Equip Low Income Parents. Empower the Future of India

Raising Children in low income communities - Through the eyes of Laxmi Didi

If you had to choose between putting food on your table and spending quality time with your infant, which would you choose? 

This question, much like their genes, is passed on from one generation to the other in most under-resourced families. Laxmi didi's father faced it, Laxmi didi faces it and it is more than likely that Maya, Laxmi didi's daughter will face it too.

The Unsettling Truth
“When I saw my child for the first time, I promised to myself that she will be successful in life. I don’t want her to clean other people’s houses like I do”
Laxmi Didi and her husband  dream of a better life for Maya, a day when all of this struggle would be worth it. Sadly, financing this dream keeps them on a gruelling schedule, resulting in:
  • Neglect of their children’s physical and emotional needs
  • Low literacy levels of children
  • Stressful home environment
Be it the illiteracy or lack of time, it is virtually impossible for Laxmi didi to help with her children’s education. As a result, Maya, Laxmi didi’s daughter is struggling. But Maya is not alone.

“I’ve seen other people’s children just roaming around as their parents are at work. These children don’t get appropriate care since their parents don’t have time to look after them” shares Laxmi didi.

According to the UN, lack of care and focus on early childhood education and care results in:
  • 250 million children in the world under 5 are at risk of not reaching their full potential
  • Poor early stimulation and care results in 25% reduction in average adult earning potential
In India
  • Almost 60% children under 5 are anaemic
  • 68% grade 3 children are unable to read simple words in English
Parents in low income communities are unable to provide appropriate care or set up or afford proxies to care for their children. This inability comes at the cost of their ambition; ambition of better education for their children and thereby a better life.

There are approximately 74 million parents like Laxmi didi in India. This situation needs external intervention.

Here's where Meraki comes in.
Meraki aims to equip parents to transform their children's lives. It aims break the cycle of intergenerational burden that disadvantaged families carry.

Meraki works with low-income families on:
  • Building Responsive Parent-Child Relationships
  • Development of Core Life-skills in Children
  • Stress Reduction in Caregivers
This is delivered through a layered intervention comprised of Content, Training & Technology. Together, these layers act as a singular solution to strengthen relationships at home and improve development outcomes for the children of low-income households.

Read more about how we do this here.

What have we achieved so far?

Over the past year, we have worked with 13 government schools across two municipal corporations of Delhi, South Delhi and New Delhi Municipal Corporation. We have conducted 90+ workshops, delivered 48 unique activities to 800 parents. Our work has been supported and appreciated by the following:
  • Michael and Susan Dell Foundation through NSRCEL Social program
  • Omidyar through InnovatEd program
  • USAID and Read Alliance through Education Innovation Program
Our work has been highlighted at Harvard, the Wire and Logical Indian.

We have received the following feedback on our work:
  • 94% of parents who attended the workshop rated them excellent
  • 71% parents reported that they have discussed Meraki’s workshop with their spouse and other children 
  • 58% parents reported that they discussed Meraki’s program with other members of their community/ locality.
Here are some additional testimonials from teachers and prinicples:
  • Rajan Sir - Teacher, SDMC school- “Meraki has done very good work in our school, they have mobilized so many under-resourced parents around the school. Parents were not engaged but we have seen a lot of changes in the last 4 months since Meraki has been working with them. Earlier parents would not come to the school for parent teacher meetings. Now they come to school when we call them and share their challenges which we try to understand. I believe that students, teachers and parents are the most important stakeholders in education. Due to lack of an education these parents really struggle. Meraki and its workshops have succeeded by transforming these uneducated parents to educated parents.” 
  • Headmistress, New Delhi Municipal Corporation school - “Since Meraki has been working with the parents in our school, parents have been showing up with 80 or 100% attendance in their workshops. In Meraki we have found a lot of support. Sometimes parents don’t listen to teachers but with an outside organisation like Meraki, they have learnt about many aspects of parenting. These parents have low incomes and high stress, they have learnt because of Meraki how to keep the stress away from their children. Student attendance has improved, students in class one now come to school regularly. We hope that Meraki continues to engage with the parents in our school in the next academic year as well”

Who are we?
Meraki started out as a 2 member team with a deep appreciation for our parents, who took bold decisions to ensure better futures. Our families uprooted humble lives, negotiated alien cities they migrated into & worked tirelessly to set up opportunities for us that they never had.

Over the past 20 months we've transformed into a 12 member strong mission driven team with backgrounds in research, technology, teaching, public policy, consultancy and running for-profit startups. We want to see a world where"Every parent is able to build a suitable environment for their children so that they're able to achieve their innate potential"

Here's the team at Meraki sharing their learnings from 2017-18 and what they want to do in the next year:

How Can You Help? 
You can help in multiple ways, two of them are outlined below.

1. Funds: No amount is too small. Your intent and action is what matters. In order to help you make an informed decision and to select a cause, we have shared with you the breakdown of the costs. In case of any questions/queries please reach out to us here.
To support learning, empowerment of
  • 1 parent for an year, donate 1000 Rs.
  • 10 parents for an year, donate 10000 Rs.
  • 100 parents for an year, donate 100000 Rs
In case you would like to donate on a monthly basis, please write to us here

2. Skill and Time: If you or your organisation, would like to support us with your skills and time please drop us a note here.

If you believe in what we do, please share our story with your friends and relatives. This is as much an awareness campaign as it is a fundraiser.
Ask for an update
27th January 2018
(from Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), News and Events)


Alum Ghazal Gulati's nonprofit equips parents in India with skills and strategies to help guide their children to academic success.

