and frustration against corrupt, incompetent or inadequate governments. For the last 11 years though, the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon has been a movement of hope, joy and human spirit, bringing together thousands individuals from around the world. A movement, unencumbered by the socio-economic problems that face the world. This year too, the Marathon gave Mumbai a reason to smile, to celebrate and to unite in support of NGOs across the country.

Atma too had an exceptional year with 120 individuals in our marathon team. Together our “Atma Soles” raised over 15 lakhs for Atma’s cause of quality education for all children. We would like to thank these fantastic people for their hard-work and support. A very special to thank you to Mr. Mark Bell for his exceptional dedication and contribution to Atma as the official trainer for our Marathon team.

Says Taylor Downs, co-founder Vera Solutions and Atma Sole, “ The marathon was an absolutely wonderful experience, and along the way I was fortunate enough to meet folks running for all sorts of causes. It meant a lot to me to carry the Atma flag, and I hope I can do so again.”

Check out the day in pictures below!

Cathay Pacific supports Atma for the 4th Year in a row:



Atma staff, volunteers, board members and friends make for a happy Atma Family:



Atma Half and Full Marathon runners show their mettle by passing the gruelling test of  mind-body and spirit:

liveMint: A renewed model of education – Karthik Muralidharan

January 25th, 2014

A taste of what our team is reading these days. Karthik Muralidharan discusses the challenges in today’s education system in this liveMint article. Touching on why the  Public vs. Private debate is much more difficult than just that.


Teaching for Change

January 17th, 2014

“ The question is not who’s going to let me, it is who’s going to stop me.” ~ Ayn Rand


Having worked with exemplary education non-profits for the last 6 years, we at Atma understand the role that education can play in changing the lives of people and communities.

In our previous work with women from economically disadvantaged communities, Atma has found the most desired and feasible career path for women is teaching.

With this in mind, Atma along with portfolio organisations Sahyog and Zaya has recently launched a project that aims to empower young women who are at risk of early marriage. This project, funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives will train and equip 20 young women to become high quality community based teachers.

They will receive training in spoken English, entrepreneurship, library management (Hippo Campus Growby Reading) and Maths teaching (Zaya). These skills will allow them to go on to work as Librarians or Maths teachers.

As earning members of their family, these women will not only have the opportunity to improve their own social standing but will also set examples within their communities. As teachers, these women will become a bridge between genders and help break down stereotypes and discriminatory mind sets that often hold women back. Their empowered position in society will allow them to influence much needed systemic change in the community.

Class begins on 18th January 2014. Watch this space for more as the project progresses!

Joint project between:
Funded by:


(Photo- Sahyog; For representational purposes only)

The language of success

December 26th, 2013

For a country that speaks 22 official languages and over a thousand dialects, the English language enjoys an uncanny position of privilege. While there do exist large factions of Indian society that equate learning or speaking English to “Anglicisation” or “Westernisation”, for many Indians it continues to be a language of opportunity and aspiration. A general consensus seems to be that the better your skills in English, the quicker your climb on the ladder of socio-economic success.

Naturally, a desire to send their children to English medium schools is no longer limited to the privileged classes. A recent report in DNA talks about the plummeting enrolment rates in BMC (vernacular medium) schools owing to increased aspirations amongst underprivileged communities to send children to English medium private schools or BMC schools.

The quality of teaching and learning levels of students in these schools remains questionable. Read this article by ASER on “ When and how English should be taught in schools”. The author leaves us with an interesting thought, “The debate in India around when and how English should be taught needs to be widened both in scope and substance to encompass the language skills more broadly. More research needs to be done in India to systematically explore how languages can be learned more meaningfully and how they can grow more organically from what children already know.” See more.


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Atma has recently been awarded a grant to work on a joint project with our portfolio organisations Sahyog and Zaya. 10 young local women from low-income communities will be trained by Zaya to improve their employability prospects and social standing within their communities.English language training is one of the key components of this project.

Education technology: bringing quality education to all children

November 29th, 2013


By the United Nation’s measure, effectively 171 million people could be lifted from poverty in developing countries if basic literacy is met. Addressing the achievement gap among low-income students is perhaps the most powerful weapon in fighting poverty and improving quality of life.

