Social work senior Vystnavi Karri has been volunteering in India since she was 16 years old. Now, she’s helping to mobilize other students by leading UT Baal Dan, a student organization working to end child poverty around the world.
“While abroad, I realized that I was giving the community something, but I didn’t know what they were giving me,” Karri said. “Service is a reciprocal process where you connect with the community and the cause through sharing the privileges you have with others.”
Baal Dan is a nonprofit that provides aid to impoverished children in Asia, North America and South America by providing basic necessities, social support, education and orphanages to the communities it serves. Karri, president of UT’s Baal Dan chapter, which has been around since 2006, sociology senior Esha Hansoti and nutrition junior Divea Venkatasetty became involved with the organization as freshmen when they were looking to find a service organization that would allow them to contribute to the hands-on work in India.
Since Baal Dan was founded in India, it has given aid to over 4,500 children through grants that help children obtain shelter, maintain good hygiene and acquire education, food and other resources. Baal Dan expanded to other countries in 2013, and the nonprofit now relies on volunteer chapters and student groups to fundraise and promote their charity.
“It is a great experience to be a part of the UT Baal Dan community initially and to see where we are now as a leader in the organization,” Hansoti said.
Venkatasetty, who went to a high school with a low diversity rate, where she was one of two Indian girls, was inspired to get involved in cause-related issues affecting her culture. She became involved with Baal Dan in hopes of impacting her community abroad while she was in Austin.
“We all have a passion for Baal Dan because we are working towards a common cause as a community,” Venkatasetty said.
Karri said almost 93 percent of what Baal Dan fundraises goes toward programs for children because of the nonprofit’s low administrative costs. UT Baal Dan is one of the nonprofit’s chapters that raises the most funds and holds the largest events each year.
The organization hosts Baal Danquet, an annual banquet featuring cultural groups, dance teams and singers, to raise funds for their national chapter. At this year’s banquet in October, the founder, Tanya Pinto, spoke about how she started Baal Dan. Hansoti said the speech reminded her of why she first joined UT Baal Dan.
“The founder told an inspiring story about how she went to India with no intention of starting a nonprofit,” Hansoti said. “She saw the state of the children and thought: Why aren’t they somewhere else in their lives?”
Nutrition senior Lauren Caton attended the Baal Danquet this fall without much knowledge of the organization before the event.
“The personal welcome at their event made a statement that this chapter at UT matters and is a priority for the national organization,” Caton said.
Caton said the event’s recent success shows how much the organization has grown. She said she could see the impact it has had across the nation and gained a new perspective about the communities it serves. Karri said UT Baal Dan’s growth will allow the organization to involve more people in the Austin community next year.
“What we do at UT Baal Dan allows us to share our cause in an impactful way while providing a space for a dialogue and thought to reevaluate what the cause is doing around the world,” Karri said.