Ghazal Gulati, Ed.M.’15, is dedicated to improving student wellbeing and achievement in India, one parent at a time.While national governments, schools, and local leaders can provide resources to enhance educational opportunities for students, Gulati realized there is one frequently overlooked stakeholder — parents.

“We have to help parents understand what their stake is in the game,” says Gulati, co-founder and full-time COO of Meraki, a nonprofit based in the Delhi area that aims to ensure that parents have a voice in their children’s education, providing them with the tools necessary to help their children do well in school. Meraki’s mission: “Equipping parents. Empowering the future.”

Gulati first noticed that not all children had the same educational opportunities when she was a child and her family moved to Delhi as a result of the escalating violence in their native Kashmir. She became aware that, due to her parents’ professional degrees and their general awareness of the importance of education, she was provided more academic and economic advantages than many children in her new city.

“It is not fair that some children are born into families with educational backgrounds geared toward academic success while others are left to their own devices to figure the education system,” Gulati says, noting that in order to create a more equitable environment, parents first need to be made aware that there are things they can do to aid their children’s learning. “All parents have high aspirations for their children, the only difference amongst parents is their education levels.”

While at HGSE, Gulati learned about the issue of “supply and demand” in the Indian education system in Professor Fernando Reimers’ course on educational policy. “The government can supply the schools, the teachers, but no one is looking at the demand side of the equation and how to trigger parent engagement, so the schools are carrying the burden,” says Gulati.

This is a problem that Meraki is meeting head-on by recruiting parents to participate in its offerings through their children’s schools. The fellowship program lasts four months and focuses first on parents with children enrolled in kindergarten and the first grade because, Gulati explains, brain development during this time is crucial and needs to be addressed in the beginning phases of students’ education.

Using curriculum provided by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard, leaders guide parents through bi-weekly workshops that focus on reducing stress, improving the responsiveness of relationships, and building core life skills. Following each workshop, parent and child must work together on four assigned activities in which they develop skills and strategies that will help lead them to academic success.

The hope is that, as fellowship alumni, parents will become leaders in their communities, passing on to others what they learned in the Meraki workshops. This past year, the organization has worked with 900 parents in several under-resourced communities in South Delhi achieving more than 70 percent retention of parents in each workshop.
As Meraki grows, Gulati is grateful for the lessons learned at HGSE that she was able to apply to the endeavour, particularly one she took from a leadership course taught by Professor Monica Higgins.

“Spend enough time understanding the context. In Professor Higgins’ class we analyzed case studies about so many good ideas that failed because they failed to understand the other stakeholders in the ecosystem,” says Gulati, explaining that during the launch of Meraki, her team spent six to eight months interviewing parents, schools, teachers, and principals across India to understand the challenges of the communities.

As “you don’t act alone in the ecosystem,” this lesson is vital, she says. “Our goal is to build a movement of parent leaders working across sectors to mobilize systemic change at the community level on issues of child development.”

Photo: Ghazal Gulati (left) conducts a Meraki parent workshop. 

23rd August 2017
We have some great news to share with you. Thanks to your contribution we will be able to support a 1000 families in some of the most at-risk urban slums in South Central Delhi, in partnership with the Government. Given the complexity of the lives these families live in, we have been actively getting more partners on board to enable an intervention that improves their lives not just in the short term but also in the longer term. In lieu of that, we are proud to announce that Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, IIM Bangalore; Teach for India; Ek Step (Nandan Nilekani’s backed social venture) and Pratham are some of the key partners that are supporting us to overcome this unique challenge.

Our efforts have also been recognised in the national media and here are a few links where Meraki has been covered:
1. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/startups/eight-startups-picked-for-iimb-non-profit-incubator/articleshow/60164139.cms
2. https://thelogicalindian.com/my-social-responsibility/meraki/
3. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/iim-b-centre-to-mentor-social-non-profit-ventures/article19542252.ece

More importantly, we also wanted to share that donations on our Milaap page are still live. Further, we have been selected by Milaap as one of the very few campaigns where for every Rs 100 we raise, Milaap will contribute an additional Rs 20. Therefore, please do spread the word in your network.

We will be sharing periodic updates with you about Meraki, its work and its stories, regularly starting from September ‘17.

Thank you for all your support!
Best regards,

Ghazal and Seemant
23rd July 2017
Thank you for supporting Meraki's work. We are excited to share some good news with you!
Meraki has now initiated its next phase of working with a thousand families! That means that your contribution will help more parents like Seema didi, whose son Ayush suffers from asthma, get the proper medical attention that he needs. It will help more parents like Seema Koli didi strengthen her daughter Ritika against family troubles. It will help more parents like Mangelalji, who himself cannot read or write, gain the confidence to support Pooja in her education.

It will help a thousand parents create nurturing homes which support informed and targeted child development— be it in health, socio-emotional conditioning, or education.
So thank you for supporting Meraki. We look forward to a long-term partnership with you. We have already reached more 50% of our crowdfunding target, and are sure that with the help of wonderful supporters like you, we shall achieve, nay over-achieve, our target in no time!
Please read more about us at merakifoundation.in and contact us at seemantdadwal@gmail.com for coordinating future contributions!  
Content Disclaimer: The facts and opinions, expressed in this fundraiser page are those of the campaign organiser or users, and not Milaap.
raised of Rs.3,000,000 goal

280 Supporters

Beneficiary: Meraki info_outline

Supporters (280)

Pramod donated US $250
11 days ago

Great initiative - all the best !

Saurabh donated Rs.1,000
17 days ago
Rattan donated Rs.1,500
21 days ago
Anish donated Rs.500
21 days ago
Sachin donated Rs.2,500
21 days ago
Anand donated Rs.2,500
22 days ago

all the best.