Educators in emerging markets often voice concern that technology will make their jobs redundant. Despite this apprehension, new education-technology (ed-tech) solutions are demonstrating a convergence between old and new teaching methods. Many solutions are tackling some of the world’s biggest education issues, like addressing the achievement gap at the base of the pyramid by enhancing the role of educators rather than replacing the meaningful tasks they fulfil.

This gap is attributed to a number of root causes. Large class sizes, variability in teacher quality, limited measurement of student outcomes, and skill deficits currently thwart progress. Education technology is one of the ways in which organisations are trying to deliver low-cost, quality education to this segment of society.

Currently, the issue of accessibility remains a central challenge to providing quality education and content to areas where modern infrastructure is lacking. India’s 2011 census found more than 60% of the population to be living in rural and underserved areas. This has only exacerbated the disparity in educational attainment and quality of life between both ends of the economic spectrum. This challenge is amplified when users develop an aversion to using technology if they encounter difficulties when using it. Despite these challenges, much progress has been made in recent years. A range of social enterprises have dedicated their efforts to pursuing ed-tech solutions that eradicate a myriad of problems currently crippling education systems worldwide.

Despite progress, uptake of ed-tech solutions has been slow. General scepticism exists due to previous ed-tech failures, as do serious infrastructural hurdles regarding scarcity of power and electricity. There is also great hesitation to adopt ed-tech due to a false perception that teachers will become obsolete.

Nonetheless, there is a new generation of social enterprise dedicated to developing holistic solutions that overcome these challenges. In order to be successful, these solutions must address the aforementioned challenges. Technology must be easy-to-use so teachers can focus on student learning. In the mean time, it is important enterprises conduct robust pilots to determine what works best in these environments.

At Zaya, we are combining elements of traditional instruction and new pedagogy. We have created a lightweight device that harnesses interactive technology, whilst providing a blended learning approach and robust teacher training. The device works both online and offline, running for up to 10 hours on battery power, making it workable even in the most remote areas.

Social enterprise is a rapidly growing space, with many innovators focused on reform and improvement of education systems. As these enterprises grow and scale their impact, there is tremendous potential to bridge the aforementioned achievement gap for millions of children. Whilst this challenge is significant, it makes it an exciting time to be an educational entrepreneur in India.


Author: Atma Volunteer Georgia McRae works with our portfolio organisation- Zaya. Zaya is an ed-tech social enterprise that provides a network of Learning Labs for children at the BoP. She has a keen interest in learning about innovative solutions to development challenges and plans to commence her Juris Doctor in 2014.This post was first published on the Sankalp blog.

Paperseed Foundation at Atma

November 5th, 2013

Someone once said,“An entrepreneur without funding is a musician without an instrument.” Entrepreneurs, whether social or business, often find themselves unable to translate their ideas and passion into successful or impactful initiatives. Having worked with over 26 education non-profits and social enterprises, Atma realises that the vicious cycle of financial constraints, is a major deterrent in scaling these organisations.  Atma Executive Director- Mary Ellen says, “Over the last six years, we have seen so many passionate social entrepreneurs with bold ideas for tackling the mammoth issue of education. Often times, all they need is someone to have a little faith and to give them the push needed to move from idea to impact.”

Whilst Atma has always provided non-financial support to our portfolio organisations, we understand that funding is an important piece of the puzzle. Keeping this mind, we have been actively working on connecting our portfolio organisations to potential funders. It is during this search that Atma began working with Paperseed Foundation in May 2013. A sister concern of Cell Mark, Paperseed supports education initiatives that can provide innovative solutions for strengthening education.

In September 2013, one of our portfolio organisations- Umang Charitable Trust was selected by Paperseed as a grantee and was awarded over 21000$ in grant funding. Umang is non-profit organisation that works with children with autism and learning disabilities. As a result of this funding, Umang has been able to increase their reach and impact through a new centre in Bhayander.

Executive Director of Paperseed Foundation, Aliyya Mattos visited us this week to identify more potential grantees. With our business planning workshop coming to a close, 7 of our portfolio organisations made their final presentations. It was a  big learning for Atma and some of our portfolio organisations to get a funders’ perspective from Paperseed Foundation. Here is the week in photos:

Business Planning Workshop- Atma portfolio organisations make their final presentations.

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Aliyya Mattos and Arti Aurora of Paperseed Foundation visit Atma portfolio organisation- Umang’s new centre in Bhayander.

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