How Latha Kuttiyan set up a school and community programs for local slum families through participating in the Business Development Center’s entrepreneurial training program
Ark of the Rainbow serves the Doddigunta slum community in a myriad of ways, preparing them for a brighter future. The needs of the community are addressed holistically and with compassion through English education, leadership clubs, sports, summer camps, training seminars, scholarships, and health and counseling services.
Latha Kuttiyan, founder of the NGO Ark of the Rainbow, has a heart for people living in slums nearby— those who have no access to education for their children, healthcare, counseling, or community activities. Her desire for these neighbors can be summed up in her organization’s motto “equipping lives to shine.”
Latha was part of the second batch of students to take the BDC Entrepreneurship Class back in 2012-2013. Although her heart was always in running an NGO, Latha found the course useful for learning basic business techniques and principles that would help in getting her new organization started, such as income and investments, and charting. She also appreciated the emphasis the course placed on making an impact on the lives of people and giving back to society through your organization.
When Ark of the Rainbow first opened a small school in the Doddigunta slum near Cox Town in June 2012, there were only a few children attending. Over the years, the school has grown to a current enrollment of 208 students, from pre-nursery to 4th grade. Nine staff members trained from within the community keep the school running. Since the families of Doddigunta are barely surviving, they are charged only a token amount for their children’s education, the costs being covered by local donors and sponsors. Enrolled children not only receive a quality English education using the Cambridge curriculum, but they also receive nutritious meals and immunizations. And even though the school grows solely by word-of-mouth, there is a waitlist for joining, as there are no other affordable alternatives in the area.
Though Ark of the Rainbow’s goal is to “break the cycle of poverty through education”, the staff also realizes the importance of addressing the community’s many other needs. To this end, Ark of the Rainbow also offers several community leadership clubs, where women and teens can discuss social issues, develop leadership skills, and get training on various topics. In these clubs, young people grow in practical life skills, teamwork, and setting goals, in a supportive environment where they can thrive. College scholarships are also made available for deserving teens through the after-school clubs. In addition, annual summer camp retreats for the teenage girls’ and boys’ groups have a huge impact on these young lives, as do weekend sports offerings.
A third area that Ark of the Rainbow addresses is the need for healthcare, including counseling services and awareness seminars. On Thursdays, a local hospital partners with them to provide free health checks at a community medical clinic. No-cost community counseling services, marriage and parenting seminars, and human trafficking prevention seminars are available as well, in order to build up families and help them to be aware of those who might try to take advantage of them.
Latha describes some of the challenges that they face in running this NGO. These include obtaining government approval and meeting all the regulations to run a school, needing a bigger building and wanting to purchase their own land, and just dealing with so many individual souls. Another challenge of running a school for the underprivileged is helping parents to understand the value of education, so that they encourage their children to stay in school instead of dropping out at 9 or 10 years old. Nevertheless, the blessings and successes can be seen in the Lord’s faithfulness, as teenagers are making good decisions in life, as some go on to college, as families are transforming, and as the staff faithfully and humbly serve. Visitors also frequently comment on how well-maintained the school is and how orderly and disciplined the children are.
Looking to the future, Latha dreams of having their own property and a bigger building, of offering one new grade level each year up to 7th grade, and overall of just being a blessing to more children! And Ark of the Rainbow is always looking for more sponsors and donors to support the education of more children from the Doddigunta slum.
Latha’s advice to others starting an organization is “Have interest, vision, and a strong purpose in what you are doing. Know who your target audience is. Think about the people, not about you. Be streams of water— that’s how a business should be!” Latha lives this out as she works extremely long days caring for the various needs of people in the Doddigunta community. If you would like to partner with her in fighting poverty and human trafficking through education, check out ways to sponsor or donate at arkoftherainbow.